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(Parent page for this and other small getting started with Raspberry Pi tutorials)

I have notes for translators, if you would add a translation.

Raspbian's GUI Desktop:


filename: pt0FirstGUI-pixel-tour.htm

This page gives some basic information about the GUI desktop supplied with the Raspbian operating system for the Raspberry Pi. The page talks about "Pixel", which became the Raspbian desktop in Sept 2016... according to RaspberryPi.org/blog/introducing-pixel, from which much of the information on the page is taken.



The "thing" across the top of the screen, with various icons, is properly called "the panel". (Not, my view, the best name... "panel" is used widely for all sort of things. "Control bar" better, perhaps... but, if we all valiantly say "panel", maybe we will get used to it, understand that that's what "panel" means in the Raspbian/ "Pixel" (same complaint!) world. Sigh. I'm going to use capitals when I speak of The Panel, and mean it this way. Eccentric? Moi?

You might think The Panel would be called "the taskbar". No. "Taskbar" is reserved for a "thing" that can be (and by default is) part of The Panel. (The taskbar, or as Raspbian would have it, "task bar" is the list of open applications which usually appears in the middle (ish) part of The Panel.)

This isn't just me being cranky and pedantic. If you right-click on a neutral bit of the panel, a dialog about "Panel Preferences" comes up. I.e. you can set your preferences for The Panel. If you need help, Googling with the right terms is usually more productive. (Be a bit careful messing with the preferences, by the way. I turned something off, just "playing", and found that putting it back (I needed it) wasn't a simple matter of ticking a box.)

(Cool discovery, that perhaps we shouldn't play with, as beginners: You can have more than one "panel"!)

The thing you may most "need" (i.e. merely want) to mess with is what applications a have icons on The Panel, so you can launch them without going into The Menu. But don't say I didn't warn you that you can mess The Panel up, making changes: In The Panel's preferences dialog, under Panel Applets, click on "Application Launch Bar". Then click on the "Preferences" button inside the Panel Preferences dialog(!)... and then select items from the right, click "Add" to move them to the left... which is where what icons are on the panel are listed.

The first icon, the raspberry, is, apparently (pp configuration dialog for The Panel), The Menu. (Again the capitals are mine.)

When I say The Menu, I mean the raspberry. (I won't make the "The" bold after this, at least.)

That first icon, the raspberry, The Menu, is special. Next to it there are additional icons, not so special. Each of them just opens an application. Applications which are important to many people, I concede. (The set of icons you see there is not set in stone. You can change it, as I said.) (We'll come back to them.)

At the right hand end of The Panel there's another cluster of icons. These tell you about the state of various aspects of your system, and allow you to control things. AGAIN, I don't know the "proper" name. I did try to find an authoritative article I could learn from... but failed to find it. Given its similarity to something on Another Operating System, I'd like to call it the system tray. But, in Raspbian/ Pixel, that's something more specific. (It can also go on The Panel, but although I "had" a System Tray on my panel, and could even move it about, I couldn't see anything moving. Sigh.

When you get into the GUI's advanced configuration options... which I suggest you postpone!... I think you can arrange all of the icons on The Panel in any order that you want. By default, The Menu comes first. Makes sense... but isn't set in stone. (By default, icons for functions connected with the way the system is operating are at the right. Makes sense... but not set in stone, either. The secrets of why some are in a group at the right defeat me so far... I suspect it is a matter of the Panel "spacer" applet objects and the "stretch" properties of some of the applet objects.)

Going through those things again, in more detail...

The things arising from the raspberry, The Menu...

(You can skip to "Other things at left hand end of The Panel", if you wish.)

When you click The Menu (the raspberry icon on The Panel) a menu opens up. In August, 2018, in the default list, all but the last two entries on that gave rise to sub-menus if you hovered your mouse over them. They were

Below them... which we will come back to... was "Run" and "Shutdown".

"Run" seems to let you run commands. Enter "Leafpad" into the dialog, and the Leafpad GUI text editor opens. When I entered "ls", which would list the files in the current directory if I were in the CLI, the dialog went away, but I didn't see any list of files. I'm missing something here, I'm guessing.

"Shutdown" offers "Shutdown", "Reboot" and "Logout".

You should never just "unplug" a modern OS, and Raspbian certainly qualifies for that respect.

If you are done for the day, and want to turn your Pi off, use Shutdown/ Shutdown.

If you have been doing a bunch of "stuff", particularly if it involved installing new applications, or even just doing sudo apt-get-update, it might be a good idea to do Shutdown/ Reboot. It rarely does harm... save any files you've been working on first. Raspbian will not always say "You have an unsaved file... do you want to save it before we start the reboot?" (It may never say it... not sure. But know it doesn't always do it, if you invoke a shutdown or reboot. (If you are working in an app, Leafpad say, and try to close that when you haven't saved your work, you will, at least sometimes, be saved by the system.)

The last option, Shutdown/ Logout, is for changing users. This page is for beginners. Few beginners will be working on a system with multiple users, so Shutdown/ Logout will not be useful to them. (Beginners will be operating as user "pi". There is another user, "root", but you wouldn't want (or shouldn't want, anyway) to become that user. There is a way to do the things that user has the power to do. ((The "sudo" command...which I need to write up for you... but I can't do everything at once! Beware: You can really mess up your system using sudo. Don't use it recklessly!))



Mathematica and Wolfram are here. This is really cool. Mathematica is almost a new breed of app. When spreadsheets first arrived, it was hard to tell people what one was. Mathematica is in the league, and is usually very expensive.

It will do algebra for you, when you get the hang of it. Wolfram is related.

Here we also find programming languages, and tools useful to programmers.


Here we find the full LibreOffice range of apps. Word processor, spreadsheet, database. LibreOffice and OpenOffice are close cousins. You will only need anything else in basic "office" apps if you really, really, REALLY are "stuck" in a bad environment, and have to "play" very nicely with others.


Chrome, the web browser from Chromium, is the Raspbian default. Some say it sends too much information to Google. But it is a widely used and liked internet browser, and I believe that the version supplied is optimized for the Pi.

I don't know anything about the pros or cons of the email app.

The VNC program is for remote viewing and control of another computer. (It may also be involved in using the Pi from another computer... not sure.)


(Hmmm. Better not investigate. Want to get this page done.)


Some important things here. Most are self-evident, I hope. The most important ones have duplicate icons on the task bar, and I will be covering them in that context in a moment.


(What you would expect... there's a good "tour" there, and you can rely on the information, being "from the horse's mouth", as it were... not just something (like this!) "you read on the internet"!)


Add/ Remove Software: Don't go mad. When you add software, you use space on your SD card, and you risk disturbing things. And there are other ways to add software that you may want to learn to use, too. (sudo apt-get install[pkg]).

Appearance/ Audio settings: I haven't messed with these, though I may well change the desktop picture to something from my own photos sometime soon.

Main Menu Editor: Let's you alter what is on The Menu, the one that clicking the raspberry gives you. Apparently you can even add a second, third, whatever menu! Guess what? I didn't mess with that.

Mouse and Keyboard Settings: These all seem harmless enough. This is where, by the way, you tell the system about keyboard layouts, of that is relevant to you. (I am used to a UK keyboard, £ arising from a shifted "3", for instance. But sometimes I need the #.. also a shifted "3"... but you have to change "keyboard layout" to get those characters those ways.)

Raspberry Pi configuration

There's some Very Good Stuff here... and it is a LOT easier to do some things via the links here than it is to do them with commands in the CLI. (When there's a way to do it here.)

I would suggest that you always try to find a way to do "it" here before trying to do it via the CLI. In particular because when you do it here, there is much less chance of a mere typo being part of a problem. (I will try to get a page written up about this important dialog.)

Other things at left hand end of The Panel

(You can skip to "The things at right hand end of The Panel", if you wish.)

After The Menu... the one invoked by the raspberry icon... there can be many icons. In the default desktop, August 2018, the ones you get to the right of the raspberry are...

Globe: Launches Chrome, a good web-browser.

Two overlapping folders: The file manager. Lets you see what's stored on your SD card (and elsewhere.) Don't worry that there is "too much stuff", and certainly don't recklessly remove stuff. Probably best for now to stick to your folder: "pi" under "home". Names are case sensitive, by the way.

A black rectangle, with a white ">_" in it. Clock this, and you launch "the terminal app". (As in "communications terminal"... not as in "ending"! "Terminal", not "Terminator". The terminal is very important. When you go into that, you are using the CLI. CLI and GUI interface are the "Ying" and "Yang" of using the Pi. A lot of everyday stuff can be done with the GUI interface. (This guide is about using the GUI interface!) But sometimes, only the CLI will do. You get into it from the GUI interface by clicking this icon. Enter "exit" in the CLI to leave it. Or click its window's little X in the upper right hand corner.

Spiky Red Ball: Mathematica. Great fun. Not easy to explain. You don't "need" it... but look into it. Someone did a great thing when they got the Pi a license to have Mathematica on it.

White vertebrate in circle with red background: Wolfram. Something to do with Mathematica.

And that's it! (For this part of "The Panel".)

Things at right hand end of The Panel

At the right hand end of The Panel, as in its default state, August 2018, you'll see a number of icons which relate to how the system is operating. They also give you some control over things.

(On a Windows machine, you might be thinking of those items as "being in the System Tray". On a Pi, under Raspbian, using the "Pixel" GUI, the "System Tray" is something else. Not sure what yet, but it seems to be just another applet that can go on The Panel.)

Very important among those icons is a horizontal line with an upward-pointing triangle above it. (Sorry... I WILL get to mastering taking screenshots from the Pi!).

Hove on it... you should see "Select a drive... to eject safely."

Click on it. At the moment, probably a window opens with just one entry. That would be the SD card that is at the heart of your Pi's operation. If you plugged in a thumb-drive (aka USB memory stick), then that would have an entry in the list.

"Mounting" and "ejecting" drives is an important topic. Just as in Windows you should always "eject" (or invoke "Safely remove..") before unplugging a thumb-drive, so too in Linux. This icon is how you do it. Be careful NOT to eject the SD card at the heart of your Pi's operation! (If you do, do Shutdown/ Reboot straight away, if you can. I don't know how much saving of unsaved files you'll be able to get away with.)

Another important default icon in this group is the one about the Pi's LAN connections. The Pi 3 B offers Wi-Fi and Ethernet. the relevant icon is a dot and three arcs above it, increasing sizes, if you are connected to the LAN by Wi-Fi (or Wi-Fi and Ethernet.) It is an up arrow plus a down arrow if you are connected by Ethernet alone. (Click the icon, and you will See Stuff.)

Hope that helped?

I hope that was helpful. Getting started is always so tedious. This page was just "a sidebar" off of my main "Getting started with Raspberry Pi" page. If there are things that are wrong, or not clear, or missing, feel free to contact me (see below) ... save the next reader being confused by something? Please cite this page's URI, if you do: pt0FirstGUI-pixel-tour.htm.


Please remember that this material is copyright. (TK Boyd, 2018) There are further notes in this page's parent page.

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