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)

My avant bar, "flat style" not the "3D look"

My avant bar, "flat style" not the "3D look"

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


The GNOME Do instant search in action

The GNOME Do instant search in action

The GNOME Do "Docky" appearence mode.

The GNOME Do "Docky" appearence mode.

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

A simple theme for Cairo Dock on my system

A simple theme for Cairo Dock on my system

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!




About professorkaos64

Posted on 20090419, in Software, Software Roudup and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Hey,
    just a couple corrections about gnome do’s docky.

    1) you can resize it by dragging up and down on the separator just like in OS X, and that is available by default =)

    2) All those other complaints I am working on fixing now. I figure I would show you a docklet in action to prove this. This is the System Monitor docket. The inner part turns from green with 0% CPU to bright red with a very large glow at 100% cpu. The outer ring represents your memory usage in percent. 100% white == 100% utilization.

    • shadowkain99

      Thanks I will re-edit the post with credit to you , good thinking. Are you a developer for gnome do? If so thats awesome.

      • Yeah, I write all the GNOME Do interfaces and several of its core features as well as some of the bigger plugins.

    • shadowkain99

      Thats amazing, thanks for reading then. If you go to Contact Us, and if you have any new Gnome-DO updates I will gladly post them for you.

  2. Oh you mentioned the zoom is only fairly good for you, can you please mention your hardware and driver versions so I can check up on it. Nvidia users generally have to get the 180.xx series or newer and a lot of intel users report that using a greedy migrationheuristic works best for them (especially in ubuntu 9.04).


    • shadowkain99

      Sorry if my experience wasn’t up to your liking, however here is my system:

      My PC system: ( I am using Driver: 180.44 )

      -Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 Overclocked to 3.0ghz
      -Antec 900 Gaming Case
      -750 watt Coolmax PSU with modular cables
      -EVGA 8800 GTX (overclocked to 625/2000)
      -Zalman 9500 CPU cooler/fan/heatsink
      -Samsung Spinpoint 7200 rpm 500 Gb Hard Drive
      -Vista Ultimate
      -MSI P6N Platinum Mainboard
      -(2) 19″ monitors in unison
      -4 x 1Gb Mushkin eXtreme Performance DDR 6400 timed at 4-4-3-10
      -hr-03 plus 8800 gtx vga heatsink and fan
      -Temp reader control panel
      -LG DVD Burner
      -Sony DVD ROM

      It was just a tad sluggish, not as fast as cairo. Maybe its not optimized as well

      • eep, okay, I will look into it. You are the second person to report the 8xxx series not performing well with docky, I suspect it has to do with the way we are migrating the pixmaps from system memory on demand. I might add some logic to detect this, however the trunk version (which is fair to have not tested since its not released) is a little nicer on this front and may offer some relief.

        Cairo Dock will probably always be slightly faster than Docky until I finally decide to use glitz (basically, docky is entirely unaccelerated for a large part of its work as compared to cairo dock, so when we do enable the accelleration… just you wait).


  3. The more I read, the more I wonder how I ever made it out alive without using a bicycle helmet, seat belts, and some version of Compiz.

    Yet here I am, a pox on all that is pretty and sucks up resources to be so.

    Still, a good article. We just disagree.

  4. taking into account Cairo-Dock2 would be a good thing for this article too.

  5. Excellent site, keep up the good work

  1. Pingback: Links 20/04/2009: SliTaz 2.0; Sun and IBM Still Flirt | Boycott Novell

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