Archive for September, 2007

Extremely useful panel plugin: Clipman

If you do not know what a clipboard or copy/paste is, be sure to check the Wikipedia article.

Xfce has many useful panel plugins. One which I never even knew existed, let alone thought of adding to my panel, was the “Clipboard Manager” aptly named Clipman.

This was until I learnt that it would solve one slight annoyance: something you copy to your clipboard will get lost when you close the window you copied it from. While I was already quite content when I heard that Clipman could fix this, I quickly learnt it has many more benefits which woke up the power user inside me.

One example: did you ever copy something that you wanted to paste elsewhere after you had finished whatever it was that you were doing? If you did then you probably have also experienced that uneasy feeling of having to be constantly aware not to copy anything else in order to preserve the item currently on your clipboard. Well, you can say goodbye to that feeling now, because with Clipman, you can switch back and forth between previously copied items with the smallest effort imaginable.

And as if that weren’t enough, you can also have Clipman save your selections. No more efforts to press Ctrl+C (or even worse: right-click and select Copy!), a measly selection is enough! Oh, by the way, did I mention the small but very convenient ability to paste with a single click on your middle mouse button that is present in every Linux distribution by default?

So, here I am, having convinced you of the sheer greatness of the Clipman Xfce Panel plugin, but I still haven’t told you how to add it to your panel. Well, it’s simple really, as it is already installed by default in Xubuntu. You just right click the panel, click Add New Item, select Clipman and press Add. You can then click the Clipman icon and browse through a handy list of clipboard items previously copied, with the current one highlighted in bold. If you want to configure it, right click the Clipman icon and select Properties. Some of the configuration options include whether you want Clipman to remember selections, how many history items it should remember and whether you want to display line numbers. Have fun with this simple but amazingly convenient plugin!

Note: An alternative for Gnome is Glipper, the KDE alternative, with its highly original name, is Klipper, which doesn’t seem to have a website.

Access to the proprietary world

Who doesn’t like the idea of open source, of sharing, and that every one who is able to can change software to his/her likings and share the changes with the rest of the free software world? Unfortunately, it takes a big deal of self-restraint to only use completely liberated software. Who can resist the attraction of shiny animations on websites (Flash), or those of playing music on your iPod (which does not support any of the free formats that are superior in so many ways)?

Unfortunately, due to a lot of legal restrictions, Xubuntu is unable to add support for these restricted formats to a default installation. Luckily, since Xubuntu Feisty (7.04) it is easier than ever to enable, using Applications->System->Add/Remove.... With just a few clicks, you can install the package “Ubuntu Restricted Extras”. So, I open up Add/Remove… and search for “Restricted Extras”…

Searching for "Restricted Extras" - where is it?

Not found?! Oh, wait…

To broaden your search, choose ‘Show all Open Source applications’ or ‘Show all available’ applications.

So, in the top right-hand corner, I select “All available applications” and, what a surprise, there it is!

Searching for "Restricted Extras" - there it is!

Cliking the checkbox in front of “Ubuntu restricted extras” I get the following pop-up:

This should be "Enable additional repositories?"

Hmm… If you are a person (as in: not a company) then it should be legal for you to install these packages. I am a person, so I click “Install”.
However, the purpose of this window isn’t entirely clear. Indeed, the button said “Install”, but it actually meant “Enable”, as in “enable extra repositories” (i.e. locations to download software from). So, if you were thinking the package would now be installed: you’re wrong. In fact, the checkbox in front of “Ubuntu restricted extras” is still unchecked. Check it now, then click OK. You will be asked if you are sure, click “Apply”. The packages will then finally be installed.

There you have it! You can now play your music and watch YouTube (and yes, you can use Gnash for that, but more likely than not situations will occur where you need a version of Flash later than seven). You can use Java (which will be open sourced and thus can be included in future releases of Xubuntu) and websites will now be displayed in the fonts their authors wanted them to be displayed in! Enjoy!

Note: the next version of Xubuntu, Gutsy Gibbon, will introduce Xubuntu Restricted Extras, which will install packages more appropriate for Xubuntu.