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Working With Files in Linux

What makes Linux so much more robust than Microsoft Windows is the fact that it has a solid command line multitasking operating system at its base. DOS was a command line operating system, but Microsoft never developed it into a multitasking, or even a solid, operating system.

Linux comes with a "graphics server" program called the X Window System that runs on top of Linux and communicates with the video card, keyboard, and mouse on the computer. Gnome is a graphical user interface (GUI) that runs on top of the X Window System and makes Linux look and function very similar to Microsoft Windows.

If a Gnome application crashes, Linux comes down to its base command line operating system, which is, after all the real Linux. Gnome being just a windows manager application that runs on Linux. When a Microsoft Windows GUI goes down, it takes the entire system down.

Gnome is the default (GUI) for Red Hat Linux. You can also use KDE, or a number of other Linux windows managers. Gnome uses a window manager called "Sawfish" that receives commands from the mouse and keyboard and calls a set of graphics libraries, which communicate with the X Window System to manipulate windows on the computer's screen.

If you have used a GUI operating system like Microsoft Windows, you will feel very comfortable using Gnome. Gnome performs all of the basic window management functions like moving, resizing, minimizing, and maximizing windows exactly the same as it's done with Microsoft Windows. There is very little new to learn.

Note: If Gnome does not automatically start when you boot your computer, then type "startx" at a command prompt.

Gnome features a desktop with a control panel at the bottom similar to the taskbar in Windows. When you click the "Home directory" or floppy disk icons on the desktop, the Gnome File Manager opens and displays the contents of those directories.

By default, Red Hat Linux places icons on the panel for accessing the Gnome Help Browser, the Configuration tool, the Gnome terminal emulation program, and Netscape Communicator. You can start any of these applications by clicking on their icon. On the left end of the panel is a button with a penguin's foot print. This is the Main Menu button. Click on the Main Menu button to open the menu and get access to all the standard Gnome applications and configuration tools.

You can create an icon on your desktop for any application in the Main Menu. Just find the name of the application in the menu, then left-click on the name. While holding the mouse button down, drag the mouse pointer to an open area on the desktop. Release the mouse button and the icon will be placed on the desktop. You can then start the application by double-clicking the icon.

You can add an icon to the panel by selecting Main Menu | Panel | Add to panel | Launcher. The "Create launcher" dialog box appears. Enter a Name, a Command (the path to the application), and select an icon for the application. Then click on the "OK" button. A button for the application will be added to the panel. You can then start the application by clicking the button.

You can open the Gnome File manager by double-clicking on the "Home directory" icon on the desktop, or by selecting Programs | File Manager in the Main Menu. The Gnome File Manager displays icons for the files and directories on your computer. By pointing, clicking, and dragging with the mouse, you can copy, move, delete, and execute files. The Gnome File manager works very similar to Microsoft Windows Explorer.

To move a file or directory, click on it. While holding down the mouse button, drag the mouse pointer to the directory where you want to move it to. Then release the mouse button. To copy a file or directory, perform the same action, except while holding down the mouse button and dragging, also hold down the Ctrl key.

To delete, click on the file or directory and in File Manager's "File" menu choose "Delete". The "Delete" dialog box appears asking you to verify that you want to delete that file or directory. If you choose to delete a directory and it is not empty, the "Delete" dialog box appears with the message "Directory not empty. Delete it recursively?" Click on the "Yes" button to delete the directory.

To create a new directory, click on the directory under which you want the new directory. Then in the File Manager's "File" menu Choose New | Directory. The "Create a New Directory" dialog box appears where you enter the name of the new directory.

To rename a file or directory, right-click on the file or directory and choose "Properties" from the menu that appears. In the "properties" dialog box, enter a new name for the file. Then click on the "OK" button.

To launch an application or run a script, double-click on the file name. If Gnome recognizes the file type, it will open the program, if not, it will open the "gmc" dialog box where you can select an application to open the file with.

To search for a file, first click on the directory that you want to search. Then in File Manager's "Commands" menu, choose "Find File". In the "Find File" dialog box which appears, enter the name of the file you want to search for. File Manager will also search any subdirectories in the directory you selected.

By default, File Manager displays files and directories as large icons with the name underneath. You can get a different view by clicking on the "Brief, Detailed or Custom" buttons on File Manager's toolbar. Detailed view displays the size and last modified date for each file and directory. Custom view allows you to choose which file attributes to display. To select the attributes you want displayed, in File Manager's menu select Settings | Preferences. In the "Preferences" dialog box, select the "Custom View" tab.

The Linux file system is different than DOS in that the root directory (unrelated to the root user) is the only thing that is not "mounted". All other directories and file systems have to be mounted. This is usually not a problem because the installation process usually configures everything to be mounted at startup. But you may run into an instance when a removable storage device, like a floppy disk drive or CD drive, needs to be mounted.

To mount a drive, in the Main Menu select Programs | System | LinuxConf. The "Linuxconf" program window appears. Select the "Config" tab and in the configuration tree click on the "x" to open the "File systems" branch. Under "File systems" select "Access local drive". The "Local volume" window appears. In the "Local volume" window, click on the device that you want to mount. The "Volume specification" window appears. In the "Volume specification" window, click on the "Mount" button. Then click on the "Yes" button.

Once mounted, you can perform copy, move, delete, and other file operations on the device just like any other directory. If a device is not listed in the The "Local volume" window click on the "Add" button. The "Volume specification" window appears where you enter the name, type, and mount point of the new device.

From the above description you can see that Gnome makes Linux look and function very similar to Microsoft Windows. The basic window management functions; moving, resizing, minimizing, and maximizing windows, is done exactly the same way it's done with Microsoft Windows. The Gnome File manager functions; copying, moving, deleting, and renaming files and directories, are done very similar to the way they're done with Microsoft Windows Explorer.

With the availability of OpenOffice, a free Open Source version of Microsoft Office which includes a Word compatible word processor, an Excel compatible spreadsheet, and a PowerPoint compatible presentation application, you no longer need to use Microsoft Windows or any Microsoft products.

OpenOffice can open, edit, and save Microsoft documents. It comes complete with a database application, and OpenOffice can create PDFs. Don't subject yourself to Microsoft's "product activation" abuse. There is another operating system available that is much more robust and you do not have to beg for anyone's permission to use it or for their permission to upgrade your system. It's time to start using Linux.


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