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How to make Ubuntu Linux look like Windows 7

Chris Hoffman | Feb. 22, 2013
Are you ready to make the jump to Linux, but scared of learning a whole new interface? Here's how to make unfamiliar Ubuntu look and feel like the familiar Windows 7 desktop.

Windows 8's tile-based interface puts a bold new spin on the familiar Windows interface--so bold that many long-time Windows users are threatening to jump ship to another operating system rather than learn Microsoft's "modern" UI. Of course, you'll still find yourself in foreign territory even if you actually follow through and make the jump. Installing a new operating system is easy, but wrapping your head around an alien environment can be more difficult, even if you're using a comparatively user-friendly OS like Ubuntu Linux.

Luckily, Linux is customizable--much, much more than Windows. In fact, if you're having trouble with the transition (or plopping Ubuntu on a parent's PC), you can tweak and tune the OS to feel pretty darned close to the Windows environment you've forsaken.

I'll go through two methods here. One adapts Ubuntu's default Unity desktop to make it feel slightly more like Windows, while the other entails a bit more work and a different desktop interface entirely to create a truly Microsoft-like experience.

Creating a Windows 7-style Ubuntu

To be completely honest, Ubuntu's default Unity desktop may be slick and pretty, but it isn't the most configurable Linux environment around. The taskbars running the top and left sides of its screen are locked in place and can't be moved whatsoever. Unity is still fairly flexible, however, and some basic--for Linux--tweaks can give it some of that old Windows 7 charm.

A quick note: These tips were tested on Ubuntu 12.10, the most current version of the operating system at the time of publication.

We're going to use some terminal commands throughout the course of this article. If you're a new Linux user, don't be scared--Linux's powerful command line makes it easy to follow instructions you'll find in articles like this one. Instead of following a list of long steps telling you to click here and click there, you can just copy and paste these commands into a terminal window and hit Enter.

To open a terminal, press the Windows key (known as the Super key in Linux), type Terminal, and press Enter. You can also click the Ubuntu logo at the top-left corner of your screen instead of pressing the Windows key.

First, we're going to install a Windows 7 theme pack. Copy and paste the following commands into the terminal window in order, pressing Enter after each command to run it. The first command adds a personal package archive (PPA) to your system that Ubuntu can install packages from. The second command downloads information about the newly available packages, and the third command installs the Windows 7 theme--no installation wizard required. Typing sudo before each command allows it to run with root permissions, similar to running a program as administrator in Windows.


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