If you are on Ubuntu and using the default user interface Unity, it’d be reasonable to assume that you know about Unity Dash. For those who don’t, it’s an overlay that allows users to search both locally as well as remotely. While the whole purpose of Dash is to make your search experience quick and convenient, the fact is that a search takes more time when the remote option is enabled. And did you know that Dash’s online search feature has been the subject of the privacy controversy as well?
If your search requirements are limited to your local system (which should be true in the case of most users), it’d be better to switch the online search feature off. Yes, it is possible, and in this article you will learn how to do this.
NOTE: All the examples, commands, and settings in this article have been tested on Ubuntu 14.04. Those running the newly-launched Ubuntu 16.04 should note that the online search functionality is disabled by default on your machine. However, the process to enable (and disable) remains the same.
Turn off online search in Unity Dash
There are a couple of ways in which you can turn off the online search feature. One is GUI-based, while the other is command-line based. Let’s discuss both one by one.
Let’s begin with an example. Here are the results that are generated when I try to search for “Linux”-related videos using the Unity Dash.
Given the fact that there are no Linux-related videos on my system, all results that you see above are fetched from online resources. The aim here is to get rid of these kind of online results.
The first step is to open Ubuntu’s System Settings box.
Then click the “Security & Privacy” icon present in the “Personal” category. This should bring up the following window.
Click the “Search” tab, and in this tab you’ll see a slider that you can use to switch the Unity Dash’s online search feature on and off.
By default, the feature is ON. To turn it off, just slide the slider button from ON to OFF.
Now when you try to search for something, you’ll notice that online results will not be included, and the whole search experience will be fast.
Command line-based solution
There could also be requirements to enable/disable the online search feature through the command line: for example, if someone wants to toggle this feature under certain conditions in a bash script. Here is the way to do this from terminal:
To turn the feature off, run the following command:
gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Lenses remote-content-search none
And run the following command to enable the feature:
gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Lenses remote-content-search all
If your daily work involves frequent use of Ubuntu’s Unity Dash, and you don’t use it to search stuff stored online, turning the feature off should save you quite a bit of time. Regardless, it’s always good to know if and how you can turn prominent features that you might run into in the future off and on.