One of the most helpful tools we can have on our desktops are docks. Whether they help us keep track of open windows, offer us shortcuts to common folders or applications, or even update us on the current weather, they’re extremely extensible and flexible.
Among Linux users, the most recommended dock is Docky, and I can’t deny that I love it too. But Docky isn’t the only dock out there, no no no. A number of other really good docks worth checking out, and Avant Window Navigator is one of them.
— or AWN for short — is a fairly easy dock for use on Linux distributions. While it isn’t quite as popular as Docky, it is still very powerful and comes with lots of applets for you to use. The dock itself is decently customizable as it is, so the combination of good customization and plenty of applets should make a lot of people happy.
On first launch, the dock is found at the bottom of your screen, and only contains the AWN button on the left, a Firefox launcher, and any other applications which may currently be open. And that’s it. But don’t let that fool you, because AWM is just being very shy about showing off what it can do. Click on the AWN button, and you’ll see those launchers and open window indicators go away and be replaced with some buttons to change the icon sizes as well as one which opens the settings.
This is where all the magic really happens. In the Preferences tab, you can choose anything from how big the icons should be exactly to what kind of dock effect you want, to how the dock should hide itself. I’m very glad to see that it has an “Intellihide” feature which hides the dock whenever a window is on top of it. Otherwise, in the default setting, it’ll force itself into your chosen side of the screen and prevent other windows from existing there.
The “Expand the Panel” option is also a nice feature for those who’d rather like to use AWN as a taskbar, complete with an application menu — as long as the correct applets are installed and used.
In the Task Manager tab, you can choose the exact settings for the “task manager” applet. The icons to be displayed are pretty configurable as well, allowing you to choose from a couple different selections. You can also dictate what is shown in your dock and how it behaves, as well as configure the available launchers. If you right-click on an application in the dock while it’s open, you can also choose to customize the icon for that specific application, add a launcher for it, launch an additional instance of the application, and choose in which workspace it’ll appear.
Remember that the dock will show all open applications and switch to the application and its respective workspace whenever you click on its icon.
The Applets tab is where you can really get busy configuring your dock until perfection. There’s plenty of applets which you can use — way too many for me to go into details about each one. However, you really should be more than happy with these, as they include things like application menus, hardware sensor displays, folder stacks, separators, CPU frequency display, feeds display, media player controls, a notification area, and so much more.
AWN has been equipped with plenty of applets in the past too, allowing some people to completely remove their Gnome 2 panels and use just AWN. Don’t forget, you can always install more compatible applets that you might find.
In the Themes tab, you’ll find a couple themes which you can switch to. None of them are really worth writing home about, but they add a nice touch. Plus, with a themes framework in place, other people have already created some very cool themes for AWN which add instant appeal to your desktop.
The Advanced tab is what you’d probably guess it is — a lot of highly technical stuff that you may or may not want to touch. Don’t ask me what any of these do either, as I only recognize may one or too items. If you’re curious however, you can check the screenshot if there are any settings you may be interested in.
Find AWN to be cool enough to try out? Installation is easy as pie, as you might have learned when you installed everything else on your Linux system. AWN should be available in your respective package manager under names of either awn or avant-window-navigator. For example, Ubuntu users can use the terminal and run
sudo apt-get install avant-window-manager. Applets under Ubuntu are contained in packages with the name awn-applet-*, where * is the rest of the package name.
Therefore, searching for awn-applet will find you all the available applets for AWN; however, most are already installed when you install the dock itself. Fedora users can install AWN with the terminal command
sudo yum install avant-window-manager awn-extras-applets, which will both install the dock as well as the available applets.
Overall, AWN is a fantastic dock which really doesn’t get the attention I believe it deserves. Both AWN and Docky are great choices, so it’s simply a matter of personal preferences as to which one you’d choose for your desktop. AWN is still being developed, with new applets and themes coming constantly. If you’re checking out candidates for your dock, give AWN a try.
Do you use a dock? Which one? What do you like most about your dock? Let us know in the comments!