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I am looking for a Linux DE (or DE + dock/panel combo) that allows me to use keyboard shortcuts to launch a program or switch focus to the program if it is already running. I would also like to run webapps (such as Gmail and Google Keep) as standalone programs with their own keyboard shortcuts instead of them being grouped under the same browser window icon in the panel/dock.

Essentially, the behaviour I am describing is the default for the panels in Unity and Windows7+, but I am struggling to find one that I can install on Arch (I am currently not successful in installing Unity in Arch).

So far, I have tried KDE (plasma 5), Gnome, and XFCE in a combination with the docks Plank, Docky, and DockX, but none of these is able to recapitulate the desired behavior. In brief:

  • KDE panel: Groups webapps together with the browser. Keyboard shortcuts always launch new windows instead of switching focus to already running ones.
  • Gnome and XFCE panels: Webapps act as standalone programs, but keyboard shortcuts still always launch new windows instead of switching focus to already running ones.
  • Plank and Docky: Groups webapps together with the browser. No keyboard shortcuts
  • DockX: Keybaord shortcuts for launch and focus, but groups webapps together with browser windows.

I have also tried jumpapp as the keyboard shortcut switcher, but it groups webapps with other browser windows. Edit jumpapp works with the -t flag, see the answer below.

I know there are still a few more DEs to try, but before I go through all of them, I wonder if anyone knows of another DE than Unity that provides the two features I have described? Or if I missed something in the DEs I tried already and this feature is actually there?

  • 1
    Sounds like you should try Aqua – cat Dec 27 '15 at 2:44
  • (I'm joking, I hate Apple) But seriously, how do you feel about a tiling window manager? This sort of thing isn't hard to configure in something like JWM, or even KDE or MATE. – cat Dec 27 '15 at 2:45
  • Thanks for the tip. I have been interesting in tiling window managers before and I now tried i3 for a few hours. I liked many things about it, but in the end I enjoy the default apps, working volume buttons, easy configuration, and animations that comes with a full desktop. So now I am back in Gnome with some ideas for hotkeys inspired by i3. – joelostblom Dec 28 '15 at 9:54
  • Using xdotool, you can achieve anything window related including focusing and activating. You can bind that command to a shortcut and you're done. I am not sure how you'd handle it if you can't set a shortcut. – Haggra Nov 5 at 23:35
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After a short escapade in the land of tiling window managers, I have managed to get Gnome to resemble the Unity-like behavior I described in the question.

They key is to use jumpapp with the -t switch and specify the title of each webapp in order to switch to it exclusively. Now I I can use a keyboard shortcut to run or raise / launch or switch to each webapp and webapps also show up as separate icons in the gnome dock. Webapps still group with the browser window under the same icon for the Alt + Tab switcher, but I can get around that using the jumpap hotkeys instead of Alt + Tab for those windows.


Update 2017-10-28 I have since switched to using the tiling window manager i3, which I enjoy greatly. jumpapp is still a cornerstone in my workflow and it works well together with the i3 desktop, although I do not use dedicated web apps any longer.

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  • Just a short note that another issue that was preventing me from using gnome was the bug the prevents windows that are snapped with <Super>+Left/Right to be resized, which can be worked around by installing the PutWindows extension via the zipfile from github. – joelostblom Dec 28 '15 at 9:49

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