Playing around with docks in Ubuntu

After growing a bit tired of the regular Gnome interface I thought that I would spice it all up by trying to ad a dock to hold all my launchers and such. This made me go search for all kinds of different possibilities and as always the Ubuntu Forums is a great place to start looking for something. Never have I met a community which is so friendly and eager to help when you have some trouble with a component or maybe need advise to figure out what you should do.

After hunting around, I came up with three different alternatives I would try Docky, AWN and CairoDock.

So far I’ve been playing around with Docky and AWN, but am still waiting to try me luck with CairoDock. I’ll share how you install AWN (as that is how far I’ve gotten with my project so far) and also look at how easy (or not) I found it:

At first I had problems with getting more than one dock in AWN, which I really couldn’t understand. I had seen several nice screenshots of other peoples user interfaces and they had somehow managed to get it done, but no matter what I did in the settings, I just couldn’t figure out what to do. After some searching however, I did manage to find a post that gave me the possibility to do exactly what I wanted.

I did however mean that I had to make sure that I got rid of the old installation of AWN, as it wasn’t available in the regular Ubuntu repositories. You need to use the AWN from the AWN-testing PPA.

First you remove the one you might have installed already by opening your terminal and entering the following:

sudo apt-get remove avant-window-navigator avant-window-navigator-data awn-settings awn-applets-c-core libawn1 vala-awn && sudo apt-get autoremove

This removes the core packages that AWN is using and by adding the ‘sudo apt-get autoremove’ you remove all the unused dependencies too, so you don’t have any unused packages that might conflict when you are going to install the AWN trunk.

Now we have to add the AWN-testing repository, so we get the possibility to install it and also update later on:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:awn-testing/ppa

Now do an update to allow you to get the contents of the PPA:

sudo apt-get update

Now we have all the packages we need avalible to play around with AWN, so now we execute the following command in the terminal:

sudo apt-get install avant-window-navigator-trunk avant-window-navigator-data-trunk python-awn-trunk awn-settings-trunk awn-applets-python-core-trunk python-awn-extras-trunk awn-applets-python-extras-trunk awn-applets-c-core-trunk awn-applets-c-extras-trunk

Now we’re almost done installing AWN, but to make the different helpers work, we have to install DockManager which luckily is included in the PPA for AWN:

sudo apt-get install dockmanager-daemon dockmanager

With this last install, we now got everything we can to start playing around with AWN. Simply start up Avant Window Navigator from your menu by clicking ‘Applications’ -> ‘Accessories’ -> ‘Avant Window Navigator’. This gives you a standard bar, with a few things on it. The standard launchers you’ll have is the AWN control panel, a terminal, Firefox and Rythmbox.

I’ve made a little slideshow you can where you can see the five different settings tabs you have available in the AWN settings, simply start it by clicking the AWN logo below:

It is here you make the action that is setting up AWN to your needs. You can chose all the usual things that are available for such an application, amongst others the size of the icons, the orientation of the bar (do you want the dock in the bottom, the top or maybe even on the side?), the style of how the dock acts and so on. It is also here that you decide what helpers and applets that you want to run on your docks.

Below you see my main dock, which has no unusual applets or anything on it. It’s just a standard dock with the currently running applications:

My main AWN dock

As I mentioned it’s not very interesting, but the only thing I do from this is launch applications and swap between them and as you can see I’m still in the progress of setting them up. Thus, I’ve not gotten very far with it, but I’m still working on it and I will show you the progress in a later post when I’ve made my final decision on what dock to run.

I have added another dock so far, this one is containing some of the different informations I like to have at hand when using my computer. It’s nothing special, but still I find it useful so far:

Another dock!

As you can see I have a gMail applet running that shows when I get new mail (the star shows that I actually have unread mails). Next to it I have the notification area, that show when someone message me, Gwibber and the likes. I like knowing how the weather is, even though I’m sat right next to a window looking out and I can tell you right now that I’m having some connectivity issues as it’s most definitely not 5 degrees Celsius and sunshine outside. I’ve also added a network monitor, which underlines my connectivity issues, as there is no traffic what so ever going on at the moment. Finally the date and time, which has become essential for me as I need to know when I have to go to bed…

That is my current set-up after playing with AWN for 30 minutes time (not counting all the time it took me to find out that I needed the AWN-testing PPA) and as you can see it’s all very basic and simple so far. It will probably evolve later on when I’ve gotten more comfortable with it, but I think it’s rather simple to find the helpers I’ve needed for now. I can’t yet tell how hard it is to find special applets and helpers yet, but I will chime in when I know.

I hope this could answer a few questions on how to play around with AWN and start your own journey into nice docks in Ubuntu. Feel free to comment, point me towards better alternatives or what not, as I’m always open to some constructive criticism and suggestions.