Simple Fix On Dash Hiccups In Ubuntu Unity

On two of my Ubuntu 11.04 installs – on my notebook and the other for my desktop – Dash defaults to full screen mode. I guess it has something to do with the size of my monitors and Ubuntu automatically determines what is best for my screen. My notebook has a 14″ screen, while my almost 3-year old desktop has a 17″ Viewsonic.. . quite small by today’s standards.

Dash, by the way, is the default main menu for the Unity desktop. This is the counterpart to Kicker (I fancied this one way back when I was still using Suse/OpenSuse), MintMenu, or the traditional Gnome 2 main menus, but Dash comes with a twist. To invoke Dash you can either (1) tap the Windows key – yeah ironic isn’t it? – or, (2) click the Ubuntu logo located at the top-left part of the destkop. Dash drops down from the top of the screen (something has to be done with the drop animation of the menu because I find it lacking).

Below is a screenshot of Dash in full screen mode.

For some reason when I type a few words to look for an app in the Dash search bar it lags. It pauses for like a few seconds – hiccups – before the letters I’ve typed reflects on the search bar. Not very smooth. This does not happen on my desktop although it is quite old compared to my fairly new notebook – sporting a 2nd generation Intel i5 processor. On my desktop I type the words and each letter I key in is reflected on the search bar in real-time while matching apps appear below.

Perhaps it has something to do with the graphics driver. Unfortunately, I am only using the integrated Intel video chip on my notebook. Radeon is not being used so I blacklisted it to prevent from loading on boot. Dual GPU is still a work-in-progress on Linux and I’ll experiment with the Kernel switcheroo later, which is working for a lot of people on certain hardware but it is not user-friendly.

Going back, I thought of changing Dash from its full screen mode to its “normal” look like the one below, without the slightest intention of improving the lag. My purpose was try that look as I have seen from several screenshots of other people’s Unity desktop. I was greeted with a nice surprise afterwards!

To modify Dash from not showing in full screen, run gnome-terminal and enter the following command:

gsettings set com.canonical.Unity form-factor Desktop

This made Dash more responsive. I can now type anything on the search bar without the hiccup that Dash was manifesting when in full screen. You do not have to do this every time you login. It will stay the same on subsequent boots.

Additionally you can disable the blur effect on Dash to improve responsiveness. Launch CompizConfig Settings Manager (CCSM). You can find it under CCSM > Ubuntu Unity Plugin > Experimental > Dash Blur. Select the No Blur option. If you do not have CCSM you can install it via the Ubuntu Software Center.

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Notice: This article was published on August 23, 2011 and the content above may be out of date.