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About 1.5 years ago, I tried out Ubuntu 11.04. I remember the dash being a rather helpful tool and I like the equivalent features on both Windows 7 (via the Start-button) and the Mac OS.

When I press Alt + F2, it opens the app finder but this only gives me a little window that I do not understand how to use. If I type in Terminal or Writer, it shows neither the command terminal or LibreOffice Writer.

How can I get functionality similar to the dash?

An important edit, because 14.04 happened

Synapse still works on 14.04! :) Please go here and upvote this post (click here).

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I'd like to add that Alt + F3 is the solution I was looking for, however, Synapse is just as easy and good to use. – henry Jan 31 '13 at 17:21
@landroni The Ubuntu dash: Anyway, the question was solved nearly one year ago. – henry Jan 13 '14 at 8:48
Sure, but now there are two Xfce homegrown dash-like solutions (see my answer) that seem to me superior to the accepted answer. Thanks for the link. – landroni Jan 13 '14 at 12:58
up vote 10 down vote accepted

If you don't like the xfce-appfinder, you can replace it with another offering from the application store. synapse is a very capable example. Then assign the Alt+F2-shortcut to it.

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Synapse is a perfect alternative to dash, and for me its far more faster that Unity Dash. – Abhay Rana Jan 25 '13 at 11:16
@aquaherd Thank you, that was what I was looking for. Through my own googling I also found kupfer. But I'll try synapse first, sounds like a good alternative, like Capt.Nemo said. – henry Jan 25 '13 at 11:21
@aquaherd how do you make sure that synapse starts at startup? And where do you go to assign the shortcut to it? – George Stocker Mar 25 '13 at 15:29
Start synapse once per terminal or xfce-appfinder. On the top right corner, it will have a bulls-eye that has a drop-down menu. Configure it from there. – aquaherd Mar 25 '13 at 16:40

To access the Xfce4 Terminal from the Alt+F2 screen, one has to type


and then click the Execute button. See how over here: (but note that typing Xfce Terminal as mentioned in the link may not work whereas xfce-terminal will).

xfce doc

To know more about the two modes of the Alt+F2 screen, take a look at

As far as Writer is concerned, my guess is that you'll have to type

libreoffice3.6 --writer


libreoffice --writer
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Thanks, that'll help with understanding the XFCE a bit more, I didn't know about the getting started page. – henry Jan 25 '13 at 10:42
@vasa1 The default command to open an xfce terminal is xfce4-terminal, not "Xfce Terminal" – Kevin Bowen Jan 28 '13 at 1:54
Thank you. I'll edit my answer. My source is the wiki I linked to. (I moved form Xfce to Lubuntu a few months ago.) If someone has editing privileges there, there are quite a few things that could be fixed. – user25656 Jan 28 '13 at 2:19

I guess your best bet is to use any of the following two recentish plug-ins:

  • xfce4-whiskermenu: "Whisker Menu is an alternate application launcher for Xfce. [..] You can browse through all of your installed applications by clicking on the category buttons on the side. [..] Additionally, Whisker Menu keeps a list of the last ten applications that you’ve launched from it. [..] If you’re not sure exactly where a program is listed, instead of browsing through each category you can simply enter a search term. The search field is focused when opening the menu, so you can just start typing."

    To me this plug-in recalls the Windows 7-style Start button. There are several PPAs (including this PPA) that provide it for easy installation.

    Whisker Menu

  • xfdashboard: "Maybe a Gnome shell like dashboard for Xfce"

    It comes with extensive documentation and screenshots.


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I had the same question; and the xubuntu devel mailing list recommended to turn to the "kupfer" launcher.

Synapse is no longer actively maintained; therefore you will not find it in the official repositories any more.

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It's actually available for 14.04:… :) Fwiw, one piece of anecdotal evidence: I myself use it and it works like a charm in 14.04 and have posted exactly this in said thread. – henry Jun 25 '14 at 7:23

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