I tried the unity interface on my netbook and I felt it is not as good as Gnome for a small screen. I want to know how ubuntu users can customize various Gnome desktop features to suite or to make best use of a netbook screen. For example I have deleted the bottom panel, and brought the top panel below, and have made it auto-hide. Also I have made the text size smaller everywhere.

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I have also customised Firefox like so:

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I have got rid of status bar, menu bar so on. I feel that the title bar on many applications is not so much useful. So can it be removed, as it is done in google chrome. In opera and chrome the tab bar is very thick, so I am looking for a way to reduce the size. Please post solutions to make optimal use of the netbook screen.

  • 2
    Not precisely answering what you asked, but have you considered the Ubuntu distro specifically designed for netbooks? ubuntu.com/netbook
    – EmmyS
    Nov 18 '10 at 17:56
  • 1
    @EmmyS: That's the Unity interface he mentions in his first sentence.
    – Bobby
    Nov 18 '10 at 19:38
  • Unity can be installed on the desktop version as well; I wasn't sure if it was exactly the same as what came bundled with the netbook edition.
    – EmmyS
    Nov 18 '10 at 20:42
  • that will be the case in 11.04 (different form factors).
    – RolandiXor
    Nov 18 '10 at 21:19

There are several optimisations you can make to preserve screen space on small screens. Having only 1 GNOME panel is definitely an improvement.

Global Menu Bar

You can customise your GNOME panel to contain the menu bar for all application windows (except those that don't work with it - the main ones are Firefox and Open Office). Obviously this makes much more sense if the GNOME panel is at the top.

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To enable this, install the package: indicator-applet-appmenu. Once installed, right click the panel and click 'Add to Panel...' and choose the 'Indicator Applet Appmenu'. One caveat with this is that applications with huge menu bars (such as GIMP) may not fit on the panel at low resolutions.

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Maximus is software that automatically maximises windows and removes their title bar when maximised. It was designed specifically for netbooks and used to be part of the Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

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To test it, you can press Alt+F2 then enter maximus. To use it permanently, you will probably prefer to add it to the startup applications (System->Preferences->Startup Applications).

If you ever want to un-maximise a window, you can't use the normal window buttons but you can still use Alt+click+drag down. The window border will then be re-added to the window.

You can get a similar effect by configuring compiz so that window decorations disappear when you maximise a window. This is good if you don't want windows to maximise automatically but want to save space once they are maximised.

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Docky is a launcher and dock.

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Its main advantage in terms of saving screen space is its Intellihide/Window Dodge feature. I find this much better than the autohide of the GNOME panel because it seems that it shows at the right times more. Docky also reduces space by using icons instead of names for windows and grouping windows by application. These are the settings I use:

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These settings can be accessed by clicking the Docky anchor icon, then clicking on the dock to configure. Docky requires compositing to run. If your netbook can't run compiz, enable compositing in Metacity.

Window Selector

Window selector is a panel applet that shows all your windows in a menu. This can save a lot of space if it is used instead of a window list at the expense of requiring an extra click.

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As far as I know, this applet is installed by default. You can enable it in the usual manner.

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I personally use the all of these to make best use of my smallish (13.3") screen. I have 1 panel, which I keep at the top.


If I've understood correctly what you ask you could get a docky bar (installing gnome-do) and try to use it as your only bar tweaking it badly for your needs :)


It could be maybe even better, if you feel like experimenting something different from Gnome to use Fluxbox! Normally it's quite hard (but challenging and satisfying too) to configure and customize but a great customization "ready to use" of this windows system (always in the ubuntu flavour) has been made by the guys at Linux Mint. Download Linux Mint Fluxbox and try its super light and minimal look.

No menu no fuss no nothing: everything under your right click.

I really love it on my netbook :)


Personally, I've found that Gnome Shell is far superior to a panel combination involving Docky. I run a somewhat older Acer Aspire One, and have found that Docky slows things down somewhat.

Gnome Shell is fast, easy to learn, and provides excellent space management for Netbooks. I've gone through KDE 4 netbook edition, all kinds of Gnome 2 adjustments (Docky, cairo-dock, UNR 10.04, Unity), and even tried Xfce for extra speed. So far Gnome Shell leads the pack, in my estimation.

Here's a link for further info: http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2010/11/install-vanilla-gnome-3-in-maverick/

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