This Getting Started Guide will help set up a new Pop!_OS 20.10 install. I have included common software selections along with a few of my favorites.
If you’re here you probably already agree that Pop!_OS is amazing but if you want a little confirmation (and bragging rights), read the Top Reasons to Choose Pop!_OS.
Get Up to Date
Anytime a new distro is installed, the first step should always be to update the software. Software updates can yield new features but more importantly, updates can have critical bug fixes and security patches. Open a Terminal by pressing Super + T and the following command.
sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y
This is a good time for a reboot.
Enable Fingerprint Authentication
I’m fortunate to have a fingerprint sensor on my Thinkpad T540p but not all distros support it equally. OpenSUSE lacked any support at all. Fedora is a champ and I swipe my finger all day for everything. Ubuntu and Pop!_OS only support fingerprint authentication at login. Bummer. Gnome has at least included support for multiple fingerprints, finally.
The biggest single advantage to choosing Pop!_OS over other distros is the graphics support out of box.
System76 releases a Pop!_OS ISO with the Nvidia graphics drivers included. Pop!_OS installs and configures Nvidia graphics for you. My Thinkpad has a hybrid Intel Nvidia setup. Pop!_OS recognizes that but defaults to Nvidia. Any of the graphics can be chosen but all require a reboot to take effect.
I can opt for Hybrid Graphics where Intel will handle most of the work and Nvidia will only kick in for heavier applications. I can also choose to use only the Intel (displayed as integrated graphics) to save on power and extend battery life.
Pop!_OS has strong built in power management. In the image above, three options are listed: Battery Life, Balanced, and High Performance. Do not install TLP on Pop!_OS as it will conflict with the built in system.
Ubuntu Restricted Extras is required to play common media files. This package also supports other proprietary or third party drivers
sudo apt install -y ubuntu-restricted-extras
DVD playback is supported with the libdvd package.
sudo apt install -y libdvd-pkg && sudo dpkg-reconfigure libdvd-pkg
Install Apps via Terminal
Most of these applications can be found in the Software Center but, frankly, this is just easier. Open a Terminal with Super + T and Ctrl+Shift+V right into the Terminal. I have added -y to automatically confirm installation. Packages can also be stacked. For example, if you wish to install synaptic and vlc, they can combined into
sudo apt install -y synaptic vlc
I like going a little old school and installing the Synaptic Package Manager. Its not pretty like a software store but every single package available for your system is listed. Tread lightly and if you’re unsure which packages to install or remove, do not use it.
sudo apt install -y synaptic
Gnome Tweak Tool makes it easy to modify the system
sudo apt install -y gnome-tweak-tool
VLC is a popular media player.
sudo apt install -y vlc
sudo apt install -y unzip p7zip unrar
sudo apt install -y gimp
QBittorrent – Bittorrent client
sudo apt install -y qbittorrent
GParted – partition management utility
sudo apt install -y gparted
Audacity – audio editor
sudo apt install -y audacity
Steam – gaming platform. I’m not a gamer but for this is the place to download games.
sudo apt install -y steam
Popular music playing service.
sudo apt install -y spotify-client
YouTube production program. Before installing the obs-studio package, ffmpeg needs to be installed. If you’re unsure if its present, try installing it anyway.
sudo apt install -y ffmpeg
After installing ffmpeg, add the PPA.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:obsproject/obs-studio
Finally, install the obs-studio package.
sudo apt update && sudo apt install -y obs-studio
Chromium or Google Chrome…
I don’t use Chrome. Or Chromium. Its Firefox all the way. I keep Chrome on my system to check Hacking the Hike for compatibility. There are better, more private, faster browsers available for Linux. I think Firefox works great.
sudo apt install -y chromium
OR if you want to install full blown Google-ized Chrome, download the DEB from Google. If you want to install a different version, change the package from -stable to -beta or -unstable.
Now install the DEB.
sudo apt install ./google-chrome-stable_current_amd64.deb
Non Repo Software
AppImageLauncher is an AppImage management utility. It makes it easier to track which AppImages have been installed on your system, helps to integrate them, and allows the user to easily remove them. It is available for download as an AppImage, DEB, RPM, and Tarball.
Bitwarden is an open source password manager akin to LastPass or 1Pass. It integrates nicely on Android and has autofill ability. It syncs passwords across Android, Linux, ,iOS, OS X, and Windows. Bitwarden can be installed through AppImage, DEB, RPM, and Snap. DEB and RPM packages do not auto update. CLI Tools are available along with browser extensions for most browsers.
Simplenote is a free note taking app developed by Automattic (the WordPress people). Simplenote syncs across virtually everything and supports AppImage, DEB, and RPM. Part of the appeal of Simplenote is markdown support but the other cool thing is WordPress support. Simplenote can be tied to a WordPress account for easy posting.
Standard Notes is a lot like Simplenote. Its free. Its open source. Its crazy cross platform. If the Automattic/Wordpress relationship makes you uncomfortable or maybe you just don’t need it, try Standard Notes instead. Standard Notes has one big advantage over Simplenote: extensions. Yes, the extensions do cost but they effectively turn Standard Notes into a mini office suite with support for markdown, rich text, LaTeX, and HTML. Standard Notes has backup support for Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.
Zoho Notebook has a sticky note in a notebook feel. Create different notebooks, change the cover image, and fill it with text notes, pictures, and links. While Notebook is not open source, Zoho promises to never read your data, sell your data, or show you ads. They even claim to encrypt it. Not bad a free service. Zoho Notebook is available for Linux as a DEB, Android, and Apple devices.
(that’s an affliate link, by the way)
Try a secure email service like Protonmail or Tutanota. Gmail, Outlook, and other free email services offer tons of storage. In exchange, they mine your data to show you ads. Secure email services encrypt your data so they are unable to read it. Tutanota offers a free AppImage desktop client while Protonmail enables IMAP with a paid plan.
PPA or Personal Package Archive is sort of a mini repo for software that for whatever reason isn’t in the official repositories. The software may still be in a beta testing or is a small project just starting. While PPAs can be a convenient means to installing non repo software, be cautious. Too many PPAs can make software updates unreliable. PPAs could, though very unlikely, contain malicious software. I use the Mozilla Team’s official PPA to install Firefox Beta because Mozilla is a trusted source.
I don’t recommend using many Gnome Extensions. They allow easy customization of the desktop but more than a couple may hurt system performance.
Dash to Dock
Dash to Dock is my go to for every Gnome system.
By default, Gnome has a small dock on the left. Using Dash to Dock, I disabled Intelligent autohide so the dock would always be up. After disabling autohide, enable panel mode to extend the dock from edge to edge. Dash to Dock also allows changing the theme and the placement to any side.
GSConnect aka KDE Connect
GSConnect works with the Android counterpart KDE Connect. Before I go any further: Do not install KDE Connect on Gnome. It will interfere with GSConnect. GSConnect is the Gnome implementation of KDE Connect. The Android app works with both.
That said, GSConnect allows notification syncing so that your phone calls, messages, and app notifications will all appear on your desktop. Phone battery life is also displayed. It goes beyond just notifications though.
Text messages can be responded to or even started from the desktop. It also opens up file transfers between devices. While I like Google Messages for RCS and web access, it doesn’t compare to the features GSConnect offers.
What are your favorite Pop!_OS tweaks? What are your must have applications? Tell us in the comments below.