Remove that Panel! A Review of Popular Window Navigators for Linux
After a long time, I really said to myself, can I lose that bottom panel? I really wanted something semi-flashy that had function, giving me access to my favorite shortcuts. I have heard of Avant, and tried that, but I also wanted to give “the other guys” a good try too! I came across Gnome-Do and also Cairo Dock. While each actually has its ups and downs, I’m sure everyone can agree they accomplish the job. Here is The Linux Cauldrons review of Popular Window Navigators.
- Decent graphics hardware
- Compositing Enabled (go to System > Appearance > and enable at least the next tier of effects for your system.
- On systems (such as Arch Linux) that do not have an option on “Appearance”, a working install of Compiz or Compiz fusion is required.
Avant Window Navigator (AWN)
Avant is the “safe bet” for many people. It tends to be the one alot of people go for, for its balance of usability and functionality. While it may not be as glitzy as Cairo Dock, it has its place, and does what it needs to do. Avant has a few nice options like the ability to be able to start it up upon user logon, instead of manually making it a service in your startup options.
- 3D or Flat Look optioins
- Decent color control for bar appearance
- Easy to add launchers via AWN’s configuration editor
- Can drag and drop shortcuts from desktop to AWN
- Theme support
- Option to start when user logs in
- Easier to change the “simple” things and get it up to the way you want it
- Lacks advanced customization options
- Sometimes AWN will fail to “keep” the icon I set for it when adding a launcher (i.e. Songbird).
- Animations could be better, instead of simple “Zoom” or “Highlight”
- Some applets fail to load or work properly
When I first heard about GNOME Do, I was quite intrigued. GD is a great “search, find, and execute” window navigator. While still a ways off from perfection of any kind, GD is a promising window navigator that gives some great functionality for your desktop. Its instant search feature is bar none, the most intuitive system search for your desktop. However there were some things that kept me from making this my window navigator on my system.
- GNOME Do instant search is a great versatile tool for your Linux distribution
- A plethora of plugins for various Linux applications
- Ability to start when user logs in
- Fairly smooth “mac like” zoom animation with “Docky Appearance” mode
- GNOME Do icon in tray, for easy access to the instant search feature
- Summon search mode with a editable shortcut
- Recent Correction: Can be re-sized by dragging the separator like Mac’s dock. (Credit to DBO of Gnome Do)
- Lacks ability to add new custom themes. This is something I deem necessary to to be as versatile as competitors. Kids these days (I do act like I’m 6 years old), like those fancy themes
- Half of my docklet apps do not work, come up as white lines
- Not very customizable
- Lacks icon editing for alternate images on icons
- Needs some more functionality to be as popular as Cairo Dock
- If things are fixed up Gnome-Do could smash the competition
Cairo Dock is a very formidable candidate for consideration here. There seems to be so much effort put into Cairo Dock, it can be intimidating to customize at first. In fact there can be so many options it can turn users away. However once you get a hang of Cairo Dock, it soon could become your favorite window navigator. There were some issues for me, noted below in “notes,” but I had to say I was very impressed with the overall package of Cairo Dock.
- So customizable, I thought I was going to cry with happiness
- Amazing theme support
- Complete control over Icons and Plugins / Applets
- “Easy Mode” and “Advanced Mode” for customization
- Good “Mac like” zoom animation which can be changed if you wish
- When customizing some icons, I noticed some options were left out
- Can be glitchy at times
- For some systems, installing Cairo could be a pain, unless you know what to do
- The default animations can be annoying (such as desktop switcher)
- I was forced to create some icons for certain launchers, leaving my dock with some ugly icons (see picture above, power button in red)
- To install Cairo Dock (such as on Arch Linux), you may have to force remove the package “cairo” and install “cairo-wglitz” For some reason cairo conflicts when installing on some systems where the package resides in a User Repository or even the normal Repository. “cairo-wglitz” does* include cairo, so do not worry about losing functionality on your system.
- By default, the dock will Auto Hide itseslf, hover your mouse near the bottom-middle of the screen. To change this behavior, right the bar and go to Cairo-Dock > Configure > System, and un-check the “auto hide” box.
That does it for today. I would like to thank all of you for reading and for posting comments. Every bit you say helps me improve on what I’ve done, and what I plan to do. Remember, I am still in search of a contributor or two for the site. Please see the “Contact Us” page at the top of the site and this post for details. Also on that page is the twitter page for this site, be sure to add us!
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