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linux desktop dockOne 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 5 Power Docks For Your Linux Machine 5 Power Docks For Your Linux Machine Perhaps you've switched to Linux from macOS; or perhaps you just like the idea of a dock. Whichever it is, these five desktop docks for Linux will help you to improve your productivity. Read More , 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.

About AWN

Avant Window Navigator — 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.

Initial Launch

linux desktop dock
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.


desktop dock for linux
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.


desktop dock for linux
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.

desktop dock for linux
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.

dock applets
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.

linux desktop dock
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!

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  1. Freecycle Me
    September 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks Danny, will consider it. Nice write up

  2. josemon maliakal
    August 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Thats a nice post

  3. asdasd
    August 13, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Sadly, AWN seems to be abandoned. Devs are working on Unity in Ubuntu.
    It won't even compile anymore with new gcc/vala.

    GnomeDo isn't an option, neither is Docky due to their dependencies on Mono/C#.

    That leaves us with cairo, dmenu, launchy..

    • Danny Stieben
      August 14, 2012 at 8:19 am

      Hopefully there will be some contributors who will give AWN some updates?

  4. istok
    August 13, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    when was the last version of AWN released? are bugs filed against it being fixed? is it actively developed?

    • Danny Stieben
      August 14, 2012 at 8:18 am

      It does look like AWN is moving along slowly, but it's still being worked on. Fresh packages are being pushed into Ubuntu 12.10, for example.

  5. gorlok
    August 13, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I prefer AWN. I was using it for two+ years.

    • Danny Stieben
      August 14, 2012 at 8:15 am

      I'm tied between Docky and AWN. Both are excellent, in my opinion. But 2+ years is a nice span of time! :)

  6. James Bruce
    August 10, 2012 at 7:51 am

    Any particular reason why you don't mention the fact that this is a blatent copy of the OSX dock? I mean, is anything original in the linux world or it is all just open source copies of proprietary software?

    • Greg
      August 10, 2012 at 5:23 pm

      I doubt it has all the features the Mac dock has (I don't own a Mac so I could be wrong) but they're different in their own way

    • fed up
      August 13, 2012 at 10:56 am

      although awn is a copy of lots of older docks even before osx so who cares really? apple never copies anyone else? ;)

      • istok
        August 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm

        it's a troll. let it go.

        • Danny Stieben
          August 14, 2012 at 8:11 am

          xD That "troll" happens to be one of MUO's writers and also our tech guy.

          Granted, he's an Apple fanboy, so I suppose he is a troll... ;)

      • Danny Stieben
        August 14, 2012 at 8:27 am

        You get a gold star from me. ;)

    • Danny Stieben
      August 14, 2012 at 8:14 am

      Oh, but there are plenty more docks we can choose from! :)

      I admit some pieces of software seem more like copies than others, but there are plenty of original projects. Is Firefox or Chrome a copy? Is Unity a copy, aside from whether you think it's good or bad? Is the Linux kernel a copy? Didn't think so.

      • muotechguy
        August 14, 2012 at 8:28 am

        I'm not talking about chrome, or unity. I'm talking about this dock, which you highlighted, without ever pointing out it's a clone of OSX. I mean, if you really want OSX that bad, you could just a hackintosh you know!

        • Danny Stieben
          August 14, 2012 at 8:49 am

          But you did ask about open source software in general. :P

          If you see AWN as a clone of OSX's dock, then fine. In that case so would every other dock available under Linux (and possibly Windows as well), despite differences in what they can do. If I remember correctly, Docky can do folder stacks on the dock and AWN can't. Can OS X users actually replace the default dock with a third-party one?

          Nah, Linux is so much easier to set up than a Hackintosh. Plus Linux is actually legal.

        • dragonmouth
          September 25, 2012 at 11:18 am

          OSX is a BSD-clone tweaked by Apple, but we won't mention that.

          If you have been in the computer field for any length of time you would know that there is very little original code around. Mostly it is a re-write or a rip-off of already existing code.

  7. Timothy Liem
    August 10, 2012 at 2:15 am

    I still prefer Cairo Dock since it's more blingy and lots of themes I can find on Gnome-look.

    • Danny Stieben
      August 14, 2012 at 8:10 am

      For whatever reason I don't like Cairo Dock all that much. I have no idea why, just personal preference I suppose.

  8. chris faron
    August 9, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Awn works really way, thanks for the info

  9. Pedro Oliva
    August 9, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    yes dock are so pretty and useful, but i prefer soft like GnomeDo

    • Danny Stieben
      August 14, 2012 at 8:09 am

      Oh Gnome Do has a place in my heart too. :)

  10. Vipul Jain
    August 9, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    Try Rocket dock as well.
    its not equally customizable, but its pretty basic & light.

    • Danny Stieben
      August 14, 2012 at 8:08 am

      I haven't heard of Rocket Dock, and I have a feeling that that's a bad thing. I'll check it out!

      • Vipul Jain
        August 14, 2012 at 10:57 am

        lol, i wouldn't recommend it if it was bad.
        Its a simple, light & FREE docking software :D

        • Danny Stieben
          August 15, 2012 at 1:41 am

          Oh, no, you misunderstood me. I meant that it's probably a bad thing that I've never heard of it! :P

        • Vipul Jain
          August 16, 2012 at 3:45 am

          oh, it makes sense now
          Shouldn't skim through texts. :D