Ubuntu always surprises me by making things easier in unexpected ways. But, it isn't always obvious, For instance When I was looking for a tool to RDP into windows, I found that Ubuntu already has an pre-installed app called Terminal Server Client which has this functionality.

I am sure there are many such hidden things which are not known to the average user. This thread could be used to expose these little gems.

Maybe the choice of my words was wrong, Are there any things which you found were not very obvious?

  • This is hard to define what is "hidden" as it can be easily accessible, like your example, so I do not consider it very hidden. But I see your point, you mean features that are not obvious, but then again it is hard to define what is obvious or not! =( – Weboide Jul 30 '10 at 11:00
  • 6
    I am being downvoted without a reason. The reason maybe, that we think we know everything about Ubuntu Doesn't that really go against the philosophy of learning. I am not afraid to admit that I don't know everything about anything. I am surprised by things which exist in technologies which I've been using for my bread and butter (and I am a guy who likes shiny things and tries to stay on top of everything). So, really, everyone here knew exactly where everything was in all these years with Ubuntu? Now that is shocking. – Khaja Minhajuddin Jul 30 '10 at 19:40
  • 4
    +1. This question would be better served by "not so well known". Note that just by reading the question, I discovered "tsclient". Even without reading answers, I already learned something new about Ubuntu. Just because Khaja. Thanks Khaja. And no thanks to the people who seem to know a lot and downmodded this question. – paercebal Jul 31 '10 at 21:39
  • 7
    I can't believe what I'm reading here. One question. Three answers. Two useless answers kinda "if you're not good enough to know, then you're not good enough, n00b". Only two useful items, and both were written by the author of the question. Is this forum a joke? – paercebal Jul 31 '10 at 21:50
  • 2
    -1 Too subjective. – ændrük Oct 11 '10 at 2:29

10 Answers 10


My favourite less well known feature of Ubuntu is the ability to re-install over the top of an existing setup without having a separate /home partition and without losing the data in your /home folders.

Simply run the install from the live CD and install over the top but choose 'manual partition' and ensure 'format' is not ticked. The installer will delete /bin /usr /var /etc and so on, but will not touch /home. Great for those people who like to upgrade by reinstalling.

  • 6
    I would still recommend backing it up first! – Casebash Sep 20 '10 at 22:42
  • Really? You can do that? – Ryan C. Thompson Dec 11 '10 at 8:39
  • Unfortunately this is a way how to erase current user's password(s). – Vincenzo Dec 11 '10 at 10:26

There are two shortcuts you need to know when resizing windows:

  1. You can resize a window by holding the Alt key down and the Mouse wheel button down and then moving your cursor to resize the window, this saves a lot of time.
  2. You can move the window by holding the Alt key down and then Left click button down and then moving your cursor to move your window.

I learnt this from http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=662020

  • 1
    In my system (Ubuntu 10.10) Alt-MouseWheel is changing a transparency only :) – Vincenzo Dec 11 '10 at 10:35
  • 1
    You actually have to "hold down" the "Mouse Wheel" button too. – Khaja Minhajuddin Dec 11 '10 at 10:59
  • 2
    Pressing down the "mouse wheel button" is typically called "middle-clicking." – ændrük May 12 '11 at 19:01

You can select a text everywhere drag it to a folder on Nautilus or on your desktop and it will create a text file that contain the text selected. You can also drag an drop images and links from Chromium and Firefox.

  • I want to kiss you right now, I would have NEVER found out about that one. Nautilus truly is amazing, the best file manager I've ever used under ANY OS. – sinekonata Jan 5 '13 at 18:40

In Addition to Ray Vega's comment (activating the Compiz Negative plugin for a window or the whole window manager), there's loads of handy shortcuts you can add in with Compiz (the skys the limit, really). You can get to them by installing compizconfig-settings-manager(click to install)

Some examples on my machine:

Handy Helpers

  • Alt + Mousewheel Up/Down - Change Window Transparency (Opacity/Brightness & Saturation Plugin)
  • Ctrl + Alt + Mousewheel Up/Down - Saturation on Window up and down (Opactity/Brightness & Saturation Plugin)
  • Windows/Super + Mousewheel Up/Down - Zoom in/Zoom Out (Enhanced Zoom Desktop Plugin)
  • Three finger swipe Up/Down (Mac Trackpad) - Show all Windows in Expo (Expo Plugin)

Window Management Functions

  • Alt + Super/Windows + - Move Window Left/Right/Up/Down of screen, this
    is VERY useful, probably the thing I use most, use the same direction (repeat pattern) twice and it'll resize slightly in its current position using more or less space (Grid Plugin)
  • Ctrl + Alt + Super/Windows + - Move Window Left/Right/Up/Down corner of screen, (like above) (Grid Plugin)
  • Alt + Click and move - Move any window, without clicking on title bar
  • Ctrl + Alt Left/Right - Change desktop (Cube/Wall Plugin)
  • Ctrl + Shift + Alt Left/Right - Move current window between desktops (Cube/Wall Plugin)
  • Super/Windows + b - Maximise current window (Extra WM Actions Plugin)
  • Super/Windows + f - Toggle Set current window full screen (Extra WM Actions Plugin)
  • Super/Windows + a - Toggle Set Current Window always on top (Extra WM Actions Plugin)
  • Super/Windows + m - Toggle Window Negative (Negative Plugin)
  • Super/Windows + n - Toggle Screen Negative (Negative Plugin)

Keyboard Shortcuts, using Commands in Compiz

(this could have been done in Gnome Key shortcuts too)

  • Ctrl + Shift + s - Start a terminal
  • Ctrl + Shift + t - Open new terminal tab (standard Gnome-terminal)
  • Ctrl + Shift + e - Open Nautilus in Home folder
  • Ctrl + Shift + d - Open text editor (gVim)
  • Fn + F3 - Switch between monitor profiles (single/dual/clone)

Sorry for this long winded post, but as I said, the skys the limit (I'm sure I'm not even utilising half the useful functionality). As far as I'm concerned, the less I have to use the mouse, the better.

  • Wow, tons of useful stuff. Do you think you could add which shortcut in the settings manager you used for each setting? – l0b0 Feb 17 '11 at 16:04
  • 1
    There's already a default shortcut setup for opening Terminal: Ctrl + Alt + T. I suggest everyone to look at the shortcuts setup by default in the GNOME's shortcut setup application. – Oxwivi Feb 17 '11 at 18:40
  • 1
    Starting from Ubuntu 12.04, you can display many of the shortcuts by holding the Super key for a while. – Agmenor May 2 '12 at 21:40
  • As a side note: most of these are Compiz bound features and won't work if your ubuntu uses another windows manager. – sinekonata Jan 5 '13 at 18:38

System => Preferences => Keyboard Shortcuts is something which helps you control things like Sound and the playback of Audio/Video players, Something which I used AutoHotkey to do in Windows.


You can make any application enter "full screen" mode by hooking it up to a keyboard shortcut. Follow the steps from this question ==> Is there a way to turn gvim into fullscreen mode?

Just for folks who don't know how to do this the exact steps I followed are:

  • Click on System -> Preferences -> Keyboard Shortcuts
  • Go to the Window Management category
  • Select Toggle full screen mode and apply the F11 shortcut

I have seen that the preferences menu on the laptop is very overwhelming for a new user where control centre could come for rescue to manage the system wide preferences.

System > preferences > main menu

Now go to the system tab and check box on control central and close

Now the control centre should be available under places menu, there you can set preferences for almost all the applications on ubuntu.


On a keyboard with the "Windows" key (known as the "Super key" for GNU/Linux):

Super + N -> toggles between the default light theme and a "dark" theme for the current application

Super + M -> same functionality as previous but does it for all applications and the OS itself

  • 1
    Actually, it seems like they turn the colors "negative". – Mussnoon Dec 11 '10 at 11:31
  • No longer works in 11.04 – George Mauer Jul 27 '11 at 16:45
  • With the advent of unity, this opens up the "Music" lens. Sad. – WindowsEscapist Dec 19 '12 at 2:19

If you don't talk in newspaper speak, there should not be such thing as a hidden feature. Usually you can search the packages database or the help site and in most cases you'll find what you want. At least a search at Google Linux will uncover many "secrets". So a hidden feature is more something were you haven't done enough research to find than real hidden. :-)

  • 3
    "Google Linux" ? This is the most NOT helpful answer I did read. – paercebal Jul 31 '10 at 21:43
  • 5
    I guess the author was asking something like "Ubuntu repositories are huge. Care to share the best feature common people do not know about?" and not "Links to megabytes of repository check-in comments". – paercebal Jul 31 '10 at 21:53
  • 2
    @ Paercebal: "Google Linux" doesn't mean "perform a Google search for the word Linux." It's actually referring to a version of Google that's just for finding Linux-related sites. – maco Aug 13 '10 at 14:45
  • Thanks for the Linux Google link, I've already found some good stuff using it! Just hope people aren't downvoting you because they are misunderstanding your message. – Roddie Nov 16 '10 at 10:01
  • It seems the Google subsite for Linux is not around any more. However I would suggest using DuckDuckGo. This search engine has some nice goodies and will suppor more specific searches: duckduckgo.com – qbi May 1 '12 at 21:11

Programmers who want to use their screen space efficiently can make the title bar on all the apps go away by setting the Decoration Windows property in Compiz Settings Manager => Window Decorations to none. This can really help if you have a small screen. Bonus tip: You can right click on the panel and browse to it's properties and check the autohide checkbox to make it disappear thereby increasing your screenspace further.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.