Install Avant Window Navigator (AWN) in Ubuntu Linux

February 18, 2008
AWN - short for Avant Window Navigator is a dock like bar which sits at the bottom of the screen. It provides similar effects as the Dock in Mac OSX Leopard. The AWN project consists of three main parts namely
  1. The Dock
  2. AWN window navigator and
  3. The shared library 'libawn' which is used to develop applets which enhance the functionality of AWN. The applets can be coded in either 'C' or 'Python' language.
Pre-requisites for installing AWN
To install AWN on your Linux machine, it has to meet certain conditions. Them being -
  • Xgl or AIGLX installed - in short your computer should be capable of compositing support. This mostly means if you have an Nvidia or ATI video card, you should download and install the proprietary drivers.
  • A compositing manager installed. A few examples of compositing managers are Beryl/Compiz/Compiz Fusion, Cairo, Xfce, Metacity, xcompmgr and so on.
    In Ubuntu you can enable compositing manager by clicking System>Preferences> Appearance and then enabling Visual effects from the 'Visual Effects' tab in the Appearance dialog.

Ubuntu Appearance dialogFig: Enable Visual effects

In Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon, the installation of AWN is a two step process. First you have to enable the backports repository which contain the necessary binaries of avant window navigator and related files.

This is done by clicking System>Administration>Software sources on the GNOME panel.

Fig: Click on the Software Sources Menu

It opens the "Software sources" dialog box.

In that click the 'Updates' tab and enable the gutsy-backports option as shown in the figure below :

Fig: Enable gutsy-backports in the Updates tab

Next fire up a terminal and update and install the AWN packages as follows :
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install avant-window-navigator awn-manager
awn-manager is a GUI tool which allows you to make changes to the look and feel of the AWN dock as well as install and manage applets and themes.

Fig: Avant Window Navigator close-up view

Now that you have installed Avant Window Manager, it is time to take it for a test drive. To start AWN, click GNOME menu Applications>Accessories>Avant Window Navigator.

Fig: Avant Window Manager menu

Fig: Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon desktop running AWN
A few AWN tips
  • To add applications to the AWN dock, just drag and drop icons from the Applications menu or from Nautilus (/usr/share/applications).
  • You can right click on the AWN dock and select properties to open the 'Avant Window Manager' dialog where you can change the look and feel of the dock and add additional applets.
Finally we Linux users have our very own dock similar to the dock seen in Mac OSX Leopard. While the AWN project is still a work in progress, there are a lot of applets available from the ubiquitous clock to the GMail checker which brings visual joy to the user's desktop. To know about these applets, read the following article.


  • ell

    cairo is a compositor? ;)

  • Andrew

    Anyone who doesn't have an xgl enabled graphics card (like me for some reason..) can use wbar, it is not as user frindly but very similar (as a dock).

    You can download a deb for it here -

  • @ell
    Cairo is a composite manager.

    Check it out. :-)

  • Mark

    A couple of points and clarifications:

    @ell, Frank:
    To be clear, Cairo Compositing Manager is a compositing manager that uses cairo (note the lower case "c") the graphics library for rendering.

    Non-compositing support for Awn is slated to be added in the next stable version (0.4).

    As of 0.2.4, applets can be written in Vala, too :)

    Also, calling our "Avant Window Manager" is technically incorrect. We usually just say "awn-manager" or "Awn Manager".

    Can we use some of your screenshots in our wiki installation guide? In particular, the "Software Sources"-related ones.

    I look forward to reading your post on Awn Extras :)

    Thanks for promoting Awn!

    -Mark Lee (malept), Awn/Awn Extras developer

  • Ravi

    Thanks for clarifying the finer points. :-).

    Can we use some of your screenshots in our wiki installation guide? In particular, the "Software Sources"-related ones.

    You may freely use them in your wiki installation guide. But do provide a link back to this article from your guide.

    When you install Awn using the method described above, it installs the "Avant Window Manager" as seen in the GNOME menu which is why I described it as such.

    The post on AWN extras is up. :-)

  • Hi, I switched to linux last night (after being a windows user for, at least, 13 or 14 years -since windows 3.11!). I am not familiar with the command line and that's what, as a user, had put me off from switching so far. Well, I finally made the leap.

    Today, I was trying to figure out how to install Avant Windows Navigator and came across your blog. I just wanted to say THANK YOU! Now you know you helped a total noob in her first steps. Your tutorial was detailed, clear and made my day.

    As a user, I thought you might want to know you made a difference :-)

  • Jacob

    This is so cool, but how do i get it to Run on start up?

  • Mark

    In reply to this comment:
    > This is so cool, but how do i get
    > it to Run on start up?


    You can find this information and more at our wiki:

    FAQ: How can I make AWN run when my desktop starts up?

    -malept (Awn/Awn Extras Developer)

  • Dadra

    Can you tell me how to uninstall awn manager? I tried to find for this on internet but they ask to delete awn manager folder from home folder, but there is no folder for awn manager in my home folder.Then I tried the script given but it does not work.