The ‘shortcut’ file type which came with Windows 95 all those years ago provided user-friendly access to important applications, files and folders. It has taken Linux a little while to catch up, but Ubuntu now comes fully equipped with links, bookmarks and launchers of its own.
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The simplest way to link to a file or folder in Ubuntu is to open the file manager – usually Nautilus, though any other should work – and click on the file or folder with the right mouse button. Select ‘Make link’ from the local menu that appears, and a linking file will appear in the user’s Home directory. This can then be dragged to the Desktop or to any other folder in the file system. The linking file can also be dragged to the panel at the top or bottom of the screen, where it will appear as an icon.
Link names can be used as aliases in paths and command-line instructions; for instance, a link named ‘/home/jon/Beatles’ could be substituted for the longer pathname ‘/home/jon/music/pop/groups/Beatlesfolder’.
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Folder locations can be added to the Places menu in Ubuntu by opening them in the file manager and then selecting ‘Add Bookmark’ from the Bookmarks menu. Depending on the number of bookmarks defined, they will either appear separately under Places or be grouped into a submenu under a ‘Bookmarks’ item. Bookmarks can be renamed or deleted by selecting ‘Bookmarks / Edit Bookmarks’ in the file manager. Another method is to change the left pane display in Nautilus to show ‘Places’, and then just drag folders across into this section.
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Launchers are similar to links, but they do not act as aliases and they cannot be created through drag-and-drop. To make a Launcher, right-click on the Desktop and choose ‘Create Launcher’. Supply the following information:
Type – this will either be Location (to open a folder or a specific document), Application (for a GUI-based program) or Application in Terminal, for a command-line instruction.
Name – the identifier that will appear in the menu.
Command – the location, the name of the application or the command-line instruction itself.
Comment – a comment for users.
Icon – select an icon for the item by clicking on the default icon button.
Click 'OK' and the launcher will be created on the Desktop.
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Adding launchers to a menu
The System / Preferences / Main Menu command allows the user to modify the Ubuntu default menus. New submenus can be created, and items moved from one menu to another. To make a new menu item, browse to the menu and submenu where you want it to appear, and click ‘New Item’. A Launcher dialog box will appear prompting you for a Type, Name, Command and Comment. Note that location-type launchers can’t appear in menus.
Links, bookmarks and launchers – three quick ways to get around in Ubuntu!