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How to start Empathy in hidden mode in Ubuntu? If you auto-start Empathy in hidden mode, you can not open the Contacts window, even though Empathy is running in the background.

Note, this was possible in previous versions of Ubuntu using empathy -h or empathy --start-hidden. (See Bug 1179180).

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Even if this was only applicable to a now-EoL release, it would have been wrong to close it, because 13.04 was on-topic when the question was originally asked. New questions about end-of-life releases are off-topic, but old questions don't become retroactively off-topic this way. – Eliah Kagan May 3 '15 at 14:16
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Here is a workaround for this problem...

Step 1

Install xdotool...

$ sudo apt-get install xdotool

Step 2

To start empathy in hidden mode just for yourself...

$ mkdir -p ~/.config/autostart
$ cp /usr/share/applications/empathy.desktop ~/.config/autostart
$ gedit ~/.config/autostart/empathy.desktop


To start empathy in hidden mode for all users...

$ cp /usr/share/applications/empathy.desktop /etc/xdg/autostart
$ sudo gedit /etc/xdg/autostart/empathy.desktop

Step 3

In section [Desktop Entry]




Exec=sh -c 'empathy & xdotool search --sync --onlyvisible --class "empathy" windowmove 25 25 windowunmap'

Finally, save your changes; log out and log back in. You will see the Empathy window "flash" for split-second and then it will disappear. Empathy will continue to run in the background, and you will be able to open the Empathy contacts window (from the unity indicator) whenever you want.

Note: If you don't like the command line, install xdotool using the Software Center. Then use the Startup Applications GUI from the Dash to to create a new launcher called "Empathy," and enter the following as the command: sh -c 'empathy & xdotool search --sync --onlyvisible --class "empathy" windowmove 25 25 windowunmap'.

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You can fix those code tags in your answer by putting an blank line before each one. – DaboRoss Jun 15 '13 at 1:11
Your workaround is FANTASTIC. I included the command in my custom startup script that also launches Skype and it works perfectly. :) – Andrea Lazzarotto Jul 11 '13 at 13:25
Andrea, Skype has a "Start Skype minimized in the system tray" option that works fine in Ubuntu, in case you didn't already know. – PJ Singh Aug 6 '13 at 22:08
Yes, I didn't mean that I also use xdotool for Skype, just that I launch both of them at the same time. :P Sorry for not being clear. ;) – Andrea Lazzarotto Oct 20 '13 at 18:15

If that workaround doesn't work try this in the Exec= line when you edit /etc/xdg/autostart/empathy.desktop (or /usr/share/applications/empathy.desktop):

sh -c 'empathy & sleep 5 && xdotool search --sync --onlyvisible --class "empathy" windowunmap'

This is similar but not the same:

  • It attempts to add a five-second pause between starting Empathy and sending simulated input to it with xdotool.
  • It also uses only the windowunmap action, rather than the preceding windowmove action which is less essential.
share|improve this answer
Good suggestion! – PJ Singh May 3 '15 at 15:09

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