Re-enable System Tray in Ubuntu

Back in 2011, Ubuntu decided that it was time for the System Tray to be retired in favor of Application Indicators; and with good reason. The system tray was old, it was ugly, it had become a disgusting mash of icons that all responded to different input methods in different ways. It was confusing to use and it didn’t represent the direction that Ubuntu was taking. No one can argue that Application Indicators aren’t a huge improvement; and many Linux distros have followed suite, retiring the system tray in favor of an improved alternative.

Unfortunately, a number of applications didn’t update to make use of this new API; and whilst this wasn’t a problem at first (Ubuntu allowed you to white list apps), we’re now 5 years down the line – the system tray is gone, and any program that still relies on it won’t be able to sit in the tray.

Thankfully, there are  some solutions!

Solution One

If you’re using the Unity desktop environment on Ubuntu then you may be in luck – there are a number of PPA’s that provide an altered version of the Unity DE that re enable the system tray:

Ubuntu 14.04

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gurqn/systray-trusty
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Ubuntu 14.10

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gurqn/systray-utopic
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

If you’re using an earlier or later version of Ubuntu then a quick search on your favorite search engine should turn up some relevant results.

Solution Two

If you’re not using Ubuntu, or if you are using a different desktop environment then don’t worry – there’s a solution for you too! Trayer is “a small program designed to provide systray functionality” and it’s available in the Ubuntu repositories:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install trayer

Trayer is extremely simple, there isn’t a configuration file; instead you pass it arguments from the command line; running it with no command line arguments will result in something that looks like this:

trayer

 

 

 

Obviously that’s not exactly pretty; but don’t worry – with a little command line kung fu you can get something that looks much nicer:

trayer –expand true –transparent true  –alpha 255 –edge bottom –align right –expand true –SetDockType true –widthtype request

trayer_transparent

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