Install and configure GNOME Do in Ubuntu Unity

GNOME Do has been one of the favorite search and launch tools for the GNOME desktop for quite some time. When Ubuntu Unity came around, it seemed like GNOME Do would be redundant and unusable. Both are untrue. GNOME Do still offers features users want. In this how to, Jack Wallen demonstrates how GNOME Do can be used in Unity.

GNOME Do is one of those tools that should be rolled into GNOME by default. This tool allows for the search and launch of applications or files. The new Ubuntu take on the desktop, Unity, has this feature baked in, but it's not nearly as flexible as is in GNOME Do. Fortunately, the application will still work once you've transitioned from the standard GNOME to Ubuntu Unity.

Getting GNOME Do to work in Unity is not even remotely challenging. But if it's installed without understanding how to get it to work properly, GNOME Do will simply not do. Here's how to install and configure GNOME Do to work in the Ubuntu Unity desktop.

Installing and launching GNOME Do

The installation of GNOME Do is simple:

  1. Open the Ubuntu Software Center
  2. Search for "gnome do" (no quotes)
  3. Click the Install button
  4. Enter your sudo password
Figure A

After downloading, GNOME Do will install and be ready for use. But how do you use it? Tap the Super key, type gnome-do in the search area, and hit the Enter key to launch GNOME Do. Now, it gets a bit tricky. Under standard GNOME, the key combination to call forth GNOME Do is Super-Space, but the Super key is reserved for two very important functions in Unity. If Super is tapped once, it will call up the search dialog, and if it is pressed and held, the launcher icons will display numbers (see Figure A). The user can then press the number associated with the launcher to launch the application.

Figure B

So, after you launch GNOME Do, instead of using it to search for an application or file, the very first thing that must be done is to re-configure it to use a different hot key combination so that it doesn't use the Super key. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Launch GNOME Do with the gnome-do command
  2. Click on the drop-down arrow in the upper-right corner and select Preferences
  3. Click on the Keyboard tab in the Preferences window
  4. Double-click on the Summon Do Shortcut, and when it displays "New Accelerator," enter the new shortcut to be used by pressing the key combination (I have configured it to use Ctrl-Space -- See Figure B)
  5. Click close
Using and configuring GNOME Do

As I mentioned earlier, GNOME Do is quite a bit more flexible than the standard Unity search. How? GNOME Do can be configured to work in conjunction with external applications, such as Google Calendars. To make GNOME Do aware of your Google Calendar, do the following:

  1. Open the Gnome Do Preferences window
  2. Click on the Plugins tab
  3. Scroll down to the Google Calendar entry
  4. Enable the plugin by clicking the check box
  5. Click the Configure button
  6. In the Google Calendar Configuration window, enter the credentials for the calendar to be associated with GNOME Do
  7. Click Apply
  8. Close the Preferences window
Figure C

When searching Google Calendar (or any of the Google plugins for GNOME Do), it will be necessary to previously authenticate with a Google account in the default browser or an error will occur. It is also possible, once authenticated against the Google Calendar account, to bring up the Google Calendar event add page with the help of GNOME Do. To do this:

  1. Open GNOME Do
  2. Type "new event" (no quotes)
  3. Hit Enter
  4. When the Calendar icon appears in GNOME Do (see Figure C), hit Enter again
  5. The default web browser will open to the Google Calendar Event Add page, which will allow you to add an event and save it
Appearance and other configurations

Naturally, GNOME Do needs to fit in with the scheme and style of the desktop. Fortunately, it is possible to theme GNOME Do. Bring up GNOME Do and click on the drop-down menu to gain access to the Preferences window. Once the Preferences window is open, click the Appearance tab where Do's appearances can be configured. There are four themes to choose from, as well as a few other options that effect appearance.

There is one particular preference that will not work with Ubuntu Unity. In the General tab, you will see an option to Show Notification Icon. This is not compatible with the Unity panel, as third-party panel applets are not installable. One particular plugin will also no longer work -- Twitter. The Twitter GNOME Do plugin still uses basic authentication, which Twitter dropped a long time ago. This has yet to be fixed.

Extended usage

If the results that GNOME Do pop up do not seem to be locating files and folders, it is because the directories have not be set up. GNOME Do has to be made aware of the directories it has available to search. To do this, open up the Preferences window, choose the Plugins tab, select Files and Folders, and click the Configuration button. When the new window opens, click the Add button and add the directories that GNOME Do must be made aware of for searching purposes. With the necessary folders added, the GNOME Do search results will be much more effective.


I was very pleased to find out that GNOME Do could work in conjunction with Ubuntu Unity. GNOME Do is an incredibly powerful and handy tool that makes working on the desktop so much faster. You might be happy with the way Unity searches and launches applications and files; but if not, let GNOME Do it!

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....