The Best Docks on the Linux Coast

Even Mark Shuttleworth is willing to admit that OSX has a pretty nice usable interface that is a good goal for desktop Linux to beat in the coming year or so. Even if you don’t want to replicate the mac, or if you think compiz is more useless than it is functional (how dare you!?), you might still be interested in replacing one of the two Gnome taskbars with a dock. Here is my dating history with the docks of Linux land:

AWN (Avant-Window-Navigator). This is the first dock I tried a couple years back. It looks good, is easily configurable, and has a lot of great plugins (stacks, menu’s, weather etc…). It can pretty much replace the entire gnome-panel in features. However, I only ended up sticking with AWN for a couple months because the auto-hide feature was (and still is) buggy and would crash the dock during normal operation. This should be fixed for the upcoming 0.4 release; so, I might have to give it another try at that time. The original developer works with Canonical on the Ubuntu Netbook Remix (which I love) and is definitely capable of great things.


Kiba Dock. I tried Kiba as a rebound for only two days after the AWN break up. Kiba has some great features including a pretty impressive physics engine. But, the dock was too crashy for my tastes. So, I moved on pretty quickly.


Cairo-Dock. This is the dock I ended up using for the longest period of time (so far, anyway, since I did eventually leave it). It is pretty rock solid performance wise (especially since the 2.0 release added OpenGL support). The downside is that it doesn’t really have a polished look. The default dock after installation is pretty hideous and obnoxiously busy. The configuration is a bit complicated, but if you take the effort, you can get a pretty nice looking/behaving dock out of CD. One of the nicest features is that plugins can be detached from the dock to act as compiz widgets. I left CD not so much because I was unhappy, but because I was more impressed with Gnome-Do’s offering.


Docky. This is integrated as an optional Gnome-Do interface. It is simple, looks good and works extremely well. When you use Gnome-Do to search (actually Gnome-Do is much more than search), the dock is converted into a great looking search bar. I really like having one application that fills both of these needs. Auto-hide works well. Docky is what I have been using for the last couple months, but am I truly happy in this new relationship? Not quite. I wish there was an option to only show tasks from the current workspace, and I wish there were few more plugins (and the widget feature of CD).


Will a dock ever come installed as default in a popular Linux distro? It doesn’t look like it is coming anytime soon. But, I think Gnome-Do’s docky may have a good chance of making it into Ubuntu since David Siegel (Gnome-Do’s original creator – though not docky coder) is now working at Canonical.

(Images taken from respective project websites)

20 thoughts on “The Best Docks on the Linux Coast

  1. Gnome-do and docky depend on Mono, which is a controversial port of Microsoft’s C# and .NET framework to Linux, and the the subject of Novell’s patent-indemnification agreement, which many call a “deal with the devil”.

    I am looking into simdock, which seems to have no such encumbrance, and remarkably few dependencies.

    I also feel it’s worth noting that the Mac dock gets mighty crowded (i.e. useless) when you start loading it up with apps. I personally don’t use it at all, and find that Quicksilver increases my productivity massively, since I only have to hit the magic key combo, and type in the first letter (or so) of the app or folder I desire and it shows up.

    On Linux, I am looking into launchy to perform this for me (in addition to the command line)

    REMOVING MONO: Here’s how (for all you Ubuntu fans who got it by default)

    sudo apt-get remove –purge mono-common libmono0

    This rids you of C# (g-sharp?) , Mono, CIL, and friends, and also tomboy, f-spot, nemo if you installed it, and such. (some 50 or 60 megabytes worth)

    There are better replacements that don’t depend on MS “patented” technology. Don’t forget MS NEVER SUES over their patented technology (until they do…. witness their manhandling of TomTom over the FAT patent.)

    gnote, gimp and others work just fine.

    You can find launchy and simdock at sourceforge (I got deb’s of them).

    Good luck, and happy MS-FREE computing.

  2. I believe DOCKs are a bit of a useless waste of resources. You can get the same functionality from any of the Linux desktop solutions simply by adding a panel to the bottom of your screen, setting all the launchers you wan, and adding an icon box style widget. Completely functionality, maybe not quite as flashy, but completely free of any extra application, packages, or dependencies.

  3. Cal is right about Gnome-do and docky depending on Mono but for the life of me I cant figure out why this Mac envy.

    Its a bit sad.

    I have disappearing taskbar on both Linux and Win and use the same wallpaper on both so the idea of having not one but two taskbars is foreign to me but I also install Linux for newbies and when give the choice between the Mac and Windows paradigm, people will choose what is familiar for them which is KDE.

    Again, I think all taskbars are evil so its not a top or bottom hollow argument but when switching people over I try to make things less jarring and guess what? 90% market penetration means people are used to a certain ways of doing things.

  4. I’m NOT having any issues with AWM as you apparently are. (ubuntu 9.04 + AWM .0.3.2)
    As for the mono commenters….puuullleease. Take your religious wingnut bovine scatology elsewhere. Its FUD, pure and simple. The gnome-do dock is a really nice tool, and 99.995% of real users don’t give a rabbit’s ass if its mono or C or pascal FFS. If microsoft WERE to get into patent lawsuits over that, they would start the patent armageddon that they do NOT need or want. Its an issue only near and dear to people who have a near religious fervor for anything even closely related to microsoft and its just nuts.

  5. The reason I uninstalled gnome-do was due to mono dependencies. I’m not a fanatic. I tried Launchy but didn’t work properly. I’m NOT having any issues with AWN, so I’ll stick with him until I find something better.

  6. @daniel999 @Cas – Do you use the autohide feature in AWN? That is what is causing me problems. And, this is a feature I personally find essential. If you don’t care about autohide, AWN is probably perfect for you.

    I personally don’t want to weigh in too much on the Mono issue given the gnote controversy this week. I was aware that Gnome-Do uses Mono (as do other applications I enjoy like Banshee and f-spot). If not using Mono apps is important to you, don’t use docky. If not (as is my case), then gnome-do/docky is a great app to try.

  7. I like AWN the best. Neither did I have any issues about it crashing – it’s stable for me. As for mono – it’s funny how Microsoft can make promise not to sue over dozens of patents (including OOXML), but it can’t (won’t) make such a promise for mono.

  8. Seriously, people with Mono issues need to get over it…it’s a programming language (C#). As long as the resulting software is efficient and useful – that’s all that matters to me.

    My favorite is Docky. I use the key launching functionality more but the dock is nice to look at.

  9. “Seriously, people with Mono issues need to get over it…it’s a programming language (C#). As long as the resulting software is efficient and useful – that’s all that matters to me.”

    You obviously either have a very short memory span or have never looked at anything in depth. You’d probably eat anything as long as it was ‘tasty’…

  10. Anyone who has been both alive and conscious these past twenty-five years knows forming any sort of relationship with Microsoft, either directly or indirectly, customer or partner, is just asking for a raping.

  11. Linux is all about choice.

    Yes, docks are really not necessary and do consume resources so if if you don’t like them then why are you following this discussion?

    I was using the Cairo Dock on my Hardy laptop. A few days ago there was an update that screwed it up miserably. I abandoned it and installed Docky. A few Mono related dependencies had to be installed for Docky to work. I have no love for Microsoft but Mono is just code and I cannot see myself fined or jailed because of a dock! You know, Apple patented the dock concept early this year and I can’t see myself being sued by them either.

    I don’t know if I will stick with Docky, but it’s darn nice to have choices.

  12. opengeu has a builtin dock with some sexy features that were quite nice. I used their eeepc remix for a bit, but my tiny screen didn’t do justice to their artwork. On my desktop i have been using docky after similar experiences to this writer. But i also agree with many/some of the other commenters about macenvy syndrome. Frankly, i find that my fedora setup at work, which just puts launchers where i want them and , because it has a smaller screen than i have here at home, needs to be kept clean and not cluttered with extra stuff that takes up the real estate.

    So, while i have been relatively happy with Docky, i will probably take it off from here soon and not use a dock. I just don’t find it as useful as a clean and correctly planned and organized desktop.

    I tutor some young, 7th grade girls who have bought mac laptops through a school program (less virus trouble and a monolithic setup that allows pretty trouble free in-school connectivity). Their dock is so jammed packed full of everything they are doing, from papers to projects to apps to songs and movies, the icons are practically useless. This is not really what the apple people had in mind, but when you take windows trained kids and give them something like a mac they try to clutter the screen like thye do in windows. I found it interesting.

  13. I have tried all the docks galore. This probably just me, but I have found docks to be just desktop clutter. There is fine line between usability and clutter. The normal stuff just works for me. The most usable of them all, which I do use occasionally is Gnone-do. For the rest, there may be some folks it would serve a purpose.

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