GNOME's Do are both
descendants of the Run tools that have been part of desktop environments
for years. However, instead of allowing you to enter a single command, both
Do and KRunner are rapidly evolving into full-scale application launchers
that rival main menus as a tool from which to control the desktop. Both
require practice to use well, but, their compactness on the screen may
appeal to intermediate to advanced users — especially those who
prefer keyboard shortcuts to using the mouse.
A new version of KRunner has just been released along with KDE 4.2, and
should be available soon in your distribution's repositories along with the
rest of the new version, although some distributions may not include it in
the default KDE installation.
By contrast, Do is less tightly integrated into its desktop's development
cycles, but version 0.8.0 of Do was released in late January. You can find
instructions on the Do project site. However, many of the distributions
listed do not yet have the latest version in their repositories, so, in
many cases, the best option is to compile the source code, after first
installing Mono support.
Like Do, KRunner opens in a small window. To use it, you press Alt+F2 to
start the program, then start typing. In response, KRunner displays a list
of programs that could complete your input, rather like tab completion in
the BASH shell, except in visual form.
In the simplest cases, what you type can be a command. On
this level, KRunner differs little from a Run command, aside from the fact
that you can tab to a selection or click it with the mouse.
However, two dozen plugins that are installed along with the basic program
extend KRunner's capabilities far beyond those of a Run command. Provided
that the calculator plugin is installed and enabled, you can enter basic
calculations in KRunner, using an asterisk (*) for a multiplication sign
and a forward slash (/) for division along with the plus and subtraction
signs. Similarly, you use KRunner to convert units of measurement, or to
open a web site for currency conversion. Other plugins allow you to open a
web search or to search bookmarks, contacts, recent
documents or your web browser history.
The one catch with many plugins is that you need to learn a simple syntax
in order to use them. For example, if you want to do a web search for "LWN"
using Google, you would enter "gg:LWN". In much the same way, if
you wanted to convert the average human body temperature from the
Fahrenheit to the Celsius scale, you would enter "98.8 F. in
C.". Fortunately, KRunner is well-documented, so you
should have little trouble learning the syntax for your favorite commands.
A small complication is that KRunner includes task-oriented and
command-oriented views. But apart from the positioning of suggestions, the
difference is chiefly what sort of completions KRunner offers. The main
advantage of the different views is that by carefully selecting them and
enabling or disabling plugins, you can make the completions more likely to
be the ones you want.
In addition to the two views, KRunner also offers a view of currently
running processes that you can use to kill misbehaving applications. Short
of a link to other system settings, KRunner could hardly be more of a
command center for desktop activities.
Do works in approximately the same way as KRunner, differing mostly in the
details. To invoke Do one generally uses the "Super + Space" (typically
Windows key along with space bar) combination. Like KRunner, Do works on
the most basic level by suggesting
completions for the shell command, binary, or task that you type. When the
completion you want appears, a Run button opens in a right-hand pane that
you can navigate to via the Tab key.
One of Do's main differences from KRunner is in some of the
plugins you can use.
As you would expect, Do uses
GNOME applications like Evolution and Rhythmbox to handle requests, while
KRunner uses KDE choices such as KMail or Amarok. Besides having thumbnail
file previews, Do is also noticeably more web-oriented than KRunner, with
plugins for blogging, RSS feeds, and Google Contacts. In fact, if you
choose, you can even use Do to write a tweet or short email.
The latest version of Do also includes support for themes. One of the most
useful of these themes is Docky, which
converts Do into a launchpad with configurable application icons, making it
more of a main menu replacement than ever.
Both KRunner and Do are convenient tools, and run almost as well under
other desktops as they do on their native ones. Both, too, amount to a
control center that is often more convenient than hunting down the
individual program in the sub-menus.
All the same, neither is a tool for a beginner. True, both support task
completions, so that you can, for instance, write an email without having
to remember what program is the default for emails on your desktop.
However, I suspect that most users are oriented to programs more than
tasks. Since neither of these programs offers a complete list of available
programs, new users may find either KRunner or Do hard to use.
traditional menu can be cumbersome, it does have the advantage of
displaying a complete list of possibilities. By comparison, in KRunner or
Do, you need to already know the possibilities. Otherwise, you can hardly
begin to enter one or search for it. And, to further complicate matters,
some users may not remember the necessary syntax to use certain plugins
unless they use the plugins constantly. This limitation affects both
KRunner or Do, although Do has a simpler interface.
But for more experienced users, after a brief learning period, programs
like KRunner or Do are probably more efficient than menus — not least
because you can use them while keeping both hands on the keyboard rather
than one straying to the mouse. You might compare the two programs to
learning touch-typing: Although neither is immediately accessible, the way
that a mouse and a menu are, once you are comfortable, both offer
significantly enhanced ease of use and efficiency.
to post comments)