This enterprise class Linux distribution is quickly gaining popularity for its elegance and integrity. The latest release by the CentOS project is extremely adaptable, and it is an excellent choice for desktops, notebooks, and servers alike. CentOS 5.6 also provides many solutions for installation. You might want to try the CD, DVD, net install CD, or the Live CD. CentOS is available in i386 or x86_64 format also. Text or graphical installers are available and you can select between the KDE or Gnome desktop as you prefer. This offers a truly unique experience with many of the most popular applications available.
As said before you may decide to try KDE or Gnome during your installation but I will only cover the Gnome desktop here, with a another look at KDE coming soon. I really enjoyed the CentOS Gnome desktop. Everything is sleek and clean, there is even a stylish icon theme. Your desktop consists of your top and bottom panels, your desktop icons, your panel menus, and your panel applets. The Metacity window manager will offer many ways to change the look of your windows as well. Here I will try to point out some of the features available for the CentOS 5.6 Gnome Desktop.
The menu structure used in this version is generally the same used in Ubuntu 10.10. Everything is quite cleanly displayed and organized into well structured categories that are easy to understand. From the applications menu you can launch programs on your computer, or install new items. The places menu can be used to jump to important folders on your computer, or connect to remote file systems. And of course the system menu where you can find your preferences or administration options. You can also use your system menu for getting help or shutting down your system.
Both of your main desktop panels are very easy to configure, most panel options can be reached by right clicking on either one of your panels. From your right click pop up menu you can reach your panel properties, add new items to your panels, or create and delete panels altogether. Like with other versions of Gnome transparent panels are easy to enable from your panel properties window. And as usual all of the standard Gnome applets are available to add to your panels. A few important launchers are already in the panels along with a workspace switcher and a show desktop button.
If the default selection of Gnome packages does not provide you with the applications you need there are many ways that you can add more. You can look in your applications menu for the add and remove software button. This will open the RPM package management tool. You can use RPM to search for for applications or packages without any trouble. It may be wise to configure your repositories from the RPM interface and add additional sources to get newer updates and more packages. Or you can always open a terminal and use the YUM package manager for either job.
The default file manager used in this version is Nautilus 2.16.2. You can open your file manager by clicking any location on your system from the places menu in your main panel, or you can double click on the computer icon that sits on your desktop. You can use Nautilus to navigate through your file system simply by double clicking on the folder you want to navigate to. Nautilus offers awesome customization options but by default the look of the folder windows are very plain and focused. Nautilus should also automatically detect attached storage devices and display them in your places menu.
Most of your additional visual settings can be found in the settings menu of your main panel, but first we will look at the Gnome themes. So look in the preferences tab of your settings menu for the theme button and click on that. From the pop up window you can select an overall theme to use for your desktop or you can install new themes through the interface. There is already a decent selection of themes available for you to try however. You can also click on the theme details button to be specific in your choices of window borders, icon packs, and other options.
You can look in your system settings menu again, inside the preferences section, for the desktop backgrounds button. Inside the desktop background preferences window you can sift through the large selection of available desktop backgrounds for one that fits your new theme. Or you can scale, stretch and tile your desktop background. It is easy to add new desktop wallpapers that you find also, or delete ones you don’t like. Try using solid colors or cool gradients for a different kind of look. Personally I thought the default wallpaper was very nice, but you can always download more online.
CentOS is not entirely devoted to visual effects so there is really not much more to cover in that area. But you might want to adjust your screensaver settings so you have something to look at when you get bored. This can be done by looking in the preferences section of your system menu again for your screensaver button. There is not a large selection of screensavers available by default but you can preview the existing ones if you want. Most importantly adjust your screensaver activation times or disable the screen lock feature, but it can be good for security reasons.