An Application Dock for Linux

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I am a PC, Mac, and Linux user. At night I dual boot between Vista and Ubuntu and during the day I use a Mac almost exclusively. As a result, there are many things I like about using my Mac at work and would not mind seeing them on my home desktop. Since buying a Mac right now for personal use is out of the question I have to make do with what I already have. At any rate, one of the Mac features I actually like is the Dock. For those of you who are not Mac users, the Dock is basically a bar at the bottom of the desktop where application icons can be displayed that will launch the application once clicked on. It's attractive and useful and I have wanted one on my non-Mac desktops for some time now.

So, once again I went searching for that "Mac like" experience on Linux which lead me to the Gnome Do website (

Gnome Do installed dockGnome Do installed dock

It's important to note that when using the Synaptic Package Manager found in Ubuntu, you should search for "Do", not "Gnome Do". Installing does not immediately create the Dock in the picture, but changing the preferences is pretty easy and painless. Once installed I simply launched the settings/preferences window and quickly found what I was looking for under the "Appearance" tab. Under the "Selected Theme" simply select "Docky" form the drop down window and you will have the desired dock at the bottom of your desktop. I did change the "Icon Size" slider and did make some minor changes to the "Docklets" list. I do need to note that trying to scroll through the "Docklets" window was my first taste of possible instability. I was able to scroll through it of sorts, but the contents did not seem to really scroll as much as they visually stacked on top of each other when using the slider controls making it a little harder to filter through the list. Best way to filter through the list is by clicking on an option and then using the arrow keys.

Gnome Do PreferencesGnome Do Preferences

The default install has some basic application icons but the Dock will only be useful if the applications you use on a regular basis are the ones installed in the Dock. For me, I want easy configuration as well as use. Anything short of that and the Mac experience is already gone as is the desire to use the Dock. Fortunately, Gnome Do is very easy to use and configure. To remove an icon simply drag the icon out of the dock as if you were moving it to the desktop, just like on a Mac. To install new application icons you simply drag them to the Dock and they will be inserted into the Dock, just like on a Mac. For my use, I removed some of the default icons, added the application icons that I use on a regular basis and got rid of the bottom tool bar that is default with the Ubuntu installation of the Gnome desktop. But getting rid of that bottom tool bar meant I no longer had easy access to the trash bin so I selected "Trash" can display from within the "Docklets" menu under the "Appearance" Tab.

For me, that's all there was too it. I have pretty simply desires so my configuration was pretty simple. Will I continue using Gnome Do? For a while, but I am unsure if I will have the patience for long term use with what appears like stability issues. Twice I have had the dock disappear and the only way to bring it back was to relaunch the application. All though active applications should display (and do display) a white dot under the icon, some applications also launch a second icon in the Dock. A good example of that is the dual TweetDeck icons in the first screen shot. I have also had one instance of trying to add an icon to the Dock in which my system did not like the act of dragging and dropping the icon so I received a pop up error message but lost all ability to click out of the error message or even gain access to the rest of my applications or desktop. Ultimately I was forced to Cntrl + ALT+ Delete to bring up the Ubuntu shutdown/reboot window. Because I was unable to navigate any of the application windows, I was unable to actually select a reboot or shutdown and was forced to wait for the automated shutdown timer to countdown to zero and shut down my laptop. Once I rebooted I was able to add the application that had previously froze my desktop.

Also, unlike the Mac when I minimize a window it disappears. You can click the application icon which will usually bring the window back up or you can "Alt + Tab" to cycle your way through the list of open applications. I would prefer if the minimized window disappeared from my visibly active applications but was simply lowered to the right side of the Dock. As it is, at least once when the Dock/system seemed to be glitching, I was unable to relaunch the application window when clicking on the active Dock icon. But, will this be a common user experience for me, or just a fluke? I don't know, only time will tell.

So, if you are looking or might be interested in a Dock "launcher" then take a look at Gnome Do ( It is a simple, attractive enough, and easy to configure Dock. The big question for me will be stability and usability for my personal usage habits and like I said, only time will tell.

*NOTE* I originally wrote and posted this else where but thought I would share it here as well. I have also added a couple of things that will be relevant. Also as an update, I am starting to notice that when booting to my desktop, the Dock appears to have been replaced with the Gnome Do's search feature. If I can change this through a configuration change and can avoid laziness mixed with annoyance then the Dock might get to stay. Otherwise it goes!

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Scott Dowdle's picture

And now for the other way around

Check out this article that mentions 5 things a Mac user misses from his Linux desktop

an update

so I took some of the advise and took a look at the separate home of Docky now as well as looked at the Cario project. In the end I stuck with the Docky after having a very good conversation with one of the developers (ricotz in IRC channel). The developer even talked me into installing the development version (2.1) and so far I am very pleased with it. Some of my complaints from the "gnome do" install have been resolved and it just looks so much nicer with a few more basic options.

A nice feature with this install is the ability to right click on an active icon and click on the option to "pin to dock". As silly as it may sound, it is very nice and very easy to add an application to the Dock when you can do that as well as drag and drop.

2.1 Development Install of Docky2.1 Development Install of Docky

Cairo-Dock 2.2 is really great too

The latest version of Cairo-Dock is just excellent: panel mode, intelli-hide, lots of themes and applets.
It's definitely what you need to replace your gnome-panel with something cute.

Linux? or GNOME?

The 'GNOME Do' is an application dock for the GNOME desktop, not for Linux which has many possible desktops.

good point

Good point, I should have phrased my post differently although I could argue that it is still for linux - granted ment for Gnome. But is it also possible to run gnome do under KDE like it is to run some KDE apps under Gnome?

No to Mono

Gnome Do is C# - Mono so that's a no thanks.

On top of its 20mb size, you are required an extra 50MB of slow, problematic license Mono libraries. On a technical, philosophical and practical level, there is no need.

Personally, I prefer bottom and side panels which disappear when not used. I've worked on Macs at work since the days of the barftastic OS 8 and 9 and I think the choice of Linux desktops do a better job in suiting MY needs rather than the other way around. The docking bar annoys me but you have no choice really in Mac.

I moved to Linux among other reasons for the choice, for being able to make the desktop the way I want it to be and its great.

Good post but stay away from crack.... and mono.

Btw, Cairo dock works on the three main Linux desktop environments:

My son has it on his XCFE laptop and we have it installed on our KDE desktop (but its never turned on anymore).

Recent video about Cairo on KDE4.5

How to install it on Gnome video

How to install it on Gnome video

Another GNOME-cairo vid

Cairo-Dock & AWN

I had previously looked at those and was unhappy with either of them. I was able to install one of them (I think it was the AWN) but found it frustrating to configure and I had previously set out to install the other one (which I think was the Cairo) but was over whelmed by how many steps it was going to take just to install the different pieces and then the configuration so I bailed on it. I could be a little off on the events as this was a while ago.

With Gnome Do, I had stumbled on a post that made it sound as simple as it ended up being. I was able to install, launch, configure with just a few mouse clicks and drag and drop items on or off the dock. So from that perspective I was very happy. But the verdict is still

Scott - to a certain extent I think you are right about my desire to collapse the task manager and the app launcher. Although with my Mac at work if I need to launch an app I don't use all the time I am a little annoyed about digging for it in the app folder but I just don't have enough room on my dock for everything. Plus at least all my app launch icons are stored in one central location. I think though I will have less issue with this frustration on Linux because I use so much less and at this time I see no value changing the top tool bar so I can easily still launch applications that are not on the dock. the Dock is just for faster access to the things I use the most and looks better (in my opinion) :)

But I think I will follow-up with what Ross said since I am not entirely after the gnome do as much as the Docky.

Re: Docky

Actually I see that a version of Docky is available in Lucid without the PPA. Maybe it's newer/less buggy than the Gnome Do version?


Docky is under active development. It's actually nolonger a part of Gnome Do. So it's easy to surmise that the version installed might be a little old. AWN is popular too, but I've found it to be buggy also, and a resource hog.

Anyways here is instructions for the Docky PPA if you want to try a recent release. I recommend disabling the PPA for awhile after you install and updating it periodically just because I hate installing miniscule updates every day.

Unsolicited Opinion: I hate docks, never understood what the benefit is compared to a taskbar? Eye candy? Gnome Do on the other hand is pretty useful. :)

I will look into this

thanks, I had no idea it was no longer part of gnome do. I will have to look into this some more. It would explain why on the gnome do website there was command line apt-get instructions that I think ended at version 8 of Ubuntu but I used the gui package manager. But from what I can tell I still have the whole gnome do so I am thinking I still installed gnome do. Maybe I will be a bit happier with the Docky if it is a separate product.

Scott Dowdle's picture

Most all window managers have that

In GNOME and KDE you can add an additional dock if you want and then put app launch icons on it. Of course those do not also serve as a task manager but you can also add that to the doc. I guess the feature of the Mac OS X Dock that you like is that it sort of collapses both the app launcher and the task manager into a single thing?

To the best of my knowledge, the concept came from NeXTstep and can be found in its various clones like WindowMaker. Of course NeXTstep is what Apple used as a base for Aqua.

If you are really trying to make your Linux desktop more like the Mac, you might try Avant Window Navigator which is available in many distros' stock repos.

Thomas's picture

re: Gnome Do

Cairo-Dock looks almost identical to the one you are using. There are others such as AWN, and Docky as well. I too had stability issues after installing Cairo-Dock, to the point that I reinstalled the OS and didn't add it again.


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