Open Source

Pro tip: Remove product suggestions from Ubuntu Unity search results

Jack Wallen explains how to completely or selectively disable the online search results from the Ubuntu Unity Dash.


Ubuntu Unity Dash

I'm a big fan of having product suggestions in my Unity Dash search results. Why? First and foremost, I work from home -- so, there isn't any semblance of "Big Brother" looking down over my virtual shoulder. Another reason is because I do a lot of online shopping, and seeing products that are recommended can be beneficial. But for many users, these search results are more an invasion of privacy than a convenience. 

Thankfully, the Ubuntu developers had that in mind when they developed the Smart Scopes tool. With the help of a single button, you can disable online search results complete. If you don't want to completely disable the system, you can pick and choose what services you want to use.

Disable completely

First, let's walk through how to disable the online results completely. This is done from within the System Settings tool. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Click the Super (or Windows) key on your keyboard
  2. Type Settings
  3. From the results, click the System Settings button
  4. Click on Security & Privacy
  5. Click the Search tab
  6. Click the On/Off button (Figure A) so that it changes to Off
  7. Close the System Settings

Figure A


Figure A

Online search results are disabled here.

Disable selectively

You can also disable the results selectively. For example, you might want to keep the Amazon results, but disable the eBay and other results. Here's how:

  1. Click on the Super (or Windows) keyboard
  2. Click Filter results
  3. Scroll through the available options (Figure B) and click to disable/enable*
  4. Close the Dash

* Filters are shaded in white when enabled.

Figure B


Figure B

The Unity Dash search in action.

For power users only

As you might expect, you can also disable specific filters from the command line. This is not nearly as easy as the method above, because you have to know the name of the specific filter. For example, if you want to disable Amazon, eBay, UbuntuOne Music Store, UbuntuOne Shop, and skimlinks, here is the command you would use:

gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Lenses disabled-scopes "['more_suggestions-amazon.scope', 'more_suggestions-u1ms.scope', 'more_suggestions-ebay.scope', 'more_suggestions-ubuntushop.scope', 'more_suggestions-skimlinks.scope']"

You can both disable and enable from the command line. If you want to enable those scopes you've disabled, you would replace disabled-scopes with enabled-scopes.

Ubuntu Unity is one of the most user-friendly, efficient desktop interfaces I have ever used. Although I tend to use the online results in my Dash searches, if you prefer more anonymity, you now know how to either completely or selectively disable online results.

Do you enable or disable your Unity Dash online search results? Please share any tips or tricks for making the best use of this feature in the discussion thread below.




Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website


The ability to disable what is suggested on your desktop is fine, to a degree, but still leaves a lingering question of what is still sent to Canonical and friends. There is a lot of data chatter from a basic ubuntu installation to canonical servers compared to other O.S's , and although you may not be concerned of "big Brother" type logging and monitoring, it is a concern for others, and in particular business and other organisations that do not want Ubuntu and friends knowing they search for a document like "Patent application for silent logging and monitoring techniques through OS desktops" etc. maybe document like "Court action application against Canonical for breach of privacy"

Ubuntu lost a lot of ground with their unity and "malware" implementation, and just in the local area I work, there is 2 reasonably sized organisations who are moving their office systems away from ubuntu due to security and privacy concerns (and unity), and merely being able to hide the  suggestions may not be enough. 

Canonical themselves seem to show little concern for their users wishes, and more for their own bottom line, which in turn is bad for Ubuntu and other distributions.

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