September 17, 2012

10 Free Mac OS X-like Docks for Linux

[UPDATE 22-Sept: If you're looking for something similar for Windows, check out my new story on these six Mac OS X-style dock options.]
Mac OS X has made the idea of the application starter or “dock” popular and it’s a great idea that could help to make computing just a little easy for those who aren’t familiar with Start buttons and orbs and the like.

(Just an aside, it’s easy for geeks to live in a bubble and forget the rest of the world doesn’t share our interest in things technology so ideas like Docks that can help make computers easier to use should be applauded.)

However, you don’t have to buy a Mac computer to enjoy the Dock feature in Mac OS X. There are many free and/or open-source docks now available for both Windows and Linux. This isn’t a full list or a list in any particular order but feel free to try them out with your OS and see which ones you prefer.

While I’ve talked about Ubuntu/Xubuntu here, these docks will work on most Linux distros provided you have the basic window management engine required eg. KDE, GNOME etc.

1. Avant Window Navigator
Some people are wrongly attributing this excellent docker to Google, which was actually just hosting the site. The project has now moved to This is an excellent dock that’s highly customisable and easily installed in Ubuntu/Xubuntu.
2. Gnome Global Menu
If you’re using Ubuntu, this one looks similar to AWN however it’s a bit of a mess, starting out as MacMenuBar and then drifting onto the Ubuntu Wiki where it’s never really recovered. If you can get it going (there’s plenty of work to do) it looks good, but AWN is far easier to install.
3. Engage
This is the dock developed for the Enlightenment 17 Desktop Environment for Linux however, it can be installed on Xubuntu/Xubuntu using the apt-get installer, provided you download all of the Enlightenment dependencies. The link is for installing on Dapper Drake.
4. Gnome Dock
Gnome dock is actually built on the original Cairo dock however it needs to be compiled so while it looks good and works similarly to the Mac OS X dock, it’s going to be hard for the average user to install. The original Cairo Dock has its own doc page in Ubuntu Community Docs and is easy to install compared to Gnome Dock, requiring
5. KXDocker
This was original developed using KDE however the dependency on KDE saw its development halted by the author in favour of a new project called XQDE, which now has versions available in binary format for both 32- bit and 64-bit Intel CPUs.
6. KSmoothDock
KSmoothDock is an alternative to KDE’s Kicker and provides two modes of icon operation – normal or the more Mac OS X-like parabolic motion. Again, you need to compile it however the compile process is relatively easy, compared with some other docks.
7. Kiba Dock
Kiba Dock works on both KDE and GNOME desktops however it’s a little more difficult to install because it also relies on the Akamaru physics engine for its parabolic icon movement. So while it looks good, it’s going to be harder to get going. There’s a HowTo on Ubuntu forums about getting this installed on Hardy/Gutsy/Feisty versions of Ubuntu but be warned – it’s not a quick process.
8. SimDock
SimDock is a more basic docker in that it doesn’t require Compiz Fusion or 3D graphics acceleration. According to its website, it’s written in C++ and wxWidgets. There have been no further releases since version 1.2 in July 2007 but it’s available .deb and .rpm packages for install onto Ubuntu and Red Hat respectively.
9. TuxBar from SuperKaramba
TuxBar is a Mac OS like dock built out of SuperKaramba, which is a KDE graphics tool. It’s actually a theme that runs on top of SuperKaramba but also has the smooth movement of the Mac OS dock. Some people prefer other docks to this that have more customisation. It certainly looks good though.
10. Kooldock
Kooldock is another dock for KDE. This one has been around since 2004 however development has mostly stopped now. You’ll need to compile this one so again, it won’t be as simple to install as say AWN or some of the others I’ve looked at here.
Tell us which is your favourite dock…

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My personal favorite is Docky. It is available in the Ubuntu Software Library or Synaptic.


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