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).

Update 2019-09-13

I strongly suggest to use Albert: https://albertlauncher.github.io :)

  • 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, 2013 at 17:21
  • @landroni The Ubuntu dash: help.ubuntu.com/13.10/ubuntu-help/unity-dash-intro.html Anyway, the question was solved nearly one year ago.
    – henry
    Jan 13, 2014 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, 2014 at 12:58

4 Answers 4


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.

  • 1
    Synapse is a perfect alternative to dash, and for me its far more faster that Unity Dash.
    – Nemo
    Jan 25, 2013 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, 2013 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? Mar 25, 2013 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, 2013 at 16:40
  • Synapse has the ability to search files and folders too. By just typing it searches Zeitgeist database (already accessed files) and some related to them (with specific plugins enabled in its Properties section). At the end of search list there is an option which can be selected in order to do a locate search. More here
    – cipricus
    Oct 15, 2019 at 7:08

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.


  • What WhiskerMenu lacks compared to Dash/Krun/Synapse is file search. But it supports new "search actions" in its properties. Thus, Catfish can be added for file search (command to add is catfish --start %s) with a "pattern" (some character, e.g. f) typed before search in WhiskerMenu. More here.
    – cipricus
    Oct 15, 2019 at 7:13

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


and then click the Execute button. See how over here: http://docs.xfce.org/apps/terminal/getting-started (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 http://docs.xfce.org/xfce/xfce4-appfinder/usage.

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

libreoffice3.6 --writer


libreoffice --writer
  • Thanks, that'll help with understanding the XFCE a bit more, I didn't know about the getting started page.
    – henry
    Jan 25, 2013 at 10:42
  • 1
    @vasa1 The default command to open an xfce terminal is xfce4-terminal, not "Xfce Terminal" Jan 28, 2013 at 1:54
  • 1
    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, 2013 at 2:19

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.

  • It's actually available for 14.04: askubuntu.com/questions/449285/… :) 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, 2014 at 7:23
  • Synapse is still alive, lightest and very responsive, can be run with just Super key, can find applications, folders, files and open them, run commands etc
    – cipricus
    Mar 24, 2020 at 7:39

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