Linux

Tweak Ubuntu Unity: Get a dock-style launcher and Unity Dash

One of the biggest criticisms of Ubuntu Unity is the inability to move the Launcher. After having an epiphany, Jack Wallen illustrates one way you can have the best of both worlds.

Figure A

One of the biggest complaints I receive about Ubuntu Unity is that the Launcher is locked to the left side -- with no way to move it. Up until Ubuntu 11.10, there was a hack through the Compiz Config Manager that allowed you to move the Launcher to the bottom of the screen. It was unstable, caused crashes, and finally was removed as a solution. Eventually, from the developers of Unity it was declared that the option wouldn't ever find its way into the configuration of the Launcher. Why? The main reason, I believe, is that it causes issues with the Unity Dash (there could be a plethora of other reasons, I'm sure).

This morning, though, I had an epiphany. Why try to break Unity to get the launcher on the bottom, when you can add a couple of apps and have the best of both worlds? You can still get the amazing functionality of the Dash and not have to be relegated to a launcher on the left side of the screen? When that hit me, it only took me a couple of seconds to realize what needed to be done to achieve what you see in Figure A above.

For anyone that has been around Linux long enough, you'll recognize that dock at the bottom of the screen: Cairo GLX-Dock.

There really isn't much of a trick to what I've done:

  1. Install Unity Tweak.
  2. Install Cairo GLX-Dock.
  3. Auto Hide the Launcher.
  4. Enable transparency on the Panel.
  5. Start up Cairo GLX-Dock.

What you get now is one of the best Dock-style launchers as well as the Unity Dash -- the best of both worlds. On top of that, you can still get to the Launcher by hovering your mouse on the left edge of the screen.

So, how exactly is this all done? Simple:

Open up the Ubuntu Software Center:

  1. Search for "unity" (no quotes).
  2. Locate Unity Tweak Tool.
  3. Click to install.
  4. Search for "cairo" (no quotes).
  5. Locate Cairo GLX-Doc.
  6. Click to install.

Figure B

Figure B

Once both installations are complete, do the following:

  1. Open the Dash and type "tweak". From the results, select Unity Tweak. NOTE: The installation may place a Unity Tweak icon on the Launcher.
  2. From within Unity Tweak click on the Launcher section and enable Auto-Hide (Figure B).
  3. With that done, click on the Panel tab and then enable Transparency.

Your Launcher and Panel are ready to go.

All you have to do now is start up the Cairo GLX-Doc, which will start up at the bottom of the screen. You now have a much more familiar looking desktop -- and no longer have to concern yourself with the fact that the Unity Launcher insists it remain on the left side. Yes, the Launcher will still be there, but it will be out of your way. And to reach the Dash, just tap the Super (or "Windows") key and the Dash will appear for you to use (Figure C).

Figure C

You can also now begin to configure Cairo GLX-Dock to your heart's content.

Though I am a fan of Unity and the Unity Launcher, I've heard enough from people to realize that the vast majority simply can't let go of the old-school layout. Fortunately, within just a few quick minutes, you can have the best of multiple worlds and not worry about the frustration you feel at trying to get used to the Unity Launcher living on the left side of the screen.

About

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

12 comments
cateye217
cateye217

This was a super article. I'm a Ubuntu newbie and I was able to get the desktop of my dreams by following your steps and great illustrations.


Thanks again 

aboba0
aboba0

I'm still using Ubuntu with Unity. Don't like Gnome 3 or KDE as replacements. My frustrations with Unity aren't resolved by these suggestions. My problem? I used to select stuff in an app, then drag the selected items to the task bar and hover the pointer over the app I wanted to paste it into, the app would restore and then I could move the pointer to the spot I wanted to drop my selection into. With the browsers used to do a similar thing. Have a bunch of tabs open. Want a new logical grouping so drag one tab away to create a new browsing window (still works). Now drag other tabs away and hover over the browser I want to drop them into on the task bar, it opens, I release, browser windows have tabs that make contextual sense to me. Can't do that with Unity. Haven't been able to do that with Gnome 3, KDE or any of the dock apps. I guess it's just me. That seemed to be such an obvious and useful "use case" I just couldn't understand (still can't) why it was abandoned.

emenau
emenau

Canonical even managed to break network printing in the proces. https://sites.google.com/site/scidiy/other/adding-a-network-printer-in-ubuntu Don't they test ALL fucnctionalitty when replacing something THAT WORKS for a rotten Apple look? I Like Ubuntu, but this apple madess is doing the user experience more harm then good. OK CUPS is an Apple something, but it doesn't realy make sense to break functionality for a cosmetic change.

d.esposito
d.esposito

druid627 You can shut off the search feature under System Settings > Privacy. And if you install Compiz Config Settings Manager you can set up different wallpapers for each workspace.

kolbeb
kolbeb

I also like the Unity launcher very much, much easier to just type a few letters, and choose the right application or file, than to step through long lists. Unfortunately, at times, Unity gets bitchy. Then, it will not display any applications until the next login (in 12.04), or exercises a go slow (in 12.10 and 13.04) and does not want to display icons. To continue your work, and circumvent the bitch, you need another launcher. Here Cairo Dock comes in handy. I have an icon on the task bar to launch it when Unity goes on strike.

QuinnStretton
QuinnStretton

I have to admit I'm a fan of Unity ;-) and with today's wide screen monitors having the launcher on the left makes sense to me, there is little enough vertical space even on a 23in monitor. Having said that the Cairo GLX-Dock is sexy, but I doubt I'd use unless the standard monitor 4/3 format returns!

jerry
jerry

The Unity Tweak Tool is no where to be found in 12.04 LTS. There's My Unity which does the same thing.

druid627
druid627

Although it is an annoyance, or is to me. Nor is it the inability to have separate desktop backgrounds for each workspace(That is a widespread UI defect, not limited to unity). The main problem with Unity is that when editing LARGE text files in libre office, it hangs up due to Unity trying to search for everything online under the sun. I do not have this problem with any other UI I can download for Ubuntu. I am patient to a fault and overlook many things, but this is enough to have Job diving for the Rum Cask.

RipVan
RipVan

You sure keep posting that enough! I was trying to answer your last one, but I might not be fast enough... (Are you refreshing your page, perhaps? Looks like you are unintentionally resending the page.)

jlwallen
jlwallen

Every time I try to go to a different desktop, my first thought is "It's not nearly as efficient as Unity". Even my old standby E17.

jlwallen
jlwallen

Try these steps (from a terminal window) to add the tweak too in 12.04 or 12.10: sudo add-apt-repository ppa:freyja-dev/unity-tweak-tool-daily sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install unity-tweak-tool

Ajax4Hire
Ajax4Hire

Yes, I too have Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and did not see the "Unity Tweaker Tool". Disappointed that the instructions failed so quickly.

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