The Linux GUI - Application Windows - Online Article

Most desktop applications are surrounded by an application window  consisting of thin borders on the right, left, and bottom sides and a  thicker area containing the titlebar at the top. The application window  allows you to manipulate the application within your desktop.

While the look of a desktop application remains the same no matter what desktop environment (or window manager) you are using, the appearance of the application  window is dependent on the style setting of the desktop environment.

The titlebar displays a tiny icon of the application, the name of the  file that you are working with, and the name of the running application  on the left side. The titlebar also contains the sizing buttons  (minimize and maximize/restore) and the close button, usually grouped  together on the right side of the titlebar.

The minimize button is usually the leftmost button of the three and is  usually represented with a small horizontal line. Clicking on it  removes the application from the desktop to allow you to work with  other applications. Though it is minimized, it is still running; you  can access the application again by clicking the button that  corresponds to the application on the taskbar.

The maximize and restore buttons both take up the middle position, but  never appear at the same time. The maximize button, indicated as a  small square, makes the application take up the entire desktop area.  The restore button, shown as two small overlapping squares, restores  the application to its original size. A few applications do not have a  maximize/restore button on their titlebars, because those applications  have a fixed sized that cannot be changed.

You can also change the size of an application window by dragging its  edges with the mouse. Move the cursor over any edge or corner of a  window until the cursor changes into a line with two arrows on each  end. By dragging the border you can change the window's size. The  direction shown by the mouse cursor indicates the direction that the  window may be resized. You can also use the mouse to reposition a  window on your desktop by dragging the titlebar.

Shading is another technique for manipulating desktop windows, and one  that, unlike all the previous techniques, Microsoft Windows lacks. By  double-clicking the titlebar, you can make the application roll up like  a window shade and show only the titlebar. To restore a shaded  application, simply double-click the titlebar again.

Most of the above actions can also be accomplished by clicking on the  small icon located on the left side of the titlebar and selecting the  appropriate action in the menu it displays. From  that menu you can also select other options for manipulating the  behavior of the application window. You can elect to keep the window  above all others on the desktop even when the application is no longer  the active application. Just the opposite of keeping the application  above all others is the option to keep the application below all  others. Full screen mode is another option; it allows you to expand the  application to fill the entire screen area. You can also determine  which virtual desktops the application will appear on; next week we'll  talk about virtual desktops in detail.

When you have multiple applications open, all but one of the  applications' titlebars are grayed out. This indicates that an  application is no longer active, meaning that you are not directly  working in that application. Only one application may be active at a  time. Applications can receive input only if they are active.

Each desktop application has its own distinctive set of actions it can  performed. To organize these actions, applications use a menu bar  located at the top of the application. The menu bar has several small  menus on it, and each menu works in the same manner that the desktop  menu works. Some common menus seen on the menu bar are:

  • File -- This menu contains actions to manage the file that you are  viewing with the application. Common entries include: New, to create a  new file; Open, to open a file for viewing or editing; Save, to save the  file after making changes; Save as..., to save the file and specify the  name to save the file as; Close, to close the file but leave the  application running; and Quit, which closes the file and quits the  application. 
  • Edit -- Here you will find actions for manipulating the file.  Usual items found here are: Copy, to copy selected items from the file;  Paste, for pasting a previously copied item into the file; Undo, to  undo the last action performed on the file; and Redo, for undoing a  previous undo command. 
  • View -- Actions that change the way a file or application  appears. here you will also find entries for adding and removing  toolbars. 
  • Help -- This is probably the most useful menu when using an  application for the first time, and it is also probably the least used  menu. Here you will find the entry for launching the application's help  system. The help system contains information on how to use the  application.

While the menus on the menu bar act similarly to the desktop menu,  some entries contained in these menus are actually options for the  application. Some of these options are single options that can be either  enabled or disabled. A small check mark is displayed on the left of the  menu entry when the option is enabled. Clicking the entry changes  the option from enabled to disabled, and vice versa. Other option areas  in the menu contain multiple options that can be enabled only one at a  time. These options have a bullet -- a small solid circle -- to the left  of the enabled option. Simply click on another option in that section to  change the settings.

Some menu entries have keyboard shortcuts, also called keystroke  shortcuts, that appear to the right of the menu entry. Keyboard  shortcuts perform the menu action when the keyboard keys shown are  pressed. These shortcuts can be single keys or a combination of  keys. For examples, a keyboard shortcut represented by F11 is a  shortcut  performed by pressing the F11 key on the keyboard, while one  represented by Ctrl+V is a shortcut performed by pressing the Control  (Ctrl) key and the letter V on the keyboard at the same time. Keyboard  shortcuts differ from application to application. They can be an  invaluable time-saving tool.

Below the menu bar you can often find an area called a toolbar. A  toolbar contains  icons that represent the most common actions used in the application.  To execute an action, click on an icon on the toolbar. Some  applications contain multiple toolbars. You can usually control which  toolbars are shown from the View menu on the menu bar. You can also  customize some  toolbars by adding or removing icons. Right-click the toolbar and  select Customize from the pop-up menu that appears to edit the  appearance of the toolbar.

As you might expect, the majority of an application's window is  taken up by the file or object that you are viewing. This is where you  interact with the object, by actions such as typing text in a text  document or clicking links on a Web page. Sometimes the file that you  are viewing is larger than the file viewing area. When this happens,  you can use the scroll bars that appear on the right and bottom of the  file viewing area to view additional contents of the file. Simply drag  the scroll bar, or click the scroll arrows located at either end of the  scroll bar, in the direction you wish to see more information.

At the bottom of the application is another bar called the status  bar, which displays useful messages relating to the status of the file  you are working with. The status bar is dynamic, meaning that it  changes depending on the state of the application or file.

Those are the basics of working with desktop applications. There  are, unfortunately, a couple of exceptions to the general rules. Some  applications, such as XMMS (a  multimedia player), do not have an application window, but instead  offer built-in buttons for performing some of the same actions as the  application window does, such as minimize and close. Other applications  operate in full screen mode until you quit; Frozen-Bubble, an amusing and addictive game, is an example of one such application.

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