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I'm just a student who received my laptop from my uncle, who's a coder, so I'm still getting used to working with ubuntu. I recently upgraded ubuntu from an earlier version, and everything seems to be pretty great. The only thing is that when I open a program, or file, or whatever, it takes up the whole screen. I can only close it by going to the far top left of my screen, or by ctrl+W. Anyways, I find it really hard to switch between programs. For example I really like to have my windows that are open to be accessible by clicking on their icon at the bottom of the screen... Great when writing or researching. Anyways, I really just want to find an easier way to switch windows.

Also, I used to love the way I could cube-rotate my screen, and just drag files from one desktop to another, with compiz. Now, its sort of like flipping a coin when I switch windows, is there any way to get my desktop cube back? And yes, I have enabled all the old settings I used to use with compiz.

Sorry if what I'm asking is very basic, I know how to use a computer, I'm just not really familiar with the interface! Any help is greatly appreciated.

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What version of Ubuntu? –  david6 Oct 30 '12 at 23:11
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You seem to have a lot of questions here, but they all fit one central theme: Unity. Old versions of Ubuntu (>2 years old) used Gnome 2 as their window manager (the thing that draws the desktop, sits both on top of and under compiz, ...). When Gnome.org decided to move to Gnome Shell, the Ubuntu community decided that it was not yet stable enough to support. In addition, canonical had been working on their own window manager (unity) for a while. Unity does not work well with compiz. In fact, the overall goal across WMs seems to be to phase out compiz as it duplicates a lot of features already present in the WM.

If you would like the old desktop back, install MATE, log out, and log back in with MATE. This is the continuance of gnome 2, which is probably what you have been using.

You could also install Gnome 3 and boot in Gnome (fallback mode) to acheive roughly the same functionality.

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Its not possible to go back to the spinning cube on the latest version of ubuntu to the best of my knowledge. The new interface is slightly different, its called Unity. Most of the interaction is done with the sidebar to the left of the screen now, and you can get much done by pressing the windows key and typing the first few characters of the action you want to perform.

An alternative and similar in many ways, but equally modern interface is "gnome-shell".

If you take them time to get familiar with either one of the new interfaces, you may find that you enjoy using it/them (I personally came to like Gnome-shell very much.

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