In order to use the SCRTP desktop for scientific computing, it's highly likely that you will have to use the Linux command line. For a lot of other purposes, such as checking email, browsing the internet, designing posters etc. it's quite possible to use the graphical interface. This is in principle similar to Windows or macOS, but there are lots of differences. As mentioned in the overview, there isn't just one Linux Desktop Environment so we will explicitly discuss KDE4 as used by default on the SCRTP desktop. Some of this will be applicable to other Linux computers, some of it will not.
When you first start up your SCRTP machine you will be presented with a login page, asking for a username and password. This is not in general the same as your IT Services login, and you have to sign up for an SCRTP account to log in. Follow the sign up instructions here to get an account. Once this account is active, log in as normal. You will see the following screen (click on the small pictures for a larger copy). The progress bar under the logo will fill from left to right as the system logs you in.
Once the progress bar is full, you will be presented with the standard SCRTP desktop. You can customize many elements of it, but by default it will look like
The desktop works in much the same way as both the Windows and macOS desktops, simply double click on an icon to start a program. The bar at the bottom is very similar to the Windows task bar. The green chameleon button brings up the main menu, and the other buttons are quick start buttons. If you click on the chameleon, the menu looks a bit different to the Windows equivalent.
The task bar
The KDE4 task bar is very like the Windows task bar. There is a main menu (called Kickoff in KDE), a set of shortcut buttons, a clock and two new buttons for logging out and locking the screen.
The image above shows which short cut buttons are installed by default. Kickoff will be explained in the next section. The settings menu is less useful than on a general Linux distro because most settings are preset by the administrators. The most useful section for an end user is the accessbility settings. Go here to see an overview on KDE4 accessibility settings. The desktop button minimizes all open windows to show you your desktop. Firefox is much the same as any other web browser and very similar to Firefox on other systems (Firefox is our default browser install, we do not support other browsers currently). Dolphin is similar to Windows Explorer and macOS Finder, and will be briefly explained later.
Virtual desktops are a feature that allows you to have multiple apparent desktops with different windows on each one. The four buttons are separate desktops, the button that is "popped" out being the currently active one. If you windows appear to have disappeared, check to see if you have accidentally clicked on another one of these buttons (the alternative is usually the "show desktop" button).
The main "Kickoff" menu
At the botton are 5 tabs. The first is for programs that are flagged as your favourites, a selection of common programs are put there by default.
The second tab is for access to default installed software. This has a search bar at the top if you know the name of the program that you want, and below a categorized list of software installed on the system. If you find yourself using a piece of software regularly, right click on it and select "Add to Favourites" to add it to the favourite menu.
The third tab is the "computer tab". The bottom section provides shortcuts to commonly used bits of the file system, such as your home directory. The top section allows access to systems maintenance tools. These tools are generally not relevant to users, so are best ignored. If you click on one of these and this window pops up
then just click cancel. If you were the administrator (root) for this computer then you'd be allowed to log in and change bits of the OS. On the SCRTP systems you do not have the ability to do this.
The fourth tab is the "recently used files" tab. It lists files that you have recently used by opening them with the standard system file selector window. Files opened through the command line will not in general appear here. Simply click on a file and it will be loaded with the default application.
The fifth and final tab is the "leave" tab. This allows you to log out (end your session on the computer) or change user (allow someone else to start using the computer while not ending what you are doing). Simply click on the "Logout" button to start logging out. A new window will open
This window says that if you do not click on the "cancel" button within 30 seconds (remaining time shown in the countdown timer at top right) you will be logged out. To log out straight away, click on "Logout" again. If you selected logout in error, simply click cancel and logout will be aborted.
Program Windows in KDE4
The windows in KDE4 are very similar to those in Windows or macOS, but the window widgets look a bit different. The top of a typical window looks like
The buttons and menus work pretty much as expected, minimize drops the application down to the task bar at the bottom, maximize fills the screen and close closes the window. As in Windows, closing the last window of a program completely closes the program (normally, some programs do other things).
The menu bar also works much as normal, clicking on the menu opens it and exposes the options and submenus. Pressing the "alt" key and the underlined letter opens the menu using the keyboard, as in Windows and macOS.