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,

gksu gedit /etc/apt/sources.list

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

deb intrepid cairo-dock

Add the signed GPG key:

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

Install the application:

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

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 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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