A part of the filesystem owned by a particular user, where the user's files are saved and user-specific configuration files are written and used by applications.

When a user is added to the system in Ubuntu, either during installation or afterwards, by default a directory is created for that user in /home. For example, a user zanna would have the home directory /home/zanna. In bash, the tilde symbol ~ is expanded to the user's home directory. This can be seen in the prompt when first opening a shell:

              ^--current working directory /home/zanna

~ can also be referenced with $HOME

The home directory is:

  • Where the user's Desktop is
  • Where the user's personal files should be saved
  • Where applications write and use configuration files. These are hidden files and directories (their names start with a . ), for example, ~/.bashrc configures settings that will be loaded when the user opens starts a bash shell (for example by opening a terminal) and ~/.mozilla contains Firefox settings, plugins, tabs, bookmarks etc.
  • Owned by the user, unlike other parts of the filesystem which are mostly owned by root. This means the user has all possible permissions and may change and delete any files without using sudo or otherwise elevating privileges.

Further information: Home Folder page on Ubuntu help wiki