Gnome-Do and Unity, Harmoniously

Gnome-do is without a doubt the fastest application launcher I have used on any platform. Once I got into the -do groove I was hooked, utterly. I don’t want to go back.

Apple (either Launchpad or Spotlight), Windows (Metro Modern whatever), and Ubuntu (Unity Dash) all not only offer a slower experience, but each one takes you completely away from what you were doing and you thus lose continuity in your workflow making you wonder why you walked into the kitchen and so you walk back to the living room to see that you needed a fork and so you walk back into the kitchen and forget…

Gack!  Don’t do it!

By contrast gnome-do sneaks in almost unnoticed and let’s you get to the next step without hampering that tenacious continuity with an “oh, look!  squirrel!”.

Simple, small, and unobtrusive is great, but as if that were not enough it’s also exceptionally speedy.  Oh, and it learns from what you select (the stuff you use tends to come earlier and earlier as you type in subsequent searches).

The trouble is with the latest versions of Ubuntu you get Unity.  Unity uses the super key (Windows key or Command key or Apple key or…) to evoke the Dash (similar to how Windows uses the Windows key to evoke whatever they are calling that tile-oriented mess of an application launcher in Win8 now).  For whatever reason, that key binding supersedes any other attempts to use the super key in non-Unity key bindings (shortcuts).  (There is a bug report here for this particular behavior.)

Fortunately I found this fix.  (Which works only some times.  See notes in comments below.)

You’ll need to install the CCSM and (of course) gnome-do.  Enter these into your terminal (or find them in the Ubuntu Software Center):

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

sudo apt-get install gnome-do

Once these are installed open CCSM and navigate to the Ubuntu Unity Plugin (located under Desktop).  Do be careful in the CCSM; it’s powerful and you can really bug things up if you muck around without some due diligence.

For this fix we’ll just be changing one item and it’s a pretty safe one.  On the Launcher tab the first item is called “Key to show the Dash, Launcher and Help Overlay“.  Click the edit button (the one that looks like a pencil).  Put exactly this in that box:


Ok your way out of this and test it.  If you hit ctrl+windows you should see the Dash take over.  Great.  This change will allow other key bindings to make use of the super key.

Now open gnome-do (using the Dash if you’d like).  If you click on the small triangle in the upper-right of the gnome-do window you’ll see Preferences.  You can poke around in this preferences area with impunity, but for our purposes again we are just making one change.  On the Keyboard tab you are going to change the shortcut for Summon Do.

You are supposed to be able to double-click on the current shortcut (in this case likely just Disabled) and give your new shortcut.  I have had to quadruple-click in 13.04 and I don’t know why.  Regardless, change that shortcut to super+space.  Again, test this to ensure that when you hit super+space gnome-do is summoned.


Unfortunately there was a quirk: I would create the shortcut for super+space and it would revert to Disabled at every reboot.

If you find that the key binding for gnome-do is not persistent (and I found this to be the case on every 13.04 system I tested), there is a fix.  After persistence fails on reboot, return to the gnome-do preferences and set the shortcut for Summon Do to ctrl+space.  Reboot.  Now when you hit super+space (yes, super+space) it should work and it should remain persistent.

Enjoy your gnome-do.  I know I do.


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