Introduction to Computers
with Ubuntu Unity

A project of the local NatickFOSS user group, this guide is designed for use by anyone, but it is written so that complete beginners can get a good picture of the way computers work and can begin to practice their skills with one of the most well-known versions of GNU/Linux. It is hoped that you will find it useful. If you have recommendations for improvement, changes or additions, please send them along. This is a community project.

Free Open Source Software
User Group, Natick, Massachusetts

The current version is being developed as a set of Web pages. It will stay more up-to-date than a printed version described below.

Image captured from the Twitter stream.

"To pull out a 'keeper' you must, at least occasionally, drop a line into the stream flowing by." --A Twitter Fisherman

This statement is true for learning anything, not just social networking on the Internet.

Adult learners may need to re-engage with the "playful exploration" they enjoyed as children. Children are naturally curious, and they also know that failing to accomplish their goals right away is NOT a reason to stop trying. Many adults are in a hurry, too much of a hurry. Adults also develop habits. The good ones are helpful by making repetitive tasks into less work. Habits can get in the way of exploration and learning, though.

For many adults, a computer seems like something "kids just understand" because the kids don't obsess over the details which they don't get at first. When it is like a game to them, they come back and keep trying. Play is fun.

Adults can learn to play again by seeing "learning the computer" as a bunch of small steps. Computers are very fault tolerant. Repeating a step until it makes sense gives you a new skill. A bunch of connected skills become knowledge you can add to your good habits. Success all around.

These materials are being developed for use in the Natick Community-Senior Center in Natick, Massachusetts where a computer has been set up with Free, Open Source Software: Ubuntu, a distribution of GNU/Linux software.

We hope it will be helpful. All are welcome to use it and improve it. It is offered to you using a Creative Commons Attribution licence (cc-by). That means you can make copies freely and give them to others. Sharing is good. You won't be charged for your use and you don't even need to ask permission to start sharing. You may even modify and make your own version of the materials. Your responsibility for this benefit is small. Just make sure you credit the author. Please add a link in your version back to this site.

The biggest benefits of GNU/Linux and Ubuntu are:

In fact, if you are not ready to commit to GNU/Linux, you can install many Free Open Source programs on a Windows or Macintosh computer. FOSS is widely available for all users. Many programs described in the guide work the same for Windows and Macintosh systems. You don't need Ubuntu to get the benefit of FOSS. Of course, you gain the greatest freedom by switching to a fully FOSS system. We see Windows and Macintosh as "less free" because the underlying operating system software of Windows and the Mac OS implementation are proprietary and tightly controlled by their respective companies.


Occasionally, at milestone points in development, there will be a print-structured PDF version of the guide so it looks "bookish" when put at the side of the Natick Community-Senior Center's Linux computer in the lab, or so you can print your own own copy to read in an easy chair.

As of September 2013, a PDF version is available for download. The print version is a conversion from the web pages. The Web version will be more complete and up-to-date.

Revision 2013-09-06 (pdf).
The practice file has not changed since the earlier book revision.
Editing practice file (odt)

The print-formatted guide will be in Portable Document Formula (PDF) format, an open standard. The practice file is Open Document Format (ODF) and may be used with programs like LibreOffice, OpenOffice, and other word processing programs. (The files will not be released in MS-Word format. The author is encouraging your use of Free/Libre software and open/non-proprietary standards.) LibreOffice version 4.2 of their software is available for Windows and Macintosh computers, too, so don't be shy about using LibreOffice and the practice file even if you are not yet ready to embrace GNU/Linux on your computer. Much Free/Open-Source software is "cross platform" to make it widely useful to everyone. FOSS supports the whole community.

Your feedback is very eagerly welcomed.
Contact: algot[AT]

© 2013-2014 Algot Runeman - Shared using the Creative Commons Attribution license.