I'm a newbie and am trying to get to the system menu - to get a 2nd monitor to work from my hdmi output (on a laptop). I see "system settings" in the "shut down" menu in upper left, but no matter what I try I can't open it. Any help would be appreciated. thanks.
It's definitely weird that choosing System Settings from the Shut Down menu doesn't yield anything. That might indicate other problems, but that's another story. As an alternative, Hit Ctrl+Alt+T to open a terminal and type:
and hit Enter. You might need to dig through the app list for "Terminal".
p.s. Welcome to Ask Ubuntu!