How to Customize Ubuntu for Distraction-Free Programming

Don’t adapt to what you got with the installation, simply customize targeting your productivity instead.

Shalitha Suranga
Nov 26, 2020 · 4 min read
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The workspace, screenshot by the author

People use different types of operating systems based on what they do and their preferences. The majority of die-hard fans use their first operating system forever even though it has some drawbacks. Meanwhile, some people switch operating systems so often until they find the best one for them. Also, a few persons do a quick research about the history of operating systems and the modern state of those to find the best matching operating system for them. I used many versions of Windows for 10 years and switched completely to Ubuntu around 2 years ago.

Before switching to Ubuntu, I did a small research about the Linux kernel and eventually became a fan of Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel. The GUI of an operating system initially shows us the default configuration that was made for a general-user by its developers. For example, Ubuntu has its navigation icons set (also knows as the dock) on the left of the screen, and also the top bar is visible all the time. I also didn’t like the default UI configuration of Ubuntu because it didn’t give the productive workspace I expected. I think for most users who have a Windows background, it’s a bit unfamiliar. I did the following customization in the GUI using the GNOME Tweaks application and some extensions to boost productivity for programming on Ubuntu.

The dock at the bottom

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Quick navigation icons, screenshot by the author

The default configuration had fixed large icons on the left of the screen wasting the available workspace. When it comes to any work such as coding and reading, the larger workspace gives better productivity. Therefore, I moved the dock to the bottom and also minimized the icon size to 20 pixels to expand the workspace. Thereafter, sorted icons according to the usage by dividing all icons into two segments. In other words, leftmost and rightmost things are frequently used, but applications in the center are not. For example, I often take quick screenshots, therefore its icon is placed near the right corner. On the other hand, the application launcher of the VLC media player resides in the center.

This configuration of the dock gave a great productivity boost rather than the default setup of the dock because it saved so much area for the workspace and also horizontal navigation is more comfortable with the mouse.

The top bar is hidden

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The desktop without the top bar, screenshot by the author

The default top bar is also an obstacle when we do some actions with the title bar of a particular window. Further, it also covers up the workspace by pushing all content down. I hid the top bar using a GNOME extension. Now, it doesn’t even annoy me when I point the cursor into the top of the screen because I just used the F10 hotkey to toggle the top bar. Because I use the top bar often only to check the current time. Besides, I just press and hold the power button for a second to open the menu to turn off the laptop.

This customization also gave a fresh minimalist environment for work because the workspace doesn’t have rarely-used elements such as the network and power menu section.

Goodbye, bloatware

Native applications are undoubtedly better than hybrid applications which often become bloatware. I believe that I only use 2 hybrid applications: Skype and vscode. There are no better native alternatives for those applications. When the performance of your computer decreases, your productivity also decreases since each user-action may lag for an additional time. Moreover, hybrid applications will drain your laptop’s battery faster than native applications do. Therefore, it is always better to choose native software over hybrid software.

I use Slack but I don’t use its desktop app because it is also yet another hybrid application. I already installed Google Chrome and made it the default browser. So, why do I need to download another web browser just to wrap a web application? Similarly, I always prefer cloud applications first before installing any kind of standalone software. Then, we don’t need to waste our time cleaning unwanted software on our computers frequently. The following piece of writing will explain more about the drawbacks of hybrid software.

The minimalist way

I tend to use default applications always rather than installing a lot of additional software. For example, the gedit application helps me to take quick notes and edit source files fast. As mentioned above, my workspace only has a few small icons in the dock and nothing on the top of the screen even if we place the cursor there. This configuration offered a distraction-free and highly productive workspace for programming for around 2 years now.

CodeZri

Innovations, experiments and curiosity

Shalitha Suranga

Written by

Software Engineer at 99x | Apache PMC member | Open Source Contributor (Author of Neutralinojs) | Technical Writer

CodeZri

CodeZri

CodeZri blog publishes articles about computer technology and programming.

Shalitha Suranga

Written by

Software Engineer at 99x | Apache PMC member | Open Source Contributor (Author of Neutralinojs) | Technical Writer

CodeZri

CodeZri

CodeZri blog publishes articles about computer technology and programming.

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