How to Install Unity Smart Scopes in Ubuntu 13.04

The Unity Smart Scopes is a powerful search tool for the Unity Dash in Ubuntu. It allows you to search for (almost) anything directly from the Dash.

Until now, the Dash is using a lens system to manage your search. Install a lens and you can click on its icon to perform a search for a specific item. For example, installing the Google Drive lens allows you to search for files in your Google Drive account. With the Unity Smart Scopes, it will replace the lens system and allows you to search for anything, online or offline, directly in the Dash. The Unity Smart Scopes was supposed to be shipped together with Ubuntu 13.04, but because of stability issue, it was removed from Ubuntu 13.04. Instead, it will be included in Ubuntu 13.10. If you are one of those who love to try bleeding edge stuff, here is how you can install Unity Smart Scopes in Ubuntu 13.04.

Installation of Unity Smart Scopes

The installation is pretty simple. All you have to do is to add the PPA and upgrade your system. Here are the commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-unity/experimental-certified
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Note: If you run the last command “sudo apt-get dist-upgrade” and it prompts you to remove some packages, DO NOT PROCEED. It will/might break your system. It should only prompt you to install new packages and upgrade your existing packages. It shouldn’t remove anything from your system.


Once installed, it will restart the current Unity session. This might cause your system to stand still for a while (it did to mine, but your condition might vary). After that, you can press the “Super” (or the “Windows”) key to open the Dash and start typing the term that you want to search. The result should show up almost immediately as you type.

Unity Smart Scopes main interface

The best thing about the Smart Scope is that you can filter the results to get you want to find. When you do a search, the Smart Scope will make a guess of the things you are searching and return the results. If you are not seeing the things you want, you can click the “Filter Results” link at the top right corner of the Dash. There are two sections you can configure: Categories and Sources. Categories refer to the type of files it will return, such as Application, Music, Code, Graphics, etc. Sources refer to the source where the results are retrieved from, such as Amazon, Firefox bookmarks, Deviant Arts, etc. You can change the Categories and Sources to get it to refine its search.

Unity Smart Scopes Filter Categories

Unity Smart Scopes Filter Sources

You can also preview the result by right clicking it. The Preview feature is an existing feature of Dash, and it is applicable to Smart Scopes too.

Unity Smart Scopes Preview Result


The Unity Smart Scopes is very useful for finding stuff on your desktop and on the Web. It doesn’t support Google search though (and it will be perfect if it does). Another thing is that the Smart Scopes is only available for the Unity desktop. If you are not a Unity desktop user, you are not able to use this. The question is, will this make you want to switch to Unity desktop?


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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