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The New Ubuntu Dock (First Look)

ubuntu 17.10 default dock settings

We reported last week that Ubuntu is creating a fork of Dash to Dock, the popular GNOME extension, for use on the Ubuntu 17.10 desktop — but we didn’t know a lot about it.

Well, we did some digging over the weekend and found the development branch of the fork, plainly titled “Ubuntu Dock”, which is going to be visible on the Ubuntu 17.10 desktop.

And, unsurprisingly, there are a few major differences from the standard upstream version of Dash to Dock.

Ubuntu has removed the settings UI in their Dash to Dock fork. The settings UI on the upstream extension lets you adjust the location, sizing, behaviour, look and enable or disable various additional functionality depending on your tastes.

Ubuntu has always championed shipping with ‘sane defaults’ so the removal of the settings section isn’t unexpected. That said, it does put most of the extension’s preferences out of easy reach.

The good news is that while these settings are harder to access they aren’t gone completely. As Ubuntu Dock is based on Dash to Dock it is possible to change settings in the fork using the dconf-editor tool.

Ubuntu say ‘a few settings’ will be accessible in GNOME Control Centre, including the option to enable “intellihide” and (one guesses) an option to move the dock position to the right or bottom of the screen.

‘Not trying to reproduce the Unity experience’

Ubuntu devs say they are not trying to “reproduce” the Unity experience with their Dash to Dock fork. Instead, they want to provide enough familiarity using it so that users can adapt from Unity easily.

The default settings for Ubuntu Dock include:

  • Full-height by default
  • Fixed width
  • Dock is 70% opaque
  • Uses Ubuntu coloured pips to denote running apps/windows
  • Reduced spacing between icons/launchers

Part of me did want to see the Ubuntu dev team make one additional change: moving the Applications button to the top of the launcher, à la the Unity BFB:

ubuntu dock screenshot with applications button at the top

Alas this won’t be happening. Ubuntu’s Didier Roche explains that “the app icon is different from the unity bfb” in terms of appearance and purpose. He adds that the close proximity of the Activities button might also cause confusion.

Summary

It’s still early days for this fork so don’t take everything you see above as gospel. It’s likely we’ll see a few additional tweaks between now and its arrival in Ubuntu 17.10 daily builds as user testing and feedback reveals areas for improvement.

If you’re interested in trying the new dock out on Ubuntu 17.10 daily builds you should have it in a few days. Otherwise, enable proposed updates, update, and then install the gnome-shell-extensions-ubuntu-dock package. Enable using GNOME Tweak Tool.