Installing Avant Window Navigator (AWN) and Cairo Dock on Ubuntu

Saturday, February 7, 2009 5:34 PM

One of the cool features of Apple’s Mac Operating system is the Dock. It is used to launch applications and also switch between running applications. Linux communites like to adopt the good from other operating systems and there are several Docks available for Linux as well. The two popular ones for Ubuntu are Avant Window Navigator (AWN) and Cairo Dock.

Disclaimer: These steps have worked for me and have been tested on my PC running Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (Hardy Heron).I am not responsible for loss of data or damage to computers.

Check if your video card can support 3D graphics

1. Click on System->Preferences->Appearance
2. Select Visual Effects tab
3. Select Normal or Extra
4. If you see “Desktop effects could not be enabled” message then your video card cannot support 3D graphics and you will not be able to use these docks.
5. Click Close

Install compizconfig-settings-manager

To you use AWN or Cairo Dock you need to have composite manager such as Compiz-Fusion installed. You can install it using Synaptics Package Manager (System->Administration->Synaptics Package Manager) OR from the command line using the following command (you will be prompted for password)

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

Avant Window Navigator (AWN)

AWN positions itself at the bottom of the screen and can be used to keep track of open windows and behaves like a normal window list. Appreance and functionality of AWN can be customized via various plugins and applets that are available for download. By default it does not include themes.

AWN Wiki states that the AWN package included in Ubuntu Hardy Heron (8.04) LTS however it is very old and outdated. It recommends using PPA to install the packages instead. To do this edit /etc/apt/sources.list file using either vi or gedit and add the following lines

deb hardy main
deb-src hardy main

Now you need to update the package cache

sudo apt-get update

You are now ready to install AWN

sudo apt-get install avant-window-navigator-trunk awn-manager-trunk awn-extras-applets-trunk

Now that AWN is installed you can start it from the menu Applications-> Accessories->Avant Window Navigator

To have AWN autostart when you reboot your machine select Automatically start AWN on login on the General tab of awn-manager.
Cairo Dock

Cairo Dock is similar to AWN and can be used to launch application and utilize small applets that reside on the bar. You can attach it to either top or bottom of your screen and is highly configurable.

There are more than one way to install Cairo Dock and the instructions below are for using the repositories. You can also install Cairo Dock with the deb package

Similar to AWN Cairo Dock too has its repositories. You first need to download and install the signed key for authentication. This prevents security errors from popping up. Open Terminal Window and run the following command

wget -q -O- | sudo apt-key add -

Next edit /etc/apt/sources.list file using either vi or gedit and add the following lines

deb hardy cairo-dock

Once again update the package cache

sudo apt-get update

You are now ready to install Cairo Dock

sudo apt-get install cairo-dock cairo-dock-plug-ins

To run Cairo Dock press Alt-F2 and type cairo-dock
Minimizing / Closing Bottom Gnome Panel

If you are going to use AWN or Cairo Dock the default GNome panel at the bottom of the screen is redundant. You can close or minimize it.
Final Thoughts

So which one is better - well try both and decide for yourself it ain’t gonna break anything. My personal preference is Cairo Dock. It is much nicer to use comes with a bunch of themes/launchers that you can use.


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