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Running NetBeans from the Ubuntu Unity application launcher

Posted by fabriziogiudici on November 10, 2010 at 1:11 PM PST

In one of my latest posts, I complained about Ubuntu not having a polished, customer oriented look and feel. While it doesn't necessarily hurt me (well, sometimes it does), for the parts where "good looking" overlaps usability I think it can be a problem for its widespread adoption. A commenter correctly pointed out that Windows has looked very bad for years, and still it got a huge spread, but that happened ten years ago - now, there's much more care in look and feels of computer-based appliances with a user interface.

In that post I was saying that this is one of the problems that should be addressed for 11.04. I really hadn't followed the blogs about Ubuntu in the past months. A few days ago I "discovered" Unity, a newly designed user interface. It actually is already the default user interface for the NetBook edition of Ubuntu, and it will be also the default one for the regular Ubuntu since 11.04. Right now, you can install it with sudo apt-get install ubuntu-netbook and pick it at the login window.

I understand it's still under development (for instance, there are a few customizations that can be applied from the user interface itself, without tweaking configuration files), but it's a very good step forward (some parts of the skin can still be configured with the proper "Appearance" tool - unfortunately the standard tool bars are in dark gray with a brownish tone that I hate, but in some way I suppose it can be tweaked). In addition to other features, it sports a toolbar for launching applications that somewhat resembles the one in Mac OS X (but it's vertical, and at present time doesn't auto-hide). It also sports a very good looking file browser, where cool animations are properly coupled to usability, à la Mac OS X.

Usually, to add an application to the launcher pad you just right click and select "Keep in launcher". Unfortunately, this doesn't work with NetBeans :-( also because the application is not properly identified (a "java.lang.Thread" appears as the application name). So, the following are the things you need to install NetBeans in the launcher bar:

  1. Create with your favourite text editor a file at $HOME/.gconf/desktop/unity/launcher/favorites/app-netbeans-6.9.1.desktop/%gconf.xml
    <?xml version="1.0"?>
    <gconf>
        <entry name="priority" mtime="1289421967" type="float" value="4"/>
        <entry name="desktop_file" mtime="1289252088" type="string">
            <stringvalue>/usr/share/applications/netbeans-6.9.1.desktop</stringvalue>
        </entry>
        <entry name="type" mtime="1289252088" type="string">
            <stringvalue>application</stringvalue>
        </entry>
    </gconf>
  2. Add the part in bold typeface to $HOME/.gconf/desktop/unity/launcher/favorites/%gconf.xml
    <?xml version="1.0"?>
    <gconf>
        <entry name="favorites_list" mtime="1289421971" type="list" ltype="string">
            <li type="string">
                <stringvalue>app-ubiquity.desktop</stringvalue>
            </li>
            ...
            <li type="string">
                <stringvalue>app-netbeans-6.9.1.desktop</stringvalue>
            </li>

        </entry>
    </gconf>

Of course, the timestamps can be different, the priority ("4") is the position where the icon will appear in the launcher toolbar, and make sure you're entering the correct path where the .desktop file for NetBeans has been installed. Now, just log out and log in again, and you should have the NetBeans icon ready to work.

PS It seems that there are a few bugs... If NetBeans is maximized (Unity by defauly launches all the applications in maximized mode, in a special way where the window header is "merged" with the status bar at the top of the screen), the client area of the window is completely blank :-( It resembles an old bug with Java and Linux X11... You have to de-maximize it. I understand that Unity at the moment is using a different screen manager than Compiz, but that Compiz should be back in 11.04 - I suppose the problem will disappear by that time.

PS2 As you can guess, I've resumed the work on my projects... it seems that the worse has passed and I'm feeling a bit more reactive.

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Comments

a "java.lang.Thread" appears as the application ...

a "java.lang.Thread" appears as the application name...

This also occures in gnome 3. Do you have any solution for it?

Thanks

Running NetBeans from the

Editing ~/.gconf files directly is HIGHLY HIGHLY discouraged. You risk loosing data, corrupt data etc. Use proper tools (gconftools-2, gconf-editor).

Running NetBeans from the

I've filed a RFE at http://netbeans.org/bugzilla/show_bug.cgi?id=191815 so the NetBeans installer is able to automatically configure the Unity launcher.