Installing and Setting Up Avant Window Navigator

This guest article was written by Vivek Kumar from, a blog focused on technology news, tricks and tips and Linux tutorials.

Today we are going to see how you can make Ubuntu much more user friendly and add eye candy. We are going to give Ubuntu a Mac OSX like dock and configure it to add applets and launchers to launch applications of your choice. I have done this in Ubuntu 8.10 but I am sure it should work in previous versions as well. The software that brings the Mac OSX like dock to your Ubuntu is called Avant Window Navigator (AWN). Before starting let’s see the official description of AWN:

Avant Window Navigator (Awn) is a dock-like bar which sits at the bottom of the screen. It has support for launchers, task lists, and third party applets.

Installing AWN

We will try to avoid using terminal as much as possible. So let’s get started! To begin with launch your Synaptic Package Manager by going to System->Administration->Synaptic Package Manager.

Enter your admin password and type in the search box avant-window-navigator. Mark the package for installation that says avant-window-navigator; you’ll be prompted to mark some other packages as well (because they are dependencies required for AWN). Also, we are going to install the extra packages mentioned below:

That’s pretty much it. Now just click Apply and make sure you are connected to the Internet because some files will need to be downloaded in order to install AWN. Depending on your Internet connection speed it might take a few minutes. Once you have installed all the packages close the Synaptic window.

Launching AWN and adding Applets

Now for the fun part, you can start AWN by going to Applications->Accessories->Avant Window Navigator.

Once you start it, at the bottom of your screen you’ll see something like this (if you don’t have other applications running):
AWN first run

This is quite boring. We are going to pimp this not-so-good-looking dock by tweaking a few things. First off all we are going to add a few applets. You can click the dock awn-manager icon that you see in the image above to start managing how your dock should look. Most of the general setting are self explanatory. Also you can add any of the available applets to your dock.

As of now my AWN looks like this:
plain AWN

I have added terminal, weather, cairo main menu and places applets to my AWN.

Changing the bar appearance to 3D

The default bar appearance in AWN is flat, as can be seen in the image above. However, you can add a lot of eye candy by enabling the 3D look. All you have to do in the awn-manager is go to General and select the tab that says Bar Appearance. In the Look drop down box select 3D look (default is Flat Bar). It’ll look something like this:

Adding Launchers in AWN

Let’s try adding Firefox as one of the application launchers. In awn-manager select Launchers and click on Add and fill up the details as follows in the launcher editor window:

You can also change the icon of the launcher (in this case Firefox) to the one that you want by clicking the icon in the left in the launcher editor window and navigating to the location of the icon file. Once you have added the launcher, in order for it to appear, you’ll have to restart AWN.

Skinning AWN

Finally all we have to do is change the theme of AWN to make it a little more jazzy. You can search on Google to find themes for AWN or you can go and download some from here. Download the theme that you like and save it. Now in awn-manager click Themes, click Add. Then add the theme by navigating to the location and click Apply.

managing AWN themes

I am sure by playing a little more and changing a few settings you’ll be able to make the look of AWN compliment your desktop. Here is how AWN looks on my Ubuntu 8.10:
fully-customized AWN

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Archived Comments

Scott Wegner

Awn is a very nice addition to the desktop. In conjunction with Gnome-Do and Screenlets/Conky, it almost eliminates need for any boring gnome-panels (I say almost because I haven’t found a replacement for the notification area yet.)

I don’t think the article mentioned it, but make sure you are running Compiz if you would like to use Awn.


Nice article!
However did anyone notice the temperature? 70 degrees!!
Where does he live? Sahara desert?
Tom how to write guest posts for
Although generally I write mostly about “7 Reasons Why KDE Sucks!” kinds of posts. Although Lifehacker selected one of my article about GIMP Tricks.
Plz reply!!!


hi Tom, nice article. I just curious about your icon. Your icons are so… nice to see. Is it a themes or seperate icon set ? Can you make an article about that ? Thanks

Brett Howard

Personally I prefer Kiba-Dock. Granted you have to build it from source off of the SVN but I think its well worth it.


and to make a curve version, do this trick:


I’ve added a contribute page for anyone else interested in guest posting:


This is a good tutorial. I am currently using AWN but keep it entirely empty of launchers - I only use it to keep track of programs I have open. I find it much faster to use Gnome-Do to open programs.

Charles Peng

Thanks for your great guide. It’s so helpful for me.


Tom : Awesome. I love AWN it’s a real productivity booster on a minimal desktop and it looks the business (everyone seems to more focused on looks than usefulness nowadays).

Scott Wegner : If you’re running Intrepid try stalonetray or trayer. They’re both in the Universe repos and may be what you’re looking for.



thats fahrenheit ^^

in celsius u got 21 degrees ;)


What is this obsession with docks? I think any dock that is bolted on as a third-party addon is shit. Especially all the docks available for Linux are crap. Why this need to emulate something from another OS?

The dock in OSX works great, but it’s heavily integrated with the OS. This will never happen with Gnome or KDE since there’s no specs or intentions of adding a dock to them.

So please, can we stop with all the “add your dock to Ubuntu”-nonsense articles already.


how does it compare to cairo dock?


Great post. But please use apt: links, they make lazy people happy!


Apt links added.


Tom, nice article. and I try it myself, BUT why when I am login, there is a square white / gray box in the left top of my screen, it is annoying. how to get rid it of ?? Thank


Great post,

I’ve been using AWN for quite a while. I like it so much that I disabled Gnome Panel from starting at boot.

However, after installing Intrepid the Gnome Panel is back and I can’t find a way to stop it. Does anyone know a way to stop Gnome Panel from starting? I believe I disabled it in Sessions last-time, but it looks like the Sessions screen has changed since the last version of Ubuntu.

Gary Caldwell


I find your Linix blog to be the best and easiest to follow that I have found so far. Your explanations are clear and easy to follow even for a relative newbie to Linux (2 years).

I am running Ubuntu 8.10 (upgraded from 8.04 based on your instructions) and today I added the AWN dock. I am running my Linux under VMWAre 6.5 and I couldn’t get AWN to activate or work until I activated the Metacity functionality (per your instructions). It is working fine now.

Keep going for those of us who are not totally Linux proficient.


I’m using Ubuntu 8.04 and when I click on the applets links (for python and C) and error is raised and if I try to find them in Synaptic it said the packages don’t found

Any idea?


J. Cohen


I’ve been following your blog since my very first Ubuntu install…maybe two years ago? Anyway, I happen to find all of your information relevant and extremely helpful to most Ubuntu users, n00bs and expert users alike!

I have been scouring the forums since the Ibex release to look for info on AWN-Curves in 8.10, and I cant believe I didn’t even come here to check! This is by FAR my favorite post! Thanks a million Tom, keep up all the great work! (wow..2 years of reading this blog and my first post! yay!)



i used to use AWN… it gets the job done… but i just switched to cairo-dock a few weeks ago… its a lot more customizable… and looks bettter… imo
but AWN is no joke by any means!


How about a quick blurb about putting it in the startup?


Firefox launcher:
Vivek, Great article! I have one question. I created a firefox launcher on the Awn dock, but the icon is generic. You state in your article that you can change the icon, which I see is easy to do, but where is the Firefox icon located natively?

Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala

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