One of the things that many users love about Apple MacOSX is the dock at the bottom of their screen.
But docks are not exclusive to Mac users, rather Windows, GNU/Linux, and even BSD users can all have the handy tool on their desktop.
GNU/Linux users have quite a few at their disposal, so I thought perhaps a comparison might be in order.
I use Arch Linux with Cinnamon as my desktop environment, but all of these docks can be installed on any setup regardless of environment. Although as a note, some docks will require packages from environments that may be outside your current, such as GTK packages even though you run KDE.
I use Docky on my machine daily, it’s become my favourite over the years. It’s lightweight, it’s customizable, it does what I need it to do. Docky is somewhat the halfway point in eye candy between the super flashy Cairo-Dock and the very minimal Plank.
Docky has the ability to be hidden, or stay above windows, resized into a full panel mode, zoom on icons adjusted, and multiple backgrounds included.
Cairo-Dock (also known as Glx-Dock) is very ‘pretty’, and has the option of utilizing OpenGL for enhanced graphics as well as reducing CPU load. If your hardware can use it (as most modern machines can), it’s quite attractive.
Cairo-Dock comes preloaded with many themes, and can even be made to somewhat imitate the Mac theme. The animations are smooth, and it is extremely customizable.
Cairo does use slightly more memory than Docky or Plank for example, but still realistically not enough to be of any concern unless you’re running on very old hardware.
Plank is designed to be extremely minimalistic. The Plank website says, “Plank is meant to be the simplest dock on the planet. The goal is to provide just what a dock needs and absolutely nothing more.”
This is entirely true. Plank is very minimalistic. It hides itself when overlapped by a window by its default behavior, and pops up when your mouse hits the bottom of the screen, or when nothing is obstructing it. There are Plank themes online available, but they are all very minimal as well. If you want a no frills dock, and don’t care for eye candy whatsoever, Plank is definitely the way to go.
There are numerous other docks available for GNU/Linux as well, but these are the three most popular. Some others are either outdated / abandoned / deprecated, or are distribution specific such as the Deepin Dock, or Latte Dock which is specific to KDE Plasma.
Both offer similar functionality and features to them like the above mentioned docks, but do not run (or at least not easily) outside of their native Desktop Environments. I tried to get both Deepin Dock and Latte to run through my Cinnamon desktop, but was unable.
Granted, I didn’t spend longer than five or ten minutes trying, but really; do you want to spend potentially longer just to set up a dock when other solutions are available?
Docks in my opinion increase productivity and ease of navigation for a graphical interface. Rather than needing to navigate menu screens or application menus, one click on a dock icon will launch whatever you need. Plus, they look fancy!
All of the above Docks can be installed through any major distribution package manager that I am aware of; granted I haven’t used every single system out there, so in a worst case scenario and you can’t find it, check out your favourite search engine for how to install the dock you want.
What about you? Do you enjoy using a dock, and if so, which one? If not, how come? Let’s hear it in the comments.
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