A Guide to Setting up And Using Cairo Dock

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

The Cairo Dock provides a great application launcher, menu system, and cosmetically pleasing features including a built-in terminal window.

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What Is the Cairo Dock?

Cairo Dock screenshot

The Cairo Dock provides a way of loading applications using panels and launchers at the bottom of the screen.

The dock includes a menu and several other useful tools, such as control over wireless networks and audio playback.

Place a dock at the top, bottom, and either side of the screen then customize them to your liking. 

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How to Install Cairo Dock

Installing Cairo Dock

It doesn't make sense to install Cairo Dock if you use Unity, GNOME, KDE, or Cinnamon, as those environments present fairly 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.

Install Cairo Dock using a Debian- or Ubuntu-based distribution using 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 &
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Install a Compositing Manager

Install A Composite 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.

sudo apt-get install xcompmgr
sudo yum install xcompmgr
sudo pacman -S xcompmgr
sudo zypper install xcompmgr

To run xcompmgr run the following in the terminal:

xcompmgr &
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Launch Cairo Dock at Startup

Launch Cairo Dock At Startup

Launching Cairo Dock when your computer starts differ 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.

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

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Choosing a New Cairo Dock Theme

Choose A Cairo Dock Theme

Change the default theme for Cairo Dock to choose something that is visually more pleasing for you. Right-click on the default dock and choose Cairo Dock and then Configure. Choose the Themes tab.

Preview the themes by clicking on them. To switch to a new theme click the Apply button at the bottom.

Some themes insert single panels at the bottom while others have two panels. A few of them put applets on the desktop such as the clock and 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 clicking the folder icon and choosing the appropriate file.

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Configure Individual Launcher Icons

Configure Cairo Dock Items

Configure individual items on a Cairo Dock panel by right-clicking on them.

Move the item to a different docking panel and indeed a new one if no other panel exists. You can also remove an item from the panel.

Drag an icon from the panel onto the main desktop — useful for items such as the rubbish bin and the clock.

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Change Individual Launcher Settings

Configure Individual Launchers

Change other settings about an individual launcher by right-clicking on it and choosing Edit. You can also get to the configuration screen by right-clicking on the panel, choosing Cairo Dock and then Configure. When the settings screen appears, click Current Items.

For each item, you can adjust different things. For example, the audio player icon will let you choose the audio player to use. 

Other settings include icon size, where to put the icon (i.e. which panel), and the caption for the icon.

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How to Add Cairo Dock Panels

Add A Cairo Dock Panel

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

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 choose the move to another dock option, or right-click on the line and choose to configure the dock.

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

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Useful Cairo Dock Add-Ons

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

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.

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Final Configuration

Setting Cairo-Dock Keyboard Shortcuts

The final area of the Cairo-Dock to focus on are the configuration settings. Right-click the Cairo Dock panel, choose Cairo Dock and then Configure.

Now choose the Configuration tab. There are three more tabs for it.

The behavior 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.

The appearance tab lets you adjust colors, font sizes, icon sizes, and the style of the dock.

The shortcut keys tab lets you set shortcut keys for various items such as the menu, the terminal, the notification area, and the browser. Choose the item you wish to change by selecting it and double-clicking the item to open a box prompting you to press a key or key combination for that item.