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documentation.suse.com / SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop Documentation / GNOME User Guide / Introduction / Working with your desktop
Applies to SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 15 SP5

2 Working with your desktop

Learn how to perform regular tasks with the GNOME desktop.

In this chapter, you will learn how to perform regular tasks with the GNOME desktop.

2.1 Managing files and directories

To start GNOME Files, open the Activities overview by pressing Meta and search for files. Then select Files from the hit list.

File manager
Figure 2.1: File manager

The elements of the GNOME Files window include the following:


The toolbar contains back and forward buttons, the path bar, a search function, elements to let you change the layout of the content area, and the application menu.


The last icon on the toolbar is the menu. It lets you perform many tasks, such as opening the preferences dialog, creating a new directory or opening a new window or tab.


The sidebar lets you navigate between often-used directories and external or network storage devices. To display or hide the sidebar, press F9.

Content area

This area displays the files and directories.

Use the icons in the upper right corner of the window to switch between list and grid icon view.

Context menus

Open a context menu by right-clicking inside the content area. The items in this menu depend on where you right-click.

For example, if you right-click a file or directory, you can select items related to the file or directory. If you right-click the background of a content area, you can select items related to the display of items in the content area.

2.1.1 Key combinations

The following table lists a selection of key combinations of GNOME Files.

Table 2.1: GNOME Files key combinations

Key Combination


Alt/ Alt

Go backward/go forward.


Open the parent directory.

, , ,

Select an item.

Alt or Enter

Open an item.


Open an item's Properties dialog.


Open an item and close the current directory.


Transform the path bar from a button view to a text box.

Exit this mode by pressing Enter (go to the location) or Esc (to remain in the current directory).

The path bar supports the URI schema and can be used to connect to remote servers via FTP, SFTP, SSH, SMB and other protocols. For example, use ftp://tux@ftp.example.tld to connect to an FTP server ftp.example.tld with the user name tux.


Transform the path bar from a button view to a text box and replace the current path with /.


Open your home directory.

Any number or letter key

Start a search within the current directories and their subdirectories. The character you pressed is used as the first character of the search term. Search happens as you type, you do not need to press Enter.


Start a search within the current directories and their subdirectories. The character you pressed is used as the first character of the search term. Search happens as you type, you do not need to press Enter.


Moves the selected file or directory to the trash, from which it can be restored with Undo.

2.1.2 Compressing files or directories

Sometimes, it is useful to archive or compress files, for example:

  • You want to attach an entire directory, including its subdirectories, to an e-mail.

  • You want to attach a large file to an e-mail.

  • You want to save space on your hard disk and have files you rarely use.

In all these cases, you can create a compressed file, such as a ZIP file, which can contain multiple original files. How much smaller the compressed version is compared to the original depends on the file type. Many video, image and office document formats are already compressed and will only become marginally smaller.

  1. In the GNOME Files content area, right-click the directory you want to archive, then click Compress.

  2. Enter an archive file name.

  3. Select a file extension from the drop-down box.

    • .zip files are supported on most operating systems, including Windows*.

    • .tar.gz files are compatible with most Linux* and Unix* systems.

    • .7z files usually offer better compression ratios than other formats, but are not as widely supported.

  4. Specify a location for the archive file, then click Create.

To extract an archived file, right-click the file, then select Extract Here. You can also double-click the compressed file to open it and see which files are included.

For more information on compressed files, see Section 2.10, “Creating, displaying, and decompressing archives”.

2.1.3 Burning a CD/DVD

If your system has a CD or DVD writer, you can use GNOME Files to burn CDs and DVDs.

  1. Open GNOME Files.

  2. Insert a blank medium.

  3. Find the files you want to add to the medium and drag them to the sidebar item called Blank CD-R Disc. (The label may read slightly differently, depending on the type of medium you inserted.) When your mouse pointer is over the sidebar item, a small + should appear next to the pointer.

  4. When you have dragged all files onto the sidebar item Blank CD-R Disc, click it.

  5. Provide a name next to Disc Name or keep the proposal.

  6. Click Write to Disc.

  7. In the appearing dialog CD/DVD Creator, make sure the right medium is selected. Then click Burn.

    The files are burned to the disc. This can take a few minutes, depending on the amount of data being burned and the speed of your burner.

  8. After the medium has been burned, it will be ejected from the drive. In the window CD/DVD Creator, you can click Close.

To burn an ISO disc image, first insert a medium, then double-click the ISO file in GNOME Files. In the dialog Image Burning Setup, click Burn.

2.1.4 Creating a bookmark

Use the bookmarks feature in GNOME Files to quickly jump to your favorite directories from the sidebar.

  1. In the content area of the file manager, open the folder or location you want to bookmark.

  2. Click the current folder in the path bar and select Add to Bookmarks.

    The bookmark now appears in the sidebar, with the directory name as the bookmark name.

  3. (Optional) If you want, you can change the name of the bookmark. This does not affect the name of the bookmarked directory itself. To change the name, right-click the new sidebar item and select Rename.

  4. (Optional) If you want, you can change the order in which the bookmarks are displayed. To reorder, click a bookmark and drag it to another location.

To switch to a bookmarked directory, click the appropriate sidebar item.

2.1.5 File manager preferences

Open the file manager preferences by clicking the list icon in the top bar and selecting Preferences.

2.1.6 Accessing remote files

You can use GNOME Files to access files on remote servers. For more information, see Chapter 5, Accessing network resources.

2.2 Accessing removable media

To access devices like USB flash drives or CDs/DVDs, insert or attach the medium. An icon for the medium is automatically created on the desktop. For many types of removable media, a GNOME Files window pops up automatically. If GNOME Files does not open, double-click the icon for that drive on the desktop to view the contents. In GNOME Files, you will see an item for the medium in the sidebar.

Warning: Unmount to prevent data loss

Do not physically remove devices immediately after using them. Even when the system does not indicate that data is being written, the drive may not be finished with a previous operation.

To safely remove a device, proceed as follows:

  1. From the Activities overview, open Files.

  2. Locate the device in the sidebar and click the Eject icon.

    Now you can safely remove the device.

2.3 Searching for files

There are multiple ways to search for files or directories. In all cases, the search will be performed on file and directory names. Searching by file size, modification date and other properties is only partially possible in the preinstalled graphical tools. Such searches are easier to do on the command line.

Using GNOME Files

In GNOME Files, navigate to the directory from which you want to start the search. Then start typing the search term. To search for objects with a certain modification date or file type, click the arrow-down icon of the search box and modify the properties.

Using the Activities overview

Open the Activities overview by pressing Meta on your keyboard. Then start typing the search term. The search will be performed within your home directory.

2.4 Copying text between applications

Copy and paste works the same as in any other operating system. First select the text, so that it appears highlighted, usually in blue. Then press CtrlC. Now move the keyboard focus to the right position. Finally, to insert the text, press CtrlV.

To copy or paste in the terminal, additionally press Shift together with the above key combinations.

An alternative way of using copy and paste is described in the following:

  1. Select the text to be copied.

  2. Go to the location where the text should be inserted, right-click the mouse button and select Paste from the context menu.

    As soon as you make another selection, the text from the original selection will be replaced in the clipboard.

When copying information between programs, you must keep the source program open and paste the text before closing it. When a program closes, any content from that application that is on the clipboard is lost.

2.5 Managing Internet connections

To surf the Web or send and receive e-mail messages, you must have configured an Internet connection. If you have installed SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop on a laptop or a mobile device, NetworkManager is enabled by default. On the GNOME desktop, you can then establish Internet connections with NetworkManager as described in Section 31.3, “Configuring network connections”.

Depending on your environment, you can choose in YaST which basic service to use for setting up network connections (either NetworkManager or wicked). For details, see Section, “Configuring global networking options”.

2.6 Exploring the Internet

The GNOME desktop includes Firefox, a Mozilla*-based Web browser. You can start it by opening the Activities overview by pressing Meta and typing fire.

For more information, see Chapter 13, Firefox: browsing the Web.

2.7 E-mail and scheduling

The GNOME desktop offers Evolution, a personal information management application that provides integrated mail, calendaring and address book functionality.

Evolution seamlessly combines e-mail, a calendar, an address book, and a memo and task list in one easy-to-use application. With its extensive support for communications and data interchange standards, it can work with existing corporate networks and applications, including Microsoft* Exchange.


To start Evolution, open the Activities overview by pressing Meta and type mail.

The first time you start Evolution, it prompts you with a few questions to set up a mail account and import mail from an old mail client. Then it shows you how many new messages you have and lists upcoming appointments and tasks. The calendar, address book and mail tools are available in the shortcut bar on the left.

For more information, see Chapter 14, Evolution: e-mailing and calendaring.

2.8 Opening or creating documents with LibreOffice

For creating and editing documents, LibreOffice is installed with the GNOME desktop. LibreOffice is a complete set of office tools that can both read and save Microsoft Office file formats. LibreOffice has a word processor, a spreadsheet, a database, a drawing tool and a presentation program.

To start LibreOffice, open the Activities overview by pressing Meta and type libre.

For more information, see Chapter 9, LibreOffice: the office suite.

2.9 Controlling your desktop’s power management

You can open the power settings by opening the Activities overview by pressing Meta and typing power. Now select Settings › Power from the results.

On certain events, such as a critically low battery state, GNOME will display notifications informing you about the event.

For more information, see Section 3.6, “Configuring power settings”.

2.10 Creating, displaying, and decompressing archives

You can use the Archive Manager application to create, view, modify or unpack an archive. An archive is a file that acts as a container for other files. An archive can contain many files, directories and subdirectories, usually in compressed form. You can use Archive Manager to create, open and extract a compressed non-archive file.

Archive Manager supports common formats, such as:

  • zip

  • tar.gz

  • tar.bz2

  • lzh

  • rar

To start Archive Manager, open the Activities overview by pressing Meta and type arch.

If you already have a compressed file, double-click the file name in GNOME Files to view the contents of the archive in Archive Manager.

Archive manager
Figure 2.2: Archive manager

2.10.1 Opening an archive

  1. Open Archive Manager, click the menu button in the upper right corner of the window, and select Open.

  2. Select the archive you want to open and click Open.

    Archive Manager displays the following:

    • The archive name in the titlebar.

    • The archive contents in the content area.

      To open another archive, click Open again. Archive Manager opens each archive in a new window.

  3. To display the archive's properties, click the menu button in the titlebar and select Properties. Details like name, location, type, last modification, number of files, size, and compression ratio are shown.

2.10.2 Extracting files from an archive

  1. Open Archive Manager and select the files you want to extract.

  2. Click Extract.

  3. Specify the directory where to extract the files.

  4. Choose from the following extraction options:



    All files

    Extracts all files from the archive.

    Selected files

    Extracts the selected files from the archive.


    Extracts from the archive all files that match the specified pattern.

    Keep directory structure

    Reconstructs the directory structure when extracting the specified files.

    For example, you specify /tmp in the Filename text box and extract all files. The archive contains a subdirectory called doc. If you select the Keep directory structure option, Archive Manager extracts the contents of the subdirectory to /tmp/doc.

    If you do not select the Keep directory structure option, Archive Manager does not create any subdirectories. Instead, it extracts all files from the archive, including files from subdirectories, to /tmp.

    Do not overwrite newer files

    If not active, the Archive Manager overwrites any files in the destination directory that have the same name as the specified files.

    If you select this option, Archive Manager does not extract the specified file if an existing file with the same name already exists in the destination directory.

  5. Click Extract.

    To extract an archived file in a file manager window without opening Archive Manager, right-click the file and select Extract Here.

    The operation extracts a copy of the specified files from the archive. The extracted files have the same permissions and modification date as the original files that were added to the archive.

    The Extract operation does not change the contents of the archive.

2.10.3 Creating archives

  1. In Archive Manager, click the menu button in the upper right part of the window and select New Archive.

  2. Specify the name and location of the new archive.

  3. Select an archive type from the drop-down box.

  4. Click Create.

    Archive Manager creates an empty archive, but does not yet write the archive to disk. A new archive is only written to the disk when the archive contains at least one file. If you create a new archive and quit Archive Manager before adding any files, the archive will be deleted.

  5. Add files and directories to the new archive:

    1. Click Add Files and select the files or directories you want to add.

    2. Click Add.

      Archive Manager adds the files to the current directory in the archive.

You can also add files to an archive in a file manager window without opening Archive Manager. See Section 2.1.2, “Compressing files or directories” for more information.

2.11 Taking screenshots

You can take a snapshot of your screen or of an individual application window by using the Screenshot application. The screenshots are automatically saved to your ~/Pictures folder in your home directory.

Use the following global key combinations to quickly take a screenshot:

  • Print takes a screenshot of the entire desktop.

  • AltPrint takes a screenshot of a window.

  • ShiftPrint takes a screenshot of an area you select.

You can also use GIMP to take screenshots as described in the following:

  1. Open GIMP and select File › Create › Screenshot.

  2. Select an area, choose a delay and then click Snap.

For more information on GIMP, see Chapter 17, GIMP: manipulating graphics.

2.12 Viewing PDF files

The Evince Document Viewer can open PDF files and many similar file types, such as XPS, DjVu, or TIFF.

Note: Rare display issues

In rare cases, documents will not be displayed correctly in Document Viewer. This can happen, for example, with certain forms, animations or 3D images. In such cases, ask the authors of the file what viewer they recommend. However, in some cases the recommended viewer will not work on Linux.

Document viewer
Figure 2.3: Document viewer

To open Document Viewer, double-click a PDF file in a file manager window. Document Viewer will also open when you download a PDF file from a Web site.

To open Document Viewer without a file, open the Activities overview by pressing Meta and typing pdf.

To view a PDF file in Document Viewer, click Open, navigate to the PDF file and click Open again.

Use the side pane to navigate through the document. If your PDF document provides bookmarks, you can access them in the side pane as well.

2.13 Obtaining software updates

When you connect to the Internet, the updater applet automatically checks whether software updates for your system are available. When important updates are available, you will receive a notification on your desktop.

For detailed information on how to install software updates with the updater applet and how to configure it, refer to the chapter about installing and removing software in Section 8.5, “The GNOME package updater”.

2.14 More information

Along with the applications described in this chapter for getting started, you can use many other applications on GNOME.

To learn more about GNOME and GNOME applications, see http://www.gnome.org.

To report bugs or add feature requests, go to http://bugzilla.gnome.org.