March 21, 2008

Turn your launch bar into eye candy with wbar

Author: Federico Kereki

Would you like to add an animated scrollbar, such as gOS's iBar or the one on Mac OS X, to your Linux desktop? If you're looking for some eye candy but don't want a program that gobbles your RAM or CPU, then wbar is just the thing for you. This fast, small launch bar features cool effects and a modern look.

wbar contains icons that move around, grow in size, and jump up when you move your mouse over them. Clicking an icon invokes the appropriate program. The effects are hard to describe in words, so check them out for yourself.

wbar won't interfere with your standard menu bar and icons, so you can have both. It runs in all environments, including KDE, GNOME, and Xfce, and is released under the General Public License (GPL). Its current version, 1.3.3, was released in late September.

Installing and configuring wbar

You could probably install wbar with your distribution tools (I did it that way with openSUSE), but you can also easily install it from source. Get the latest version, download it to any directory, and then type in these commands:

tar xjf wbar-1.3.3.tbz2.tar.bz
cd wbar-1.3.3
make
sudo make install

The README file claims you can run make config to set up a personal configuration, but that doesn't work; see below. By default, wbar uses the same configuration file (/usr/share/wbar/dot.wbar) for everybody, but if you want a personal setup, copy that file to your home directory and rename it .wbar. You can edit that file by hand (follow the instructions in the README file that comes with wbar), but if you'd rather use a graphic configuration tool, download wbarconf, a setup program written in Python and GTK. Installation is trivial; just tar zxf wbarconf-theVersionYouDownloaded, then copy wbarconf/wbarconf.py to any directory you like.

To run wbarconf.py, you'll need Python (version 2.4, at least) and PyGTK (version 2.1 or later) installed. Run python wbarconf.py, and you'll get a screen showing all the programs in the bar. You can drag and drop or use the Up and Down command buttons to reorder the commands. Use the +Add command to include a new (initially empty) command, and -Remove to delete an existing one. On the top right part of the screen you can choose the font type, font size, and background image for the bar, and under that, you can pick the icon, title, and command for each option on the bar. Finish your work by clicking on Save; the next time you start wbar, it will use your options.

Running wbar

A shortcoming in wbar is that you cannot specify all its options in the configuration file; most of them must be specified at the command line. Running wbar --help lists all possible options, but it isn't particularly helpful. Explanations are terse, and you'll have to experiment a little to find out what parameter values suit you. Command-line options let you specify the position and orientation of the bar, whether to include text labels with bar icons, and icon size and display options.

If you want to run wbar automatically on login, edit a small command file as shown below, mark it as executable (chmod +x yourOwnCommand.sh), and place it in your home directory under .kde/Autostart/ if you're running KDE, or follow the appropriate instructions for other desktop environments or window managers.

#!/bin/bash
wbar -above-desk -p top-right -isize 40 -nanim 5 -bpress

According to wbar's author, wbar might try to show itself before the desktop is ready. If the bar comes up looking weird (with window decorations, for example), try adding a short wait, such as sleep 5, just prior to the wbar command in your file.

Conclusion

In the eyes of many people, the fancier the desktop, the better the operating system. Adding wbar to your box is a cheap (in both RAM and CPU terms) and easy way of getting a modern-looking launch bar.

Categories:

  • Tools & Utilities
  • Desktop Software