One of my favourite applications for Mac OS X is Launchbar, an indispensable application-launching utility. With it, you hit a hotkey command (such as COMMAND-SPACE) and Launchbar appears, ready to offer suggestions for applications or files as you type.
Now, on Linux, a similar application is available, called GNOME Do. GNOME Do (or Do, for short) allows you to quickly search for items that are present in your GNOME desktop environment. While it was written for GNOME, it is still just as useful on KDE or other desktop environments.
Do is available in some Linux distribution repositories, but it is still a fairly new application and many distributions have not yet packaged it. It is available for Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE, and perhaps a few other distributions. For those who use a distribution that does not provide it, it can be built from source using common toolkits and development libraries. Instructions for building from source are available at https://wiki.ubuntu.com/GnomeDo/Installation. It took a little effort to install the requisite development libraries on Mandriva, but all were provided with the distribution.
With Do, you press the hotkey combination (SUPER-SPACE, by default; the SUPER key being the Windows key on most keyboards). A window then pops up where you begin typing. It will offer completed suggestions based on what you type; for instance, to open the Terminal, simply type "t" and Terminal is the first thing to pop up. Press [Enter] to launch it. If the first suggestion Do provides is not what you are looking for, continue typing the name. For instance, to load Pidgin, it was necessary to type "pi" as simply typing "p" offered the Pop-up notification settings application.
By opening the Do preferences, you can customize how Do looks and whether or not to start it at login. You can also customize the hotkey to activate Do.
Finally, in the Do preferences are a number of plugins that can be enabled, and the list is quite impressive. With Do, you can have it index a number of different sources to be made available for searching. Some of the plugins include searching of Delicious tags, files in specific directories, Firefox bookmarks, Evolution contacts, Gmail contacts, Google Maps, Google Calculator (which allows you to perform calculations and conversions in the Do window), Pidgin buddy lists, and a lot more. These plugins really take the usability of Do beyond just an application launcher.
GNOME Do may have some rough edges yet. The current version is 0.6.0, but it works extremely well. Hopefully more distributions will package Do as these types of file/application launchers are immense time-savers.
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Vincent Danen works on the Red Hat Security Response Team and lives in Canada. He has been writing about and developing on Linux for over 10 years and is a veteran Mac user.