Elementary OS is an increasingly popular Linux operating system, one that features a striking desktop. A key reason for this desktop environment’s pull is the dock, which invariably features in screenshots.
It’s easy to see why. The dock is a key aspect of the macOS desktop experience. Elementary OS mimics this look, utilizing the Pantheon desktop environment to good effect. It feels like macOS, too. While Pantheon can be time-consuming to set up as a new desktop environment, installing a new dock is far quicker, and simpler.
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.
If looking for a straightforward dock, this tool is the one for you. Evoking the feel of the macOS dock, Docky is considered one of the best solutions on Linux. Indeed, it styles itself “the best dock no money can buy.”
Better still, Docky is both easy to install, and simple to use, and it has recently been integrated into the GNOME desktop.
To install on Ubuntu, simply look in the software center. Alternatively, install in the command line using
sudo apt-get install docky
Fedora users, meanwhile, can employ the usual yum command:
su -c 'yum install docky'
If you’re not using Ubuntu or Fedora, check your distro’s support forums for more information.
Once Docky is installed, you can add apps to the launcher, and select from a number of docklets. These widget-esque tools can display weather details, your CPU activity, a clock, and more.
With this dock installed, you can expect to be able to quickly launch and control your favorite applications. External applets can also be embedded, which are available via Synaptic Package Manager (and other Linux package managers).
Because AWN has not been maintained for some time, you’ll need to add a repository in order to install it. For Ubuntu-like systems, enter:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8
Once the repository is added, simply update, and install.
sudo apt update
sudo apt install --install-recommends avant-window-navigator
If not, follow the instructions on the GitHub page for installing dependencies and building from source.
Using AWN is usually an okay experience, but it is not without its problems. As an older dock solution, developer interest in the project seems to have waned in recent years. In short, AWN doesn’t appear to be maintained, but as it still works we’ve included it here.
Designed to be light, fast and easily customized to your preferences, GLX Dock (also known as Cairo Dock) is designed to be desktop agnostic. This basically means that it should run in any desktop environment.
GLX Dock will support your choice of apps added to the dock, as well as provide notifications from those apps. Customizable menus (background, shape, and support for your own CSS) can be managed from the config panel, along with add-ons themes and keyboard shortcuts.
To install, you’ll need to add the Cairo Dock PPA:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:cairo-dock-team/ppa sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install cairo-dock cairo-dock-plug-ins
GLX Dock is surprisingly simple to configure (right-click the dock, select Cairo-Dock > Menu) and use, making it one of the best Linux dock options in this list.
Claiming to be the simplest dock on the planet, Plank is certainly lightweight. It is also configurable and comes pre-installed on some versions of Ubuntu, such as MATE.
Typically, installation is via a PPA:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ricotz/docky
Once this is done, update, and install.
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install plank
Once installed, you can manage the configuration either by clicking the Plank icon and adjusting the settings, as illustrated above.
Changes can also be made via a text file:
sudo nano ~/.config/plank/dock1/settings
Here you can change various settings. For instance, the icon size can be edited:
There is also a HideMode setting:
Option 1 will intelligently hide the dock. Alternatives are 0 (hiding disabled), 2 (auto-hide) and 3 (dodges active window). You can also change the position of the Plank dock:
This is the bottom of the display. Left is 0, right is 1, and top is 2. Browse the configuration file for other options.
Simple to use and straightforward to configure, Plank is a satisfying desktop dock experience.
Perhaps the most flexible of all the options in this roundup, DockbarX is designed as a lightweight taskbar that can also be a panel replacement. And several other things:
- A standalone dock (known as DockX)
- An Avant Window Navigator applet
- An Xfce 4-panel applet
- A MATE panel applet
- A GNOME 2-panel applet
Installation again requires that a PPA is installed first:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:dockbar-main/ppa
As ever, wait for the PPA’s installation, then run the update and install.
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install dockbarx
For use on Xfce desktops, you’ll need:
sudo apt-get install xfce4-dockbarx-plugin
Use the GitHub instructions for the full list of dependencies for a manual installation. You can also theme the dock with
sudo apt-get install dockbarx-themes-extra
Once installed, get DockbarX up and running with
…or open it from the menu (typically Accessories).
DockX is highly configurable. Not only you use it as a dock, it also does a good job as a Unity-style launcher (useful if you’re sad about Unity being abandoned). This and other features can be configured by right-clicking the DockX bar and choosing Properties, or by opening the DockbarX Preferences window from the Accessories menu.
Why Install a Dock?
Although they can make your Linux desktop look pretty sexy, that’s not really the reason to install a dock. The main argument in favor of a compact desktop launcher is productivity. Can you do more with a dock?
Well, yes, of course you can. But you’ll need to make sure that the apps and tools you regularly use are easily accessed from it. In addition, it’s position (bottom of screen, sides, or top) is important, as is its size. There’s also the matter of the auto-hide delay.
If your chosen Linux dock offers control over these things, then you should be able to boost your productivity. Installing a dock and other Mac-like desktop elements can also help make your transition from macOS to Linux easier!
Image Credit: Pheniti Prasomphethiran via Shutterstock.com
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