The Ubuntu Heads-Up Display (HUD) - you love it or you hate it. Personally I rather like a classic desktop, so I use Xfce or GNOME-fork Cinnamon, and I'd like to keep those menu's where they are.

But the HUD is pretty awesome when your menus are complex and you forgot where an option sits. This makes that search trick very interesting.

I know the HUD is Unity specific. I am looking for a HUD-like tool to complement the menu in shells other than Unity.

There is Appmenu Runner for KDE that does this. There is also appmenu-qt for KDE.

Problem with the above is that it uses KDE libs, and it only works for KDE apps.

This is Linux, there aught to be something like this for GNOME/GTK apps, right?

Looking for any tool that can search the menus. I already use(d) Synapse, Kupfer and GNOME Do, but those are simply app-launchers (with some tricks). Something like that would suffice if only they included searching the menus for the currently focused application.

The HUD allows users to activate menu items by typing part of the name. It uses a fuzzy search algorithm that will highlight partial matches. It can match menu items that are multiple layers deep in an application's menu hierarchy. The feature, which replaces traditional menu accelerators, is activated by pressing the alt key.

Similar questions:

  • 7
    +1 I'd like to see something similar to the HUD for other GTK based Desktops, but not in the in-your-face kind of way as it is now, and such a thing that worked as a plugin for Synapse, Kupfer and Gnome do would be awesome. May 17, 2012 at 22:40
  • 5
    It should be possible to build a desktop-independent app for the HUD. It runs as a DBus service on Ubuntu, so someone "just" needs to write a nice UI to query it.
    – James
    Jun 9, 2012 at 3:25
  • 4
    So maybe a Gnome-Do plugin querying the DBus service would be an interesting goal for some developer. :)
    – Redsandro
    Jun 11, 2012 at 20:53
  • I am really searching to find an answer to this, as the HUD is the most powerful tool I have seen in Unity, so I would like an answer for this as well. I have reached the same conclusions, through searches as you. Did you also try lfhck? I see a similar post there. Jeez dude you tried everywhere didn't you? See almost exact posts all over for this. I am thinking that you hit a wall. I'll try to hit a deep search on this one.
    – No Time
    Apr 18, 2014 at 5:14

5 Answers 5


I prefer Synapse over Gnome-Do.

It seems that there is some discussion about bringing this feature to Synapse.

  • 2
    However there seems to be not much progress with this feature
    – student
    Feb 5, 2014 at 17:40
  • 1
    Alike the response from Landroni hereunder, this response is not about an HUD equivalent in Gnome. Synapse of Gnome-Do are application/files finders (Dash equivalent) but do not allow to find command within a running application.
    – vmalep
    Mar 29, 2017 at 2:21

There's qmenu_hud: https://github.com/tetzank/qmenu_hud

It just retrieves the menu entries over dbus and displays them in dmenu.

You still have to get your applications, or rather the toolkit they are using, to export their menu entries to dbus. This is easily done with appmenu-qt for KDE and Qt applications. I'm not sure but i think you need a patched version of gtk to get appmenu enabled there. I guess Ubuntu ships patched gtk packages by default for Unity.


Have a look at Plotinus. It is shell independent, but it works only with applications that use the GTK+ 3 toolkit. (I hope that will satisfy.)

enter image description here

From the github README:

Have you used Sublime Text's or Atom's "Command Palette"? It's a list of everything those editors can do that opens at the press of a key and finds the action you are looking for just by typing a few letters...

Plotinus brings that power to every application on your system (that is, to those that use the GTK+ 3 toolkit). It automatically extracts all available commands by introspecting a running application, instantly adapting to UI changes and showing only relevant actions...

Just press Ctrl+Shift+P (configurable) and you're in business...

About shell-dependent solutions

I realize the OP asked about sell-independent solutions, but for thoroughness, let me say:

  1. howtogeek said (2017-10-29) "With the switch to the GNOME Shell environment, nothing like the HUD is available, even as an extension."
  2. There actually is a gnome shell extension for the HUD. Update: here is the current version. (The old version's recent reviews are negative, and some of the positive reviews point out that it doesn't work in Ubuntu 17.10.)
  3. Mate (desktop environment) offers a HUD: "A favourite of Unity 7 users is the Heads-Up Display (HUD) which provides a way to search for and run menu-bar commands without your fingers ever leaving the keyboard."

I would recommend:

  • Awesome-wm
  • Conky

See Conky HUD to see how you can "use awesome to turn Conky into a heads-up display (HUD) of sorts". (Although I'm not sure that this answers the original question.)

Also have a look here: http://www.tuxradar.com/content/best-linux-desktop-search-tools

  • 4
    Some instructions on how to duplicate the HUD's functionality would certainly be helpful. Also, the link only appears to include utilities for searching files instead of menus. Oct 26, 2012 at 20:27
  • 1
    Is it possible to get the list of commands from conky using a command-line interface? Nov 13, 2012 at 17:40

The following two applications are nominally part of Xfce, but can readily be used in the DE of your choice.

The panel plug-in solution below, however, is not desktop-independent and requires the use of xfce4-panel. But since you are using Xfce and are looking for similar functionality in the Gtk world, the following could help.

  • xfce4-whiskermenu: "Whisker Menu is an alternate application launcher for Xfce. [..] 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."

    Whisker Menu

In addition, check How can I have a dash-like search under Xfce? for a similar question with relevant answers.

  • 3
    The question is not about how to find and start applications but how to access the menu bar entries of a given application using the keyboard like in HUD.
    – student
    Feb 5, 2014 at 14:49
  • Then please rephrase the original question to make it clear. As it is, it is not. Basically, what is HUD?
    – landroni
    Feb 5, 2014 at 16:21
  • 4
    HUD – Heads UP Display – uses an intelligent search-based approach to finding and accessing menu items you need. It’s smart too; HUD is capable of remembering what items you use most often and prioritising them in the results. Here is a video showing this feature in the example of gimp. Here is an overview: omgubuntu.co.uk/2012/01/hud-new-unity-feature Now we want something like this which is not tied to unity, which you can use in gnome or other window managers.
    – student
    Feb 5, 2014 at 17:36
  • Until unity 2d was dropped this was possible even with HUD itself (askubuntu.com/questions/202117/xmonad-with-unity-hud)
    – student
    Feb 5, 2014 at 17:39
  • 1
    Wouldn't this not be a bit impolite since it is not my own question? If not I will do it.
    – student
    Feb 5, 2014 at 17:47

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