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This article is part of the Tips & Tricks series.
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Command prompt ... now what?

Ok, you have just finalized your Gentoo installation, but what do you do now? Gentoo has volumes of documentation available. The first place to check is Chapter 12 of the handbook. The Desktop Documentation Resources link is a great start if you know you will be using one of the few packages listed there. But, if you are new to linux, you might not be overly familiar with your options. This document is intended to set you in the right direction based on generic needs. Very little specific help is given and this is not a personal list of favorite packages; just a collection of suggestions for those who may be at a loss as to where to proceed. Here we go.

(note: The portage categories mentioned throughout can be viewed online at and Portage USE flags can be reviewed at

Desktop Environments / Window Managers:

Alright, you've got some sort of X server working (probably xorg) and (hopefully) your video and sound; if not, check out the Desktop Doc link above. You still need a desktop environment or window manager (see below for a distinction between the two) and there are many to choose from. Two popular desktop environments are Gnome and KDE. Both are typically packaged with commerical distributions and include a whole array of plugins and accessibility features. If you want something more light-weight (just a window manager), there are other options available. A few suggestions would be Xfce, Enlightenment DR17, Fluxbox, FVWM, WindowMaker Improved. Portage categories: gnome-base, kde-base x11-wm and xfce-base.

(note: More information to follow, but do not confuse window toolkits with window managers; i.e. qt/gtk with kde/gnome, respectively)

That's good advice, however gnome and kde are not window managers either... they are "desktop environments", meaning, a big set of programs, including but not limited to, a window manager, a launcher (panel, usually), a root window thingie, a settings manager, a session manager, etc etc. In fact, up to a few versions ago, there wasn't even one single "official gnome window manager"... then they wrote Metacity... but you still can use any other window manager (personally I use xfwm).

So before writing a document targeted at novice users, please check your facts a bit to make sure you're not spreading misinformation.

(reply: point taken and [hopefully] clarified a bit.)

Display Managers:

You've got X and a window manager, but you still have a text login and need to start X manually. To allow booting into a graphical login that ties into your window manager, you'll need to install one of the various display managers. It does not matter which you decide to choose, but each usually fits into a certain theme: entrance for Enlightenment users, gdm for Gnome, kdm for KDE, qingy uses directFB (video buffer) to display a graphical login, wdm (an xdm based manager), and xdm (comes with xorg?) a basic display manager. SLiM fits in perfectly with Xfce, Fluxbox or other minimalistic desktop environments. Portage categories: gnome-base, kde-base, sys-apps, and x11-misc.

(note: Please correct me if I'm wrong on this section. General feedback on this specifically would be appreciated.)


Video as in movie and multimedia. You will need a player and codecs. Personally, I install the codecs first and let the player find them during its installation. Codecs allow you to decode different file formats (avi, mpg, ogm). If you want to play DVDs, grab a52dec, libdvdcss, and libdvdread. Libvorbis will take care of ogm files. Xvid handles avi files. Win32codecs allows for wmv (and others) files. Some common players are KPlayer and Kaffeine (for KDE users), MPlayer, Ogle, Totem, and Xine. Portage categories: media-libs media-video. Portage USE flags: a52, ogg, oggvorbis.

If you wish to rip DVDs, look into dvdrip, OGMRip and acidrip. Portage categories: media-video.

Note: amd64 users will not be able to use win32codecs with a 64bit environment. Browse the forums if you want to try and coerce them, or alternatively install the 32 bit mplayer-bin.


After you get your sound drivers installed (probably alsa?), you will need a player and codecs before you can start kicking out tunes. XMMS used to be a must-have audio player, but it became unmaintained and was removed from portage. Same with Beep-Media-Player (BMP), a fork aiming to improve XMMS's gui. However, similar and active projects exist; say Audacious or BMPx, both of them in portage. If you are running KDE, have a look at amaroK. Gnome users might be interested in rhythmbox. Both are a little iTunes-like. Portage categories: media-sound. Portage USE flags: aac, mp3, ogg, and oggvorbis.

Both of these should have enough codecs to fit most of your needs. Libogg is necessary for ogg files. Skins for XMMS and BMP are interchangeable. For the command line, a few options to look into are mp3blaster, mpg123, mpd/mpc (two separate packages forming a daemon/client combination). Portage categories: media-sound.

If you plan on ripping audio, cdparanoia is a must have. Although it is console based, many other programs, such as grip (a graphical Gnome ripper) and rip (console based), use cdparanoia. Since you probably don't plan on using the plain wav files, you will need encoders for whatever file type you wish to convert to. The two most popular formats are mp3 and ogg. Bladeenc and lame are good for mp3 conversions while vorbis-tools handles ogg's. Portage categories: media-sound.

For mixing and recording, you might want to take a look at audacity. If you plan on creating live streams, both shoutcast and icecast are available through portage (search the wiki and forums for configuration). Portage categories: media-sound net-misc.

(note: 64bit environments will have trouble with win32codecs)


Since we've just come from ripping and encoding movies and music, I suppose this would be a proper place to mention CD/DVD burning. For those using KDE, k3b should fit in nicely with your setup. Gnomebaker or Graveman should be suitable for Gnome users. Though both are currently not actively maintained, and Brasero is now recommended. For command line CD burning, cdrtools is the answer. If you are working with DVDs, look at dvd+rw-tools (yes, this works with -RW media as well). Also if you enable dvd and dvdr use flags, gnomebaker will automagically build necessary dvd packages and then you could burn dvd's. Portage categories: app-cdr.

File Managers:

KDE has Konqueror and Dolphin; Gnome has Nautilus. So, what about other desktop environments such as Fluxbox and XFCE? Xfce has a recent addition through Thunar. It resembles somehow Nautilus, being at the same time light-weight. Rox is rather popular with the Fluxbox crowd and is worth looking into. It has a lot of features such as thumbnails (video support with plugins) and can act as a session handler, much like GDM or KDM, if you add Rox-Session to it. If you are looking at two-panel managers, try emelFM, emelFM2, krusader, or Dolphin. For console file managers, I'd suggest mc. Portage categories: app-misc, gnome-base, kde-base, and rox-base.

(note: "Session handler" is basically a graphical login; no more 'startx')

Web Browsing:

Due to its name being posted everywhere, if you are looking for a graphical browser, you will probaby end up with mozilla-firefox or, perhaps, opera. If you are looking for text-based browsing, you can play with links, lynx and w3m until you find one that feels right. Portage categories: www-client.

(note: mozilla-firefox-bin is pre-compiled whereas mozilla-firefox is compiled from source. If you want flash support in amd64, you need to use mozilla-firefox-bin)

(note: net-www/nspluginwrapper allows the use of 32-bit plugins, such as adobe flash plugin, in the 64-bit (amd64) version of mozilla-firefox.)

Mail / News:

Mozilla-thunderbird is mozilla's mail and news counterpart. For those partial to mail readers on par with the likes of MS Outlook, then take a look at evolution. Sylpheed is another graphical mail client that is mentioned quite a bit; sylpheed-claws is its "bleeding edge" version. Of course if you are using KDE, you'll probably be using KMail. Looking at text based clients, a few that get mentioned are mutt and pine.

For news readers, mozilla-thunderbird will probably satisfy your needs. If you are going to be downloading binaries, you might try pan; be wary with large header dumps and memory usage. Since most binaries are are compressed with rar and have par files, unrar, par, and par2cmdline will be needed, although they all operate at the console. If you need to be able to compress rar files as well, get rar instead of unrar (just the decompression routines). Portage categories: app-arch, mail-client, net-nntp.

(note: For gmail users, you might look into enabling POP3 in your settings allowing you to import your gmail into a local directory.)

(note: As above mozilla-thunderbird is compiled from source, mozilla-thunderbird-bin will give you a precompiled binary.)

(note: This area is lacking and suggestions are welcome; especially for news and binary downloading.)

Office Suites / PDF / CHM: has quite a name and is great if you are migrating over from MS Office. Abiword is nice and handles practically every file format like, but without a lot of the bulk. If you plan on working in KDE, look into koffice. Koffice is comprised of smaller packages such as kword which is just the word processor part. A few popular KDE based text editors are Kate, KEdit, and KWrite (all are included in kdebase). If you need a text editor, there are myriad front-ends for emacs and vim. Both emacs and vi are console editors (no graphics) and can be a bit heavy depending on your needs. If so, you might consider joe, nano (should be famaliar from your installation), and pico. If you are looking into a spreadsheet only application, try gnumeric. In regards to PDF's and CHM's, if you need a light viewer, check out xpdf and xchm, or, if you are using KDE, kpdf and kchmviewer. Adobe's acroread is also available. Portage categories: app-editors, app-office, app-text, kde-base, x11-misc.

If you are looking for a word processor, you are most likely looking to print as well. Sven Vermeulen has already written a nice Gentoo Printing Guide.

(note: If you're planning on using, you should know that compiling from source will require about 4GBs of free space in /var/tmp. On a mid-ranged system this will take in the area of 10 hours. There is an openoffice-bin portage entry if you're looking for the precompiled version to save time.)

(note: There is a setting in /etc/rc.conf to set your default editor. Change the "EDITOR=" variable to reflect your chosen preference.)

Instant Message / IRC / MUDs:

For chatting, Pidgin (formerly called Gaim) is rather robust (AIM, IRC, Y!, IRC, Jabber, MSN, Bonjour) and very popular. It also has command line support in the form of "finch" when built with the USE flag "ncurses". A better choice for KDE users may be Kopete, which provides the same protocols and integrates better with the Desktop Environment. It comes with the full KDE install. Licq is a nice ICQ only client. There are a lot of console-based aim clients, but only centericq stands out as supporting a myriad of protocols. An excellent cross-platform IM client is Mercury (a ~M x86-bin is now in portage). Portage categories: net-im.

XChat and bitchx (with USE="gtk") are graphical IRC clients. Bitchx also runs at the console (with USE="-gtk"). Other popular console clients are ircii and irssi. Portage categories: net-irc. KVIrc (ru) is a rich Qt-based IRC client. Can be integrated into KDE.

I enjoy playing muds (actually, only one). If you play muds then check out the portage category games-mud and find something that suits you; there are currently only 19 packages under this portage tree so it shouldn't take too long to browse them. If you don't play and want to try some, you will need, at the bare minimum, telnet-bsd which is a basic telnet client.

File Sharing:

For the ever popular BitTorrent, Azureus is a feature rich, Java-based application. Deluge is a new bittorrent client which is more light-weight, under heavy development, and is recommended for Gnome users. QTorrent is a popular client as well. Bittorrent offers console and graphical options with batchdownloading (; it also integrates into mozilla-firefox as an "open with" function. KDE users may want to try KTorrent (unmasking might be a good idea, since the stable version in portage is not as feature-rich as the latest ones).

(note: if bttorrent integrates into other browsers as well, feedback would be swell.)

Opera has bittorrent built in.

Donkey network can be accessed using the following clients: - mldonkey (feature rich,comprehensive cross network support, time tested with multiple GUIs available) - aMule (eMule port to linux, great GUI successor to XMule)

Access to the gnutella network can be accessed through gtk-gnutella, through Phex (using Java) or as a plugin to the giFT p2p daemon.

The giFT guide articulates how to get a working giFT system, with plugins for four different file-sharing networks (including fasttrack [Kazaa] and gnutella).


If you need to quickly browse a windows network drive, you'll need to put on samba. Type:

 smbclient //ip.address/SharedDocs

where "ip.address" is the IP address of the machine and "SharedDocs" is the shared directory (SharedDocs is the default shared name on XP). Portage category: net-fs.

Note: Samba is not required if your only objective is to mount SMB shares. If your kernel has SMBFS/CIFS support, you should be able to simply mount it using:

mount -t cifs //ip.address/sharename /mnt/smbshare [-o user=username,password=password]

If using Gnome, you can goto Places > Connect to Server and enter the server details there. An icon will then be created on your Desktop which you can use to access the Windows share.

Similarly, in KDE, you can use Konqueror to open such servers via smb://nameofcomputer

Image viewers / editors / Digital cameras:

Imagemagick is a simple, quick image viewer for a variety of formats. Gimp will probably handle most of your digital designs. If you are looking into 3D modeling, try your hand at blender. For digital cameras, if you are in KDE then you'll probably use digikam. If you are not in KDE, try gthumb or gtkam. For a console solution, try out gphoto2. In regards to scanners, you will want to check if your scanner is compatible. To do so, head over to SANE's database. If it is supported, then I'd suggest reviewing HOWTO Installing USB Scanner for a complete rundown. Although it is tailored to USB devices, it will famaliarize you with the basic packages sane-backends and xsane. Portage category: media-gfx.

See also

External links

Orginally written by Cynric at Forum Link

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Last modified: Fri, 05 Sep 2008 23:12:00 +0000 Hits: 27,201