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In support of open source launchers

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After many years of using traditional desktop environments like Gnome 2 and KDE and XFCE, I recently spent a few months with Ubuntu 13.04. Overall, my experience with the Unity desktop was fairly positive after I tweaked and configured it to my liking. Since then, I’m using a different non-Ubuntu based distribution, so I’m currently using Mate 1.6. Probably the feature that I most miss from Unity is the launcher. Frankly, I’m surprised that the Unity launcher was so useful and intuitive for me, since I have never been particularly fond of keyboard navigation. Although I still don’t use the keyboard much for window management or within the applications, now that I’m back on Mate I find myself really missing the convenience of searching and launching both apps and files from one unified interface with just a few keywords. With the online results all disabled, Unity’s launcher learns from the user’s habits and quickly becomes uncannily accurate at suggesting relevant local files and applications based on a few letters of input. It really did significantly add to my productivity. The only problem is that the Unity desktop environment, apart from its launcher, is not what everyone wants in a desktop. Additionally, despite a few efforts to port it to other distributions with varying degrees of success, Unity continues to be an option almost exclusively for Ubuntu based systems. So, what other options are available for users who want a launcher like Unity’s, but in a different desktop environment and/or distribution? That’s what I set to find out.

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