What Is Idesk And What Does It Do?
Idesk is a clever and handy utility that can run in the background of
your Linux system. It takes little resource, about as much as a light
window manager like Fluxbox.
What it does is handle iconic buttons that launch applications. You can
define these buttons with simple parameter files, drag the buttons to any
place on your screen with a left-mouse click and drag, and launch an
application with a double click on a button.
I use the Debian Linux distribution.
To install idesk I used the apt-get utility.
apt-get install idesk
That's all there was to it. If you don't have idesk in your distribution,
you can get it here.
How Does Idesk Work?
At left you see an example of idesk in conjunction with Fluxbox. As
nice as Fluxbox is, it doesn't provide iconic button support for launching
applications. Many of the light weight window managers are like Fluxbox in that
But by using idesk I was able to place icons on my screen that
can be moved to any location or rearranged to any configuration. When moved,
the idesk utility saves the icon positions. So upon next boot up, my icons
will be where I left them.
This image shows the buttons near full-sized. As you can see, the icons are
a mix of standard Linux icons and some I created for my use.
I show the buttons in two columns, a common configuration for many
window managers that supply button support of their own. But with idesk,
each button stands alone, and can be placed anywhere you find convenient.
Each button can be sized individually if you wish. You can set the font color
for the font labels, and icons can be transparent to any degree you choose.
In fact, a number of parameters that control the look and action of the
icons can be set by editing the .ideskrc file that gets installed
when you install idesk. A detailed explanation of each parameter can be
found at Idesk Wiki.
In my installation, about the only things I changed from default was set
transparency to zero and to change the font color for the labels.
The .ideskrc file controls aspects of all buttons. Individual
buttons are each defined in their own definition file.
How Do You Make A Button?
The definition for all buttons exist in your home directory's
.idesktop directory. There you create a lnk file for each
button that you want to appear on your desktop. Each lnk file defines
the label for the button, the hint that shows when you mouse over a button,
the icon for the button, the size of the button, the initial location of the
button, and the action of the button.
Below is an example lnk file for my Gimp
table Icon |
CaptionTip: graphics program
The above definition is stored in a file named gimp.lnk in the
.idesktop directory in my home directory. The caption is the
label that shows on the screen beneath the button. The CaptionTip is
supposed to show when you mouse over the defined button, though with my version
the mouse over shows the caption instead. Double clicking on the button
launches the gimp program.
Every lnk file looks like this, with the specific values changed to
match up with the actual application. I often just copy one lnk file to
a new file to start a new button, then edit the new button file contents.
Whenever you define a new button, you can double click the middle mouse
button on any of your existing buttons to cause idesk to re-read the
lnk files in .idesktop. That will cause any new buttons to appear.
Likely, you'll have to move the new buttons to where you want, but that's
all there is to it.
Most window managers have some kind of startup file for auto-starting
applications. To get idesk to come up automatically, just enter it into
the startup file. Be sure to add the & symbol to the end of idesk if
that's the nomenclature for your window manager's startup file.