Deskbar: A Bar For Your Desk!

With the release of GNOME 2.14, a new applet has been made available for the GNOME Panel: Deskbar. Deskbar is the all-in-one action bar, yet despite the name and its appearance, very few people actually know what it does, or how to use it. Davyd Madeley takes a closer look.

Deskbar is the brainchild of Nigel Tao, Raphael Slinckx and Mikkel Kamstrup. A salesperson would describe Deskbar to you as an omnipresent, versatile search interface. In short, it is a way for you to find what you want without your fingers ever leaving the keyboard. Those who have used an Apple Macintosh would describe it as similar to Quicksilver.

Getting Deskbar

Deskbar is already available packaged in Debian Unstable, Ubuntu Dapper, Ubuntu Breezy (in Universe as a Backport, or an older version), Fedora Core 4 & 5 Extras, Mandriva Cooker and more. You can also get the latest tarball from GNOME FTP server and compile it yourself.

Once installed, you can add Deskbar to your panel by right clicking on the Panel, selecting Add To Panel… and selecting Deskbar. Deskbar has two display modes: either as a bar directly on the panel, similar to how the Command Line applet worked; or hidden behind a button, useful for vertical panels and panels with limited space.

What Deskbar Can Do For You

Deskbar can be instantly accessed from anywhere by pressing the keyboard shortcut [Alt]+[F3] (you can change this in the preferences if you like). It will then match terms as you type, displaying a list of items that match your query.

Deskbar can match and load history (items you’ve entered before), installed programs, bookmarks, disk drives, shared network places, web addresses, email addresses, files, folders, smart bookmarks, Beagle, Google (live) and much more.

For example, if I press [Alt]+[F3] and enter ‘net’. Deskbar will match several items from my GNOME menu, as well as the bookmark ‘UCS Netusage’. If I ask for more details, it will offer to execute the command `net` or define “net” using GNOME’s builtin dictionary. If you’re using GNOME in a language other than English, you can also search in that language, as well as in English.

A little known feature, if you want to execute a command and see its output, execute it with the keyboard shortcut [Alt]+[t], instead of Enter. This will capture the output of the command into a window.

The preferences dialog allows you to choose which search plugins you want to include when searching. You can drag and drop them to change the order items appear in the search. Some plugins offer more settings, these are made available through the “More…” button down the bottom.

Extending Deskbar

What makes Deskbar cool is how extensible it is. Like Deskbar itself, Deskbar plugins are written in Python. Already, third party extensions exist to allow users to search the PyGTK API, control music players, do simple calculations, search GMail and access del.icio.us.

To install a new Deskbar extension you only have to copy the file to your ~/.gnome2/deskbar-applet/handlers/ folder. Examples on extending Deskbar are given on the wiki.

Where We’re Going, There Are No Roads

The development of Deskbar did not stop with GNOME 2.14. Raphael Slinckx gave an overview of what he would like to see in Deskbar 2.16: bookmarkable search results, new extensions, an extension website you can download from directly, improve the speed of the Deskbar and of course, fix bugs. The Deskbar development team is gladly welcoming new ideas and new features, so feel free to connect to #deskbar irc.gnome.org and start contributing.

Discuss this story with other readers on the GNOME forums.

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Posted on April 21, 2006, in April 2006. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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