DockBarX: A Better Alternative to Unity Launcher


As we all know, Ubuntu Natty comes with the Unity Launcher that many people love to hate. While it comes with the autohide and quicklist feature, it is unlike AWN or Cairo dock that is fully customizable or configurable. For those who have turned off Unity Launcher (by switching to Ubuntu classic) but wish to enjoy the benefit of the Unity Launcher, DockBarX is a great alternative.

We have previously mentioned DockBarX as a useful tools to customize Ubuntu Netbook Remix (no longer exist). Back then, it exists only as a panel applet. The latest version now comes as a standalone panel and plenty of other useful features.

Install DockbarX

Open a terminal and type the following:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:dockbar-main/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install dockbarx

Note: If you are not using Ubuntu, you can download the DockBarX source file from

To run DockbarX, press Alt + F2 and type “dockx” (without the quotes)

Configuring DockbarX

To configure DockbarX, you can open the Preferences window via the application menu (Applications -> Accessories -> DockBarX Preference) or right-click on the DockBarX and select “Properties”.


DockBarX allows you to style up its appearance. You can change the theme or change the color and background of each component. The default installation only comes with 4 themes that you can switch between. However, you can install the “dockbarx-themes-extra” package to get more themes.


Dock location

As a standalone dock, you can configure where it is located in your desktop. Under the Dock tab, you can change the mode to corner, panel or centered. The panel mode is a full panel that stretches across the desktop while the corner and centered mode shows only the active applications. You can also change the position to left, top, right or bottom. One thing though, DockBarX does not support autohide (at this moment), so you might want to reduce the icon size (the default is 48px, I changed it to 24px) to prevent it from taking too much of your screen estate.


Supports Unity quicklists and number shortcut

Another useful features of DockBarX is that it supports Unity quicklists and number shortcut. First of all, you need to activate the feature under the Plugins tab. Check the box beside “Use Unity quicklists” and the “use Unity style number shortcuts” under the Advanced tab.


Simply right-click on the app and the quicklist will pop up.


Window preview

DockBarX also supports preview of application windows, however I am not able to get it working in Ubuntu Natty (seems to be a conflict with Compiz). If you can’t get it working, but really love this feature, you can install compizconfig-setting-manager and enable the “Windows Preview” feature.



If you have more than one window of the same application opened, you can enable the locklist, which will permanently pin the window group to the desktop.


Other means of using DockBarX

Other than the standalone panel, DockBarX can also be used as a Gnome applet (only Gnome 2.x) and AWN applet. if you are using the classic Gnome setting in Ubuntu Natty (Ubuntu Classic), you can add the dockbarx applet to your top panel and use it like any other applet.


One killer feature that DockBarX is missing now is the autohide feature. Once that feature is available, this will be the perfect dock and launcher app. What do you think?

Update: The autohide feature is now available in version 0.45 of DocBarX


Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.

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