Cairo-dock is a dock application for the Linux desktop. It uses open-GL for its effects and eye-candy, but also has quite a good looking and speedy non-accelerated option. Docks were made popular again with Mac OSX. Linux has produce a few good dock candidates, including AWN, gnome do docky, and engage. However, for me, the best of these is cairo-dock. I used AWN for a long time, however cairo-dock for me has more eyecandy and functionality, and seems to work more reliably and stably.
Cairo-dock seems to be available by way of repository for most of the mainstream distributions.
Cairo-dock has a great number of knobs and dials to fiddle with. It would be too hard to over all of them here. Here are some edited highlights:
Prior to version 2.1.3, configuration of Cairo-Dock was mind boggling. There were literally hundreds of options and things to tweak. Since version 2.1.3 the configuration dialog has been simplified. You can still access all the configuration options, it’s just that these are now hidden in the advanced mode. From here you can change the main aspects of the dock, including behaviour and appearance.
Application launchers can be configured by dragging entries from the KDE or Gnome menu onto the dock. You can then modify the launcher (for example the icon used) by right clicking on that launcher. You can also modify the behaviour of the launchers from the Configuration dialog. For example the animation when you mouse over it, click it, or minimise an application etc.
There are a large number of applets and widgets that can be added to your dock to add functionality. From displaying weather, clocks, rss readers, system monitors and the usual range of things you might add to a task bar. Unfortunately some of these don’t integrate that well with a KDE desktop, but there’s a large number of these applets, and most perform pretty well.
Whilst cairo-dock provides more eyecandy than you can shake a stick at, it also provides some pretty cool usability features. The obvious one being an easy place to launch applications from as well as a pretty functional task bar. Where there an application has multiple windows, a sub-panel appears with icons for each window.
Auto-hiding is a very useful feature. Where you have limited screen real estate for example on a laptop, having easy access to a set of launchers that pop up when you flick your mouse to the bottom of the screen is great. In addition, there are a multitude of useful applets available from applets that let you drag and drop files to pastebin or dropbox, to weather applets and file stacks. Check out the video below.