10) Desktop backgrounds and themes
Most distributions impose their own branding on the look and feel of GNOME. However, you can customize to your own satisfaction in two ways. First, if you right-click on the desktop and select Change Desktop Background from the menu, you can select the desktop background or wallpaper.
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To customize the look of your GNOME desktop even further, select System -> Preferences -> Theme from the menu. Most distributions come with at least half a dozen themes, differing in color schemes, widgets, and icons. If more themes aren't available among the distro's packages, then a visit to GNOME Art will give you more. You can also create your own theme, setting your own colors and mixing and matching the widgets and icons from installed themes.
11) Preferred applications
Unlike Windows, many versions of GNU/Linux install with several different applications of each type. To help you work your own way, you can set the default web and mail browsers, as well as the command line emulator that you prefer from the System -> Preferences menu.
12) Accessibility options
If you have visual problems or a condition that affects your coordination, look at the options in System -> Preferences -> Accessibility. They include a screen reader, magnifier, and on-screen keyboard, as well as various settings that affect the responsiveness of the mouse and keyboard. Depending on what your distribution installs, you may have to add a package or two, such as gok or orca, to have all these options available. You may also want to adjust the Fonts in the Preferences menu, choosing one that is larger and easier to read.
These are only some of the features that can enhance your experience in GNOME. Other features that you might want to explore on your own include the tools in the Preferences menu for customizing keyboard layouts and how the system interacts with removable drives, as well as the tools for configuring power management, the mouse, the screen resolution, and other hardware interactions.
From the Administration menu, you can explore options for handling encryption keys, configuring the Login Window, and setting up networking and shared folders for peer to peer exchanges.
Another menu worth exploring is the System Tools, whose choices includes a reader for system log files and the partition editor, which duplicates and extends the functionality of PartitionMagic. For those who really want to get down and dirty, the Configuration Editor in the System Tools sub-menu allows you to explore the depths of the GNOME registry.
Like any desktop environment, GNOME is second only to the operating system itself in complexity. But if you do a little exploring -- perhaps first in a user account created specifically for the purpose so you don't inconvenience yourself as you're learning -- you can find dozens of ways to improve your everyday computing. GNU/Linux in general and GNOME specifically are designed for hands-on experiences, and if you've chafing at some of the defaults of the desktop, the chances are strong that you'll find the tools to do things your way, if only you dig a little.