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Chris Hoffman

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

Ubuntu’s Unity desktop is a change of pace, whether you’re coming from Windows or another Linux distribution with a more traditional interface. Unity has its own way of doing things, including powerful keyboard shortcuts.

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There are ways to run a screen capture utility – or any other program – from the welcome screen. Windows doesn’t make this easy, but it’s possible. The logon screen runs on the Winlogon desktop, an isolated Windows desktop.

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GNOME Shell has been criticized for lacking many familiar features found in GNOME 2, but you can add them yourself with extensions. If you’ve installed GNOME Shell and didn’t like it, don’t write it off until you try some extensions.

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Gmail’s redesign is now mandatory — the opt-out option is gone. Use a third-party style sheet to get the old Gmail look back or tweak Gmail’s settings to undo some of the changes.

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Ubuntu’s default configuration tools don’t expose a lot of options for customizing your Ubuntu desktop. Ubuntu Tweak fills the gap, exposing a wide variety of settings unavailable in the default interface.

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If you’re dual-booting Windows and Linux, you’ll probably want to access files on your Linux system from Windows at some point. Linux has built-in support for Windows NTFS partitions, but Windows can’t read Linux partitions without third-party software.

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Gmail provides a high storage limit – 10 GB and counting – but it doesn’t help you much if you’re close to reaching it. You’ll need to know some tricks to free up space in your Gmail account.

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Windows’ built-in firewall hides the ability to create powerful firewall rules. Block programs from accessing the Internet, use a whitelist to control network access, restrict traffic to specific ports and IP addresses, and more – all without installing another firewall.

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Give GNOME Shell a spin if you’re looking for a slick, new Linux desktop environment. It’s similar to Unity in some ways, but more flexible in others – GNOME Shell supports extensions, which can add missing features.

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The dash on Ubuntu’s Unity desktop allows you to search for applications, files, music, and videos – but you’re not just limited to these. Install custom lenses and scopes to extend the dash with more features.

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Ubuntu 12.04 is upon us. Aside from the usual assortment of bug fixes and updated software, Ubuntu’s Unity desktop environment has been polished and offers new features and more configurability.

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Phones and tablets only have so much internal memory. If you’re running out of space for apps or data, there are a few quick tricks you can use to free up space and get back to using your Android device.

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The new SkyDrive is a compelling product from Microsoft. With an ample 7 GB of free storage, a slick interface, and the ability to download unsynced files from any connected computer, SkyDrive gives Dropbox a run for its money.

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We’ve previously covered customizing Windows Explorer’s context menus by adding custom shortcuts and removing existing shortcuts with the Registry Editor. FileMenu Tools is an easy-to-use, graphical alternative to these fairly complicated registry hacks.

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The first thing any Linux user does after installing Linux is installing their favorite packages. Ubuntu makes this easy by syncing your installed applications between computers. And terminal users can install their favorite packages with a single command.

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Windows comes with a variety of ways to rename multiples files at once from Windows Explorer, the Command Prompt, or PowerShell. Whether you’re looking for an easy-to-use graphical interface or a powerful command-line method, you’ll find it here.

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Have you ever wondered how the “Most Visited” bookmarks folder included with Firefox works? It’s not just a special-cased folder – it takes advantage of the Places database introduced in Firefox 3, and you can create your own smart bookmarks.

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Both Chrome and Firefox can restore bookmarks you’ve deleted, but Chrome doesn’t make it easy. Chrome contains a single, hidden bookmark backup file. The backup file can only be restored manually and is frequently overwritten.

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Whether you’re overclocking your computer, comparing different systems, or just bragging about your hardware, a benchmark can help you quantify your computer’s performance. Windows has a large ecosystem of useful benchmarking applications, and many of them are free.

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Linux’s command-line utilities can do anything, including perform benchmarks – but using a dedicated benchmarking program is a simpler and more foolproof process. These utilities allow you to perform reproducible tests across different systems and configurations.

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Why guess at the performance of your device when you can run some tests and get detailed statistics? These apps test your device’s CPU, GPU, and other hardware components – in addition to your browser.

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If you’re a Linux user, you’ve probably seen references to both sudo and su. Articles here on How-To Geek and elsewhere instruct Ubuntu users to use sudo and other Linux distributions’ users to use su, but what’s the difference?

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Whether we’re comparing Firefox to Chrome or testing the real-world speed benefits of a 64-bit browser, I see a lot of comments saying one browser feels faster. When people compare web browsers, they don’t usually perform rigorous benchmarks.

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The Linux terminal has rich multitasking capabilities. You can switch between the virtual consoles already running on your system, use Bash job control to run processes in the background, and take advantage of GNU screen, a terminal “window manager.”

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Classic Shell is an open-source utility that brings classic Windows features to newer versions of Windows. It offers the most classic Start menu for Windows 8 yet, and it lets you avoid the ribbon with a Windows Explorer toolbar.

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