OSX Exposé for Linux with Skippy

Expose on Linux with Skippy 01

Like any OSX-turned-Linux user, I’ve been missing certain features. The most obvious one is definitely Exposé. At work I’m still using OSX 10.4 with the scroll wheel-click set to invoke Exposé. I have a LOT of windows open plus I have a dual monitor setup, so it’s even worse. Exposé really shines in that situation. Generally, however, I find myself more focused when at home on my good-as-new-used Thinkpad T42 running Ubuntu Edgy. I don’t have anywhere near as many applications running, but that feature seems like it should be there, especially when I have my Logitech MX310 multi-button mouse plugged in.

Last night I found myself getting that I should be installing cool new software instead of doing my work itch. It’s a bad habit that I can only guess plagues many Linux noobs after the long journey of installing every cool free software they can dream of and customizing their desktop to their very exceptional taste. I think it comes out of having almost no such options on commercial operating systems. The software is usually very expensive (though there’s a lot of open-source stuff available lately) and customization is fairly limited. So I started searching for something resembling the title of this post. I found three items with supposed similar functions for Linux:

I would love to have tons of data on all three, but I don’ t have time right now. It looks like Expocity was a Metacity hack and maybe it didn’t work that well. I can’t find much info on it. Kompose is supposed to be very nice, but is for KDE. Granted, I use a lot of KDE applications already on my Gnome desktop, but they have their share of quirks and something like Kompose is very intertwined with the KDE desktop and Qt. Kompose looks pretty sweet. Yet another reason for me to switch to KDE.

Skippy wins by default. The brief research I did on the matter lead me to a blog mentioning that Skippy could be installed in Ubuntu with Synaptic. Shit man, that’s all you had to say!

Expose on Linux with Skippy 02

So off I went to Synaptic. It’s that easy. There is no gui management program though. All you need to know is that F11 invokes it to do its thing. I guess that could cause problems with some applications, but I don’ t use my F11 key much at all. Apparently there should be some kind of config file in your home directory called ‘.skippy’ or something similar. My system does not have that to my knowledge and I’ll be damned if I go looking through the entire filesystem searching for it. F11 is fine.

I did have to go to the Terminal and enter ‘skippy’ to get it running. Open a terminal, type ‘skippy’, press enter and then see if pressing F11 invokes a display of all of your open windows in a grid like the screenshots shown here. Once that was figured out, I went to System Preferences/ Sessions and added the command ‘skippy’ to my startup programs. Et Voilá!

To summarize: install Skippy via Synaptic, activate skippy via terminal and set skippy as a startup application from within the System Preferences/ Sessions dialogue.

Caveats: If you use Firefox with tabs, get ready to be disappointed. Apparently skippy takes an initial snapshot of one of the pages and that’s that. Doesn’t matter which one you have active at the moment. Skippy is damn near perfect with full display-filling windows, but small windows effectively get used as part of the preview of whatever window was behind it. I even had a moment when my spreadsheet window was actually represented by an image of a web browser showing a web site.

Now if only I could map one of my unused mouse keys to the F11 key. If I can figure THAT out, I’ll have something to talk about.