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How to set up Cairo dock on the Linux desktop

Cairo Dock is a full-featured dock system for Linux. It has many more features than that of Plank and is an excellent choice for those looking for a sleek, fancy Mac-like dock experience on their Linux desktop. In this guide, we’ll go over how to install and set up Cairo Dock on Linux. We’ll also touch on which desktop environments go best with Cairo. Let’s get started!

Which desktop to use?

Generally, most Linux desktop environments will work well with Cairo Dock. However, if you plan on using it day to day, you should seriously consider switching away from what you currently use to either the Mate desktop or XFCE4. Why? Both of these environments allow the user to customize panels, delete them, and move them around.

Being able to move, delete, and customize panels is critical for Cairo dock, as it takes up a lot of space, and panel flexibility is a must.

Install Cairo dock on Linux

Before going over how to set up Cairo Dock on your Linux PC, we must demonstrate how to install the software. Open up a terminal window and follow along with the installation instructions that match the Linux OS you use.


On Ubuntu Linux, users looking to install Cairo Dock must first enable the “Universe” software repository. To do this, open up a terminal window by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T on the keyboard. Then, use the add-apt-repository command below.

sudo add-apt-repository universe

After enabling the “Universe” repo on your Ubuntu Linux PC, use the update command to refresh your software sources. Otherwise, Ubuntu will not be able to access Universe.

sudo apt update

Following setting up the “Universe” software repository on your system, use the Apt package manager to install Cairo dock.

sudo apt install cairo-dock


The Cairo Dock is available to Debian 10, 9, and 8 users through the “Main” software repository. To install it on your system, use the following Apt-get command.

sudo apt-get install cairo-dock

Arch Linux

On Arch Linux, Cairo Dock is installable via the “Community” software repository. If you do not have “Community” enabled, open up a terminal window by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T on the keyboard. Then, open up the Pacman configuration file with the command below.

sudo nano -w /etc/pacman.conf

Using the Down Arrow key on the keyboard, locate “Community” and remove the # symbol from in front of it. Be sure to also remove the # symbol from the lines directly below it.

Save the edits to the Pacman configuration file by pressing Ctrl + O, and exit Nano with Ctrl + X. Then, after enabling “Community” in the Pacman configuration file, re-sync Arch Linux’s software repos with the following command.

sudo pacman -Syy

Finally, install Cairo dock on Arch with:

sudo pacman -S cairo-dock


Cairo Dock is available to all Fedora Linux users in the primary software sources. To install it on your system, use the following Dnf command in a terminal window.

sudo dnf install cairo-dock


OpenSUSE Linux is the only mainstream Linux distribution that does not carry the Cairo Dock in its software sources. So, if you plan to use this dock on your SUSE system, you must rely on community software repositories.

To install Cairo via a community repository, open up a terminal by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T on the keyboard. Then, enter the commands below.


wget https://download.opensuse.org/repositories/home:/Herbster0815/openSUSE_Tumbleweed/x86_64/cairo-dock-3.4.1-1.80.x86_64.rpm
sudo zypper install cairo-dock-3.4.1-1.80.x86_64.rpm

Leap 15.1

wget https://download.opensuse.org/repositories/home:/Herbster0815/openSUSE_Leap_15.1/x86_64/cairo-dock-3.4.1-lp151.1.5.x86_64.rpm

sudo zypper install cairo-dock-3.4.1-1.80.x86_64.rpm

Leap 15.0

wget https://download.opensuse.org/repositories/home:/deltafox/openSUSE_Leap_15.0/x86_64/cairo-dock-3.4.1-lp150.2.1.x86_64.rpm
sudo zypper install cairo-dock-3.4.1-1.80.x86_64.rpm

Set up Cairo Dock auto-start

The Cairo Dock must be configured to run automatically at boot, or you will not get the best dock experience. To configure automatic-start, open up a terminal window by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T on the keyboard. Then, use the mkdir command to create a new “autostart” directory.

mkdir -p ~/.config/autostart/

After creating the new “autostart” directory, use the CP command to move the Cairo Dock shortcut file into it.

cp /usr/share/applications/cairo-dock.desktop

Once the shortcut file is in the “autostart” directory, you must update its permissions so that it will execute as a program. Using the chmod command, change the file’s permissions.

sudo chmod +x cairo-dock.desktop

With the Cairo Dock set up for autostart, it will launch every time you log into your Linux PC!

Configuring Cairo Dock

The default settings for Cairo Dock are pretty great. It’s got an application launcher, workspace switcher, and many other applets to make your life easier. If you like all of the default settings, feel free to start using the dock, as there’s nothing to configure. Otherwise, follow along below to tweak the dock so that it is more usable.

Remove application launcher

The application launcher is a nice touch. However, many users find it annoying if they plan to use the application launcher built into the desktop environment they’re currently using.

If you’d like to get rid of the application launcher, right-click on the application menu applet with the mouse. Then, select the “application menu” in the right-click menu to reveal it’s settings.

In the application menu settings, click the “remove” button to delete it from the dock.

Remove workspace switcher

Cairo Dock has a workspace switcher, but it’s not great. If you’d prefer to use the one built into your desktop environment, you’ll need to remove the Cairo one. To do this, find the Cairo Dock workspace switcher and right-click on it with the mouse.

In the right-click menu, find “Switcher” and select it to reveal its options. Then, choose the “remove” button to get rid of it.

Change other settings

Cairo Dock has dozens of settings. So many, that we can’t get into all of them in this article. Still, if you’d like to change the default settings, do the following.

First, right-click anywhere on the dock and select “Cairo” in the right-click menu. Then, in the right-click menu, select the “configure” button to access dock settings.

In the Cairo Dock settings, you’ll be able to fully customize everything about the dock, from its appearance to the applets on the dock, where it is positioned on the desktop and dozens of other settings.

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