Synapse: A Useful Zeitgeist-based Application Launcher

If you have used Gnome-Do in Linux, you will find some resemblance in Synapse. The user-interface is the same – activate the launcher, type the search term, press Enter to execute. The only difference is that Synapse makes use of the Zeitgeist engine to display your search result. An appropriate description would be: Synapse is the launcher for your recently used files/folders/applications while Gnome-Do is the launcher for any file/folder/application.

Synapse and Zeitgeist Engine

Some of you might not have heard of the Zeitgeist Engine. In short, it is a service that logs the users’s activities and events (files opened, websites visites, conversations hold with other people, etc.) and makes relevant information available to other applications. Applications can plug in to this engine to gain access to your recent activities and do wonder with it. Synapse is one such application. It allows you to search your recently opened files/folders/applications quickly and easily.

If you are using a new computer, a freshly installed Ubuntu or your distro doesn’t have zeitgeist pre-installed, the first time you use Synapse, you will find that it returns limited search result. This is because very few events have been logged by Zeitgeist yet. The good thing is, the longer you use your computer, the better Synapse will be.

To install in Ubuntu:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:synapse-core/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade #lucid only
sudo apt-get install synapse

Once installed, you can activate the application in Applications -> Accessories -> Synapse.

The usage is exactly the same as Gnome-Do. Press “Ctrl + Space” to activate the launcher. Type in the search term and press Enter to execute the commands.


You can also scroll left/right to define the nature of the search, such as Actions, Applications, Documents, Audio, Internet etc.


Pressing up/down button will show more results for the current search.


In the backend, you can change the keyboard activation shortcut and the theme.





Synapse also supports plugins. You can use Synapse to search for applications, play songs in Banshee/Rhythmbox, check words in dictionary, run terminal commands, lock screen etc. One thing though, there is no means for you to install new plugins at the moment.



Synapse uses Zeitgeist which is a completely different approach from Gnome-Do. It will take some time, especially Gnome-do lovers, to get used to it. The functionality is also quite limited at the moment, but taking into account the amount of data that zeitgeist logs and the different permutations of tips/tricks that can be done with it, given time, I am sure Synapse will become a very useful and powerful tool. This is provided the developer of Synapse continues to grow the product. What do you think?

Synapse @ Launchpad | Synapse homepage


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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