A Guide to Setting up and Using Cairo Dock

Follow these tips to set up and configure the Cairo Dock

Modern desktop environments such as GNOME, KDE, and Unity have overshadowed the brilliance of the Cairo Dock, but if you want to customize your desktop then you won't find a more stylish option.

The Cairo Dock provides a great application launcher, menu system, and feature set with a built-in terminal window.

Add A Dock To Openbox

What Is the Cairo Dock?

The Cairo Dock provides a way to load applications using an array of panels and launchers found at the bottom of the screen, similar to macOS (or Mac OS X).

The dock includes a menu and several other useful tools, such as control over wireless networks and audio playback. You can place a dock at the top, bottom, or either side of the screen, then customize them to your liking. 

How to Install Cairo Dock

It doesn't make sense to install Cairo Dock if you use Unity, GNOME, KDE, or Cinnamon, as those environments present fixed ways of navigating around the desktop. If you are using something more customizable such as the Openbox window manager, LXDE, or XFCE, then Cairo Dock will make a nice addition.

Installing Cairo Dock

Install Cairo Dock using a Debian- or Ubuntu-based distribution and apt-get as follows:

sudo apt-get install cairo-dock

For Fedora or CentOS use yum as follows:

yum install cairo-dock

For Arch Linux use pacman as follows:

pacman -S cairo-dock

For openSUSE use zypper as follows:

zypper install cairo-dock

To run Cairo execute the following command in the terminal:

cairo-dock &

Install a Compositing Manager

When Cairo Dock first runs you will be asked whether you want to use openGL graphics. Answer yes to this question to load the default Cairo Dock. If you receive a message stating that a compositing manager is required, open a terminal window and install a compositing manager such as xcompmgr.

Install A Composite Manager
sudo apt-get install xcompmgr
sudo yum install xcompmgr
sudo pacman -S xcompmgr
sudo zypper install xcompmgr

To run xcompmgr, enter the following command in the terminal:

xcompmgr &

Launch Cairo Dock at Startup

Launching Cairo Dock upon startup differs from one setup to another. For example, setting up Cairo to work with OpenBox follows one procedure, while setting up Cairo to work with LXDE follows another.

Launch Cairo Dock At Startup

When you run Cairo Dock you can also right-click on the default dock at the bottom, choose Cairo Dock, and then select Launch Cairo-Dock At Startup.

Choosing a New Cairo Dock Theme

You can change the default theme for Cairo Dock to match your taste and preferences.

Choose A Cairo Dock Theme
  1. Right-click on the default dock and select Cairo Dock > Configure.

  2. Select the Themes tab.

  3. Preview the themes by clicking on them. To switch to a new theme select Apply.

Some themes insert single panels while others include two panels. A few of them place applets on the desktop, such as a clock or audio player.

You can find more themes for Cairo-Dock from DeviantArt.com. After you have downloaded a theme you can add it to the list by dragging and dropping the downloaded item onto the themes window or by selecting the folder icon and choosing the appropriate file.

Configure Individual Launcher Icons

You can also configure individual items on a Cairo Dock. Simply right-click the item you would like to configure, then drag the item to a different docking panel to relocate it. You can remove an item from the panel, or create a completely new panel. Drag an icon from the panel onto the main desktop if you'd like to have more immediate access to it.

Add A Cairo Dock Panel

Change Individual Launcher Settings

You can change the settings for individual launchers.

Configure Individual Launchers
  1. Right-click an item and select Edit. Alternatively, right-click on the panel and select Cairo Dock > Configure.

  2. For each item, you can adjust different settings. For example, the audio player icon will let you choose which audio player to use. Other settings include icon size, where to place the icon (i.e. which panel), and the caption for the icon.

How to Add Cairo Dock Panels

To add a new panel, right-click on any other Cairo Dock panel and select Cairo Doc > Add > Main Dock.

Add A Cairo Dock Panel

By default, a small line appears at the top of the screen. To configure this dock you can either move items to it by dragging them from another dock, right-clicking on launchers on another dock and then choosing Move to another dock, or by right-clicking on the line and choosing to Configure the dock.

You can now add items to this dock in the same way you would other docks.

Useful Cairo Dock Add-Ons

Enhance your Cairo Dock with useful add-ons by right-clicking on a panel then choosing Cairo Dock > Configure > Add-Ons

Cairo Dock Add-ons

Check the box to add new add-ons to your main panel. You can then move them to other panels or to the main desktop by dragging them.

The terminal add-on is useful as it provides a pop-out terminal from the dock, which is useful when you want to run fast commands.

The notification area and notification area old add-ons are also useful as they will make it possible to choose wireless networks from the dock.

Final Configuration

The final area of the Cairo-Dock to consider is the configuration settings. Right-click the Cairo Dock panel, then select Cairo Dock > Configure. Select the Configuration tab. There are three more tabs to consider:

Setting Cairo-Dock Keyboard Shortcuts
  • Behavior: This tab lets you adjust the behavior of the selected dock, such as letting you hide the bar when applications are open, choosing where to position the dock, and choosing mouseover effects.
  • Appearance: This tab lets you adjust colors, font sizes, icon sizes, and the style of the dock.
  • Shortkeys: This tab lets you set shortcut keys for various items, including the menu, terminal, notification area, and browser. Choose the item you wish to change by selecting it. Double-click the item to open a box, which prompts you to press a key or key combination for that item.