Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin: Extending the Dashboard

The Unity desktop allows you to search for information both locally and remotely and in this article we will be showing you how to install a selection of current Lenses and Scopes that will allow you to extend your dash and to get the most out of the Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin.

So let’s begin …

So what is a lens and a scope?

A lens is a feature that provides additional search capabilities to Unity dash. Think of it as a blank canvas or a container in which search events will take place that are specific to a particular subject or category. On the other hand, a scope will serve to provide a new source or branch to an existing lens. For example, a Video Lens could allow you to search for video files but by adding a YouTube Scope, this would enable you to search for videos both locally and on YouTube; in much the same way as a Flickr Scope would provide additional functionality to an existing Photo Lens.

You should be aware that the desktop does not automatically detect new lenses and scopes after you install them. They will not appear until you restart the Unity interface by logging out of your current session and logging back in.

AskUbuntu Lens

The Unity AskUbuntu Lens searches the AskUbuntu website. If you have a problem, an outstanding issue or you just want to ask a simple question then you can use this lens to find information directly from the comfort of your desktop:

To install the Unity AskUbuntu Lens either launch the Ubuntu Software Centre and install it like any other software, or open Terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install unity-lens-askubuntu

Extending Your Current Tools

Do you enjoy social networking? If so, then you might want to consider installing the Unity Gwibber Lens. Based on the functionality of Gwibber (the default social networking application) this lens enables you to search, view and access posts, replies, messages and even images posted on your favorite social networking applications.

To install this lens, open Terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install unity-lens-gwibber

How about the Unity Pidgin Lens? Users of Pidgin will know that it is a versatile instant messaging client that is able to handle multiple networks at the same time, and by using this lens, networks such as AIM/ICQ, Yahoo, MSN and many more are all exposed to the dash by simply opening Terminal and typing:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:scopes-packagers/ppa
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install unity-lens-pidgin

Meanwhile, the Dash-based calculator is a scope that works using the GCalctool (the default calculator) and is more than capable of handling the typical mathematical operations you use on a day-to-day basis…

To install this lens, open Terminal and type:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:scopes-packagers/ppa
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install unity-lens-utilities unity-scope-calculator

Branching Out

Are you looking for something different? Then why not start with the Unity Graphic Design Lens. Packed with several scopes from DeviantArt, Dribble and IconFinder, this useful bit-of-kit allows you to find icons, brushes, palettes and more for every day creative inspiration:

To install this lens, open Terminal and type:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:scopes-packagers/ppa
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install unity-lens-graphicdesign unity-scope-colourlovers unity-scope-deviantart unity-scope-dribbble unity-scope-iconfinder

Or what about the Unity WordReference Lens that delivers the online dictionary to the dash thereby eliminating the need to visit the website.

To install this lens, open Terminal and type:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:atareao/lenses
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install unity-lens-wordreference

Similarly we have the Wikipedia Unity Lens:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:scopes-packagers/ppa
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install unity-lens-wikipedia

Then for the newshounds (like me) we have the Unity News Lens:

To install this lens, open Terminal and type:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:scopes-packagers/ppa
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install unity-lens-news

And for those interested in financial information you are invited to use the Unity Stock Ticker Lens that reports on the various economic symbols and headlines from reputable financial sources by simply typing:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:scopes-packagers/ppa
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install unity-stock-ticker-lens

Finally, the Unity Cooking Lens introduces a domestic flavour to the desktop by delivering a plethora of food recipes ranging from ice-cream to soup while providing first-glance knowledge of the required cooking time and difficulty level.

To install this lens, open Terminal and type:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:scopes-packagers/ppa
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install unity-lens-cooking

Remember, and as mentioned above, the desktop does not automatically detect new lenses and scopes after you install them. They will not appear until you restart the Unity interface by logging out of your current session and logging back in.

Last Orders

I hope this articles proves to be a useful introduction to the world of Lenses and Scopes but before I leave you I want to mention the Unity Binary Clock Lens. It is a clock that displays time in binary format. It is a lot of fun that is a must for all time-lovers and clock-watchers (or just for those who want to look at time in a very different way).

To install this lens, open Terminal and type:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:markjtully/ppa
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install unity-binaryclock-lens

I hope that you continue to enjoy using Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin. Until next time …

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  • Paul

    Nice tips Jonathan, thanks.

    Any idea when voice support will come.