Ubuntu Essentials for Productivity

Six months ago I made the switch to Linux (Ubuntu 14.04). Since then, my productivity has increased exponentially. I’m still learning and finding new tools all the time, but below are some of the tools that have aided me (in no particular order). My philosophy in choosing research tools is centered on efficiency, reproducibility, and accessibility. I try to use the terminal as much as possible and the mouse as little as possible.

1. Terminator

This is my favorite terminal emulator. With it you can split terminal windows vertically or horizontally (or both). Other terminal emulators, such as Guake and Final Term, have similar features (see 20 Useful Terminal Emulators for Linux). For more information on Terminator see Terminator Introduction (the image and installation method below is from this site).


To get it, type:

sudo apt-get install terminator

2. Vim

Vim is a text editor that runs directly in the terminal (and works nicely with Terminator). It has innumerable keyboard shortcuts for navigating/editing documents, syntax highlighting galore, and can easily be customized. Some complain that the learning curve is steep, but my advice is this: bite the bullet and go for it. In the long run it will pay off. After one full day of using Vim, I couldn’t really imagine using gedit or nano again.


Many distributions of linux come stock with Vim, but in case yours does not:

sudo apt-get install vim

Many users have uploaded their own vim color schemes that you can use. My personal favorite is behelit (shown below):


3. Gnome Desktop

I really like the look and feel of Unity (Ubuntu default), but I’ve had more success/fewer issues with Gnome. This might be due to the fact that I’m using multiple monitors including one that is 21:9 (for which Gnome possibly has better support).

To get gnome desktop type:


sudo apt-get install gnome-shell  
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-gnome-desktop


Be sure to select the ‘gdm’ option if/when prompted. Gnome has a nice shortcut for moving windows between monitors: Ctrl – Alt – 4 (move to left monitor) and Ctrl – Alt – 6 (move to right monitor). You can snap windows to the left or right side of the screen with Ctrl – Super – left/right (also works in Unity).

4. Glances – system monitor

This is a system monitor that runs in the terminal and looks absolutely rad. It’s great for monitoring CPU usage, RAM usage, and temperatures. And let’s be honest – it just looks amazing.


To get it, type:

sudo apt-get install python-pip build-essential python-dev
sudo pip install Glances
sudo pip install PySensors

(method taken from this Ask Ubuntu question)

To start glances, simply type ‘glances’ in the terminal.

5. Google Chrome with Vimium

Nothing against Firefox; I just like Chrome. You can watch Netflix in Ubuntu on Chrome, and the Vimium extension is fabulous. By hitting the ‘f’ key, Vimium maps a keyboard combination to every possible link, button, and textbox on the page making web browsing much faster. The commands are similar to those in Vim, hence the name.

To get Google Chrome, you can download the .deb file from Google and double click on it in Nautilus, or you can run the following commands:

cd /tmp
wget https://dl.google.com/linux/direct/google-chrome-stable_current_amd64.deb
sudo dpkg -i google-chrome-stable_current_amd64.deb
sudo apt-get -f install

(Method taken from this Ask Ubuntu question)

You can find Vimium here. Below, the yellow boxes reference the key combination to navigate to each respective link. These are toggled on/off with f/Esc.


6. Zsh with Oh my zsh

This is my most recent addition, and I absolutely love it. I may be slightly theme obsessed judging by how much time I spend tweaking my .vimrc, .zshrc, and terminator config. Oh my zsh wonderfully feeds my addiction. Zsh with Oh my zsh is customizable to no end, works well with other plugins, and looks fantastic. It also has (arguably) better functionality than bash, such as efficient tab completion and autorcorrect.

To get it, type


sudo apt-get install zsh 
sh -c "$(wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/robbyrussell/oh-my-zsh/master/tools/install.sh -O -)" 


It will prompt you for your password, automatically change your default shell to zsh. Below are some sample Oh my zsh prompts:




If you have recommendations for tools that have helped you in Linux, feel free to post below!