Cuttlefish: Set Up Actions And Reactions To Automate Ubuntu

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automate ubuntuAutomate things you’re currently doing yourself. Cuttlefish is a new Ubuntu program that allows you to set simple rules that can save you time. It’s kind of like ifttt, which automates your web apps, but works entirely on your Ubuntu desktop.

You’ve heard it said: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Cuttlefish isn’t built on that principle exactly, but it is built around stimuli that trigger actions. You can pick a stimulus – for example, connecting to a certain wireless network – and assign a reaction to it – for example, opening your web browser. These pairings are called reflexes, and with some creativity they can save you a lot of time. There’s no limit to the number of actions a reflex can have, meaning any one stimulus can trigger several simultaneous actions.

You don’t even need an action to react to: groups of commands can be launched manually from the menu.

Confused? Don’t be; it’s actually very easy to use, and no programming skills are required to use this GUI-based tool.

Getting Started

The best way to explain Cuttlefish is to try a few things. When I connect to the Internet the first thing I want to do is open a web browser, so why not use Cuttlefish to automate the process? I start Cuttlefish and create a new reflex. I turn on activation by stimulus and pick my stimulus:

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In this case my stimulus will be connecting to Wifi, but there are serveral options. Once you’ve picked your stimulus you might be able to configure more details. In my case, I can pick a particular wireless network to connect to:

automate ubuntu tasks

I’ve decided to trigger the action only when connecting to my personal network. So now I’ve set my stimulus. This means it’s time to set my reaction. Again, there are several options:

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I’m interested in launching a program, so I choose that action. When I do I’m free to pick my program from a simple menu, and I’ve set up my reaction.

automate ubuntu tasks

List of Stimuli and Actions

So what kind of triggers can you set up? Anything that combines the stimuli and actions defined below:


  • Application starts
  • Application stops
  • Bluetooth activated
  • Bluetooth deactivated
  • Bluetooth device connects
  • Bluetooth device disconnects
  • Connect to WLAN
  • Disconnect from WLAN/LAN
  • Power cable plugged in
  • Power cable unplugged
  • Screen is locked
  • Screen is unlocked
  • USB device plugged in
  • USB device unplugged


  • Activate Bluetooth
  • Activate reflex
  • Activate WLAN
  • Change default printer
  • Change desktop background
  • Change pidgin status
  • Change proxy mode
  • Change volume
  • Deactivate Bluetooth
  • Deactivate reflex
  • Deactivate WLAN
  • Hibernate
  • Lock screen
  • Reboot
  • Shutdown
  • Start application
  • Start application (advanced mode)
  • Stop an application
  • Suspend
  • Unlock screen
  • Wait

Of course this list will change; more stimuli and actions will be added. Install the software for a complete list, because I cannot currently find one online to link to.

Think of Ideas!

What Cuttlefish can do for you depends entirely on your imagination. I thought of a few things, including shutting down Dropbox when I’m offline and giving myself one link to launch my IM and Twitter clients at the same time.

automate ubuntu

Spend some time playing with the software and figure out what it can do, then come back here and share your ideas below so everyone else can benefit.

Installing Cuttlefish

Cuttlefish will be in the Ubuntu Software Center soon, so check there first. If you can’t find it, don’t panic: there’s a Cuttlefish PPA. Use these commands to add the PPA to your system and install Cuttlefish:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:noneed4anick/cuttlefish
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install cuttlefish

The first command will add the PPA; the second, updates your sources list; the third, installs Cuttlefish. If you’re uncomfortable with the commandline you could try Y PPA Manager instead.

Sorry, users of other Linux distros: I cannot find packages for you guys yet.

I’m enjoying playing with Cuttlefish a great deal, and will put any new ideas I come up with in the comments below. I hope you’ll join me and we can use this page to share and collaborate on ideas.

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