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The purpose of this tutorial
Cairo-Dock is fully themable, and you can really make your dock behave and look totaly different from any other dock. This ability has a drawback : there are a *lot* of options. This little tutorial doesn't have the ambition to describe all of the options (they are already described in the config panel with tooltips for most of them), but to guide you along the customization of your dock.
It also contains some useful tricks.

First Step
This tutorial is made for Cairo-Dock 2.1.x or later. If your version is older, it is strongly recommended to upgrade, because the dock improves itself at each new version.
To get the latest version, use our repository, or grab the packages on LaunchPad, or install from the sources. This is fully explained on our wiki (http://wiki.glx-dock.org).
Be sure to install the plug-ins too.

First time
The first time Cairo-Dock is launched, a default theme is applied. This is one theme amongst many others, it has been choosed partly by vote and partly because I liked it, so it's normal if it doesn't fit your taste !
Before you start customizing your dock, you should try the other themes available through the Theme Manager : right-click -> Cairo-dock -> Theme Manager.
Sort them by rating or sobriety according to your feelings, check the 2 little box at the bottom of the page, choose a theme, and apply. Quite easy.
Repeat the operation until you've found the theme that fits you the best.

Let's start with the Coz’s "Clear" theme as a starting base, for instance.


Coz's Clear Theme for Cairo-Dock

Switching and saving themes
A good habit is to save your current theme after you made some changes to it.
To save the current theme, open the Theme Manager, and go to the 2nd tab. There choose a name for your theme, and apply.

If you want to apply another theme on your dock, go to the 1st tab, choose a theme, and validate.
You can choose to apply the theme's behaviour and/or the theme's launchers, but you probably want to keep yours, so let the 2 boxes unthicked.

If you want to delete some themes you don't want anymore, go to the 3rd tab, and thick the unwanted themes, then validate, that will delete them.

A quick overview
To open the configuration panel, <right-click> on Cairo-Dock, go to the Cairo-Dock sub-menu, and choose Configure.
Several categories are proposed in the left margin. The one that concerns us is the 2nd one (named "Appearance").
But first, we’ll quickly go through the 1st category, that defines how your dock behaves.

Select the "Behavior" category; 4 modules are present :
  • The first one, Position, can be used to modify where the dock is placed on your screen (and on which screen for people using multi-screen with Xinerama).
  • The 2nd one, Accessibility, defines how you access your docks : whether your dock auto-hides itself, stays below other windows or on the opposite reserve space for itself, whether sub-docks popup on click or on mouse-over, etc.
  • The 3rd one, Taskbar, is quite interesting. Here you can toggle on/off the display of the current applications inside the dock. If you choose to activate it, several options are at your disposal, and allow the Taskbar to act either like MacOSX, Windows7, or a normal Gnome/KDE panel. One handy option is to close aplication on middle-click.
  • The last one, System, regroups all the options that you will probably never want to tweak.

Now select the "Appearance" category; a dizain of modules are present; they define the look of your dock.
  • The Background module lets you customize everything about the background of the docks : frame, background image, etc.
  • The Icons module is about the displaying of icons : icon theme, size, order, etc.
  • The Labels module lets you customize the way text is rendered above and on icons.
  • The Views module lets you change the way the dock and sub-docks are drawn : on a 3D plane, on a curve, on a parabole, etc.
  • The Dialogs module defines the appearance of the bubbles Cairo-Dock uses to notify you.
  • The Desklets module defines how applets are rendered when they are detached from the dock, and live on your desktop.
  • The Indicators module lets you personnalize all the indicators. These are graphics that are displayed to show something, like the where you can drop something inside the dock, which is the current active window, which launchers are launched, etc
  • The others are plug-ins that provide animations and special effects on your icons.

The Background
Enough talking, let's go !
First we'll setup the Background options.

  • You can choose to display an image in the background, or to fill it with a gradation of 2 colors.
In the case of an image, you can choose to fill the background by repeating or by stretching it.
  • If you're using the auto-hide, you can also set up an image to be displayed when the dock is hidden. When hidden, the dock displays a "callback zone", where you place your cursor to let the dock show up. Usually you will set up a wide and not high rectangular zone, so choose your image accordingly, as it will be stretched to fill it.
  • To complete this, we can configure the outline of the dock : roudness of the corners, thickness and color of the line, etc.


The previous Clear theme, with a different background color.

The Icons
Now, we will take care of the icons themselves.
  • At this point, it is nice to decide of a global icon look. You can find a lot of icon themes at gnome-look.org or other such sites. The dock lets you choose whether to use an icon theme for your icons, or whether to use your owns icons (they are located in ~/.cairo-dock/current_theme/icons; when you load a theme from the Theme Manager, this is where the theme places its custom icons). If you want to choose an icon theme, untick the option that says to use the local icons, and enter the name of an icon theme in the corresponding field (for instance, Human, Gartoon, Crystal, etc). If you just want to use the current icon theme, just let it blank.
An easy way to quickly alter the global look of your icons is also to add a background to each of them. It's done easily by filling the corresponding field with the path of an image.

Now let's take care of how the icons are rendered.
  • First we have the famous zoom effect; what you probably want to set up is the maximum zoom of the icons : 1.2 will give a light effect, when 2.0 will give a strong effect.
  • Then we have the reflection of the icons (for views that use it, like the 3D-plane or Curve views). If you want to reduce the height of your dock, a good way is to reduce the reflect height. Usually a medium value looks good.
  • You can also set up the size of icons by category. Here again, you can reduce the size of your dock with small icons. 48x48 is a common value.
  • Last, we can set up the order of icons by type, if you want for exemple to place applets on the left and applications on the right.
  • A little bonus feature is to draw a string that links all the icons. Just set its width to 0 if you don't want it.


Setting "Gartoon" as the icon theme changes all the icons at once, giving your dock a completely different feeling.

Note :
You can always change the icon for a single launcher, by right-click -> modify this launcher, and setting a complete path to an image. Same goes for applets.

Note 2 :
To change the icon for a running application, you first have to activate "Overwrite X icons with launchers" in the Taskbar module. Doing this will tell Cairo-Dock to ignore the somewhat crappy icons provided by X, and to search for a better icon. Now, let's say we have Nautilus running, and its corresponding icon in the dock. There is 2 cases :
      • There is a "Nautilus" launcher in the dock, then Cairo-Dock will just use the same icon for the application, and we're done.
      • There is no such launcher, then Cairo-Dock will search for an image named "nautilus.xxx", where "xxx" can be "svg", "png", "xpm", etc. There is a great chance that such an icon will be found in the icon theme we set up previously. If you want to use your own image, just place an image with this name in the local icons folder (~/.cairo-dock/current_theme/icons).

How to name the image ?
Each icon must have the same name as the *class* for the relevant application. The class of an application is most of the time equal to its name, but not always.
To find the class for an application, make sure it’s open, and then go to a terminal and type
xprop | grep WM_CLASS

This will bring up a little pointer, which you use to click on the relevant window. You'll get something like this in the terminal :
WM_CLASS(STRING) = "nautilus", "Nautilus"

To get Cairo-Dock to show the correct icon, your custom icons must be given the same name as the application class, so for example ‘nautilus.svg’ or ‘nautilus.png’.

Changing the way docks are rendered
Each dock can be rendered differently from the others. Changing the rendering of a dock will make it appear in a totally different way.
In the "Views" module, you can set the default rendering for docks and sub-docks.
For each sub-dock, you can modify its view (<right click>-> "modify this launcher", same goes for applets).


Switching to another view really changes the rendering of your dock. Here, the "Curve" view.

The icons' labels
The "Labels" module lets you configure the labels and quick-infos (Quick-infos are some small texts displayed on the icons to give short information, like the number of files in the Dustbin).
You can set up the font, size, color (a gradation), etc.
To make the text more readable, you may want to draw a background behind them. You can choose the color, transparency, and size of the text background.

The dialog bubbles
The dock interacts with you through dialog bubbles, that can display some message, warning, information, or even ask you question or any value. In the <b>Dialogs</b> module, you can configure their look : color and style of the bubble, font and size of the text, "ok" and "cancel" buttons, etc.
Several styles are available; they change the shape of the bubbles. For instance the "comics" one will make the bubbles look like carton bubbles, whereas the "tooltip" one will give a more classic shape.

The Desklets
Each applet can be detached from the dock and placed on your desktop. This module lets you choose a default decoration for all desklets. Each desklet can also be configured with its own decoration.
You can choose one of the available theme, or define your own (it's just a background and foreground image, with an horizontal and vertical adjustment).

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