How To Install And Configure Cairo Dock In Ubuntu Intrepid

Cairo dock is a Mac OSX dock-like application that you can install in your Linux machine. One of the advantage that it has over other docks is that it does not require any compositing window manager to work. Even on a low-end PC, it will still work fine. This is not possible for docks like Avant Window Navigator which depends on compositing manager (such as Compiz) to function.

If you are using a PC that does not support any compositing manager, or you wanted to try out alternative dock for your Ubuntu machine, follow this tutorial to install and configure Cairo Dock on your Ubuntu Intrepid.

Installing Cairo dock

Adding the repository

In your terminal,

Add the following line to the end of the file. Save and close.

Add the signed GPG key:

Install the application:

Loading the Cairo dock

Go to “Applications -> System Tools -> Cairo-Dock”.

Before the Cairo dock loads up, it will first prompt you to select the theme of the dock. Choose your favorite theme from the dropdown bar. There is a preview panel at the side so you can see the design before finalizing your theme. Each theme comes with its own set of icons and configuration. If you want to use the new theme’s behavior and launcher everytime you change a theme, check the two boxes below the preview pane. This might overwrite all configuration that you have previously made (if you have make any).

cairo dock theme

You should see the dock appearing at the bottom of the screen and a few desklets lying around in the desktop. The good thing about Cairo dock is that any icons/applications on the dock can be detached and used as a desklets.

desktop with cairo dock

Adding/removing applications to the Cairo dock

As I mentioned earlier, each theme comes with its own set of icons and launchers. There might be some applications that you have no use for, or missing applications that you want them to be on the dock. To remove any application on the dock, simply right-click at the particular icon and select Remove this launcher. To add applications to the dock, on the main menu at the top panel, navigate to your favorite app. Drag to the dock and release it. That’s it. You should see your favorite application on the dock now.

Adding a Sub-dock

Cairo dock also allows you to add sub-dock. This is a good feature for you to arrange similar application into a single category so that the dock won’t be too messy.

Right-click on the dock and select “Add a sub-dock.”

Cairo dock - add a sub dock

Enter a name for the new sub-dock.

Your sub-dock does not have to display the same way as the main dock. Under the Extra Parameters field, pick the view that you want your sub-dock to display. Click OK to create the sub-dock.

cairo sub-dock

To add applications into the sub-dock, first add the application to the main dock. Right-click the application icon and select “Modify this launcher”. Under the name of the container it belongs to, select the name of the sub-dock that you want to add to. Click OK.


Configuring the Cairo dock

To access the configuration menu, simply right-click the mouse at the dock and select “Cario-Dock –> Configure”. The default menu is the simple mode and have only few configuration options. On the left bottom of the menu, click on the Advanced button to go into Advanced mode. You should now see more options/tabs appear on the sidebar.


I will leave it to you to explore the configuration options and customize the dock to your own liking. However here are some tweaks that you might want to use if your dock is running very slowly.

  • In the “System” tab, under the “Label” section, make sure that the “Show label of the currently pointed icon only” is checked.
  • Reduce the number of icons into your dock. If you really want to have so many icons on your dock, then make sure you:
    – arrange them in sub-docks.
    – configure the dock to show only on current desktop (configurable in the “Taskbar” tab).
  • If you are using applets that required to be refreshed regularly (such as the clock, RAM meter etc), reduce the refreshing rate of the app.
  • Use a 2D view rather than a 3D view.
  • Turn off all animations. In the “System” tab, untick the option to drawn reflects in real time, and decrease the refresh frequency (don’t go under 20Hz, it might have the opposite effect).

Autostart Cairo dock when logged in

To autostart Cairo dock everytime you logged in to your computer, go to “System -> Preferences -> Sessions”.

Click “Add”. Enter the information as shown in the image below.

autostart cairo-dock

That’s it. Enjoy the dock and all the customization.

Damien Damien

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.


  1. Yeah, Cairo Dock is one of the best docks. kicks ass!

    You can also use Ubuntu-Tweak to install Cairo Dock.

    Great article!

    1. I agree with you. It is one of the best docks that I have tried. It can be a great alternative to AWN too.

  2. Hi, Damien

    Is there any problem using Cairo-dock on a 64 bits computer?
    I did everything as showed, and Applications-> System Tools -> Cairo-Dock. didn’t happen.


  3. Can anyone tell me if there is an option that makes maximised windows NOT overlap the dock? So that there is an open space where the dock is.

  4. Uhm, i have made something wrong with te configuration…changing settings, my cairo dock disappear, and i don’t now know how to open the configuration…any ideas?



    1. Can you be more precise on what you have done to the configuration? There are plenty of reasons that could affect Cairo dock and most of them are related to the system setting (not cairo dock). If possible, try to undo all that you have done and see if it works.

  5. I followed the information above and all worked until the following
    sudo apt-get install cairo-dock cairo-dock-plug-ins
    as this was followed by Couldn’t find package cairo-dock-plug-ins

    I am using Intrepid with 64 bits any ideas…???

  6. All was fine with the above until this section:
    sudo apt-get install cairo-dock cairo-dock-plug-ins
    Reading package lists… Done
    Building dependency tree
    Reading state information… Done
    E: Couldn’t find package cairo-dock-plug-ins

    I am using Intrepid with 64 bits.
    Any ideas????


    1. Hi, I hope this works, you can get the cairo-dock-plugins package in developer’s page, just right click on your dock , select ”Cairo Dock” and then ”Development’s site”, there you can find and download the right package for your O.S.
      or you can also use this link

      Good luck

  7. i ended up using:

    sudo apt-get install cairo-dock cairo-dock-plugins

    instead of

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

    1. That does not work:

      sudo apt-get install cairo-dock cairo-dock-plugins
      Reading package lists… Done
      Building dependency tree
      Reading state information… Done
      E: Couldn’t find package cairo-dock-plugins

  8. same problem with ben…

    help anything we can do to solv this problem???

    apriciate it if someone would help us…

    1. You need to update your repository, I have the 64 bit version and is working perfectly, all you have to do is:
      remove everything with: sudo apt-get remove cairo-dock cairo-dock-plugins or sudo apt-get remove cairo-dock cairo-dock-plug-ins

      and after you get removed everything, install from repository, here’s the instructions for every ubuntu version:

      hope this can get the problem fixed.

  9. Xander asked, “Can anyone tell me if there is an option that makes maximised windows NOT overlap the dock? So that there is an open space where the dock is.”

    one way you could do this is create a 100% transparent, empty panel then align your dock over it. adjust the panel size accordingly and it will create the illusion that your maximized windows can’t overlap the dock.

    1. how DO you create a transparent panel and align the dock over it? i’m a bit new to this but i got the dock working… if i could only make it look decent


      1. that all depends on your desktop environment. for example if you’re using gnome, right-click an empty space on any existing panel, then choose ‘new panel’. from there you can right-click the new panel and edit it’s properties accordingly (size, transparency etc.). it’s probably the same or very similar in KDE and other environments.

  10. @crawler: “Re: add transparent panel” …that’s the most f**king idea I ever heard! and it rocks! dude, you’re one great hacker! thanks!

  11. If your signed GPG key doesnt work try this one:

    wget -q -O- | sudo apt-key add –

    1. The installation method for Jaunty is the same as described above, except that you have to change the package source to
      deb jaunty cairo-dock

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