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Helping Ubuntu MATE Users

Updated: 21-Jun-2017
Ubuntu MATE User Guide book cover

In 2015, I was honored to be asked by Martin Wimpress of the Ubuntu MATE distribution to contribute to the Introduction and Features sections of the Ubuntu MATE Welcome application introduced in the 15.10 release. Unlike other simplistic pop-up welcome windows provided with other distributions, the Ubuntu MATE Welcome application is actually useful. Ubuntu MATE Welcome is a utility unique to Ubuntu MATE that helps orientate new users. It guides them through post-install configuration such as installing drivers and adding language support. I find myself referring back to it on a regular basis.

Ubuntu MATE Needs Help

One reason I refer to Ubuntu MATE Welcome regularly is that it serves as an excellent source of information about Ubuntu MATE. It acts like a Help system or user manual. This got me to wondering about whether or not there actually is a complete set of help topics offered within the operating system itself. I decided to test it out. I pressed the F1 key at the desktop. The MATE Desktop Manual appeared. Well, that makes sense. I saw a Help icon in the System menu, so I clicked on it. The MATE Desktop Manual appeared again. Hmmm. Not so good. I would have expected that the "System Help" would be help for the whole Ubuntu MATE system rather than just the desktop environment. After looking through the help system, I discovered that there was no built-in help for the operating system.

Improving Discoverability

In true Open Source fashion, I decided that it was time to scratch that itch and develop Ubuntu MATE Help. I learned how the help system works in Ubuntu and Ubuntu MATE. I learned how to use the tools to author and edit help topics. I consolidated all of the great material I could find that was scattered within Ubuntu MATE Welcome and the Ubuntu MATE website, then added a dash of information from the Ubunt MATE forums. I made the source materials available to Martin and his team. As I write this, it's all being translated into many of the other languages supported by Ubuntu MATE and I hope it will be ready for an upcoming release in 2017 or 2018. We'll see how the team implements it, but I personally hope that the Help icon in the System menu will open the new help.

Try It Out Now

In addition to creating help topics for inclusion in the operating system, I have converted the documentation into HTML form and into PDF form as a User Manual. If you would like to view or download the PDF, you can find it here: Ubuntu MATE 16.04 User Guide.PDF You can try the help system (updated for 17.04) in your browser here: Ubuntu MATE Help

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