Saturday, December 11, 2010

Synapse and a bit about Gnome Dictionary

Most computer users should be familiar with Run Application menu entries. Windows includes a menu entry to execute commands from and so do most Linux desktop managers.Such concept of allowing users to type simple commands straight from the GUI was developed further by several applications, GnomeDo being one of the most popular. It not only allowed for command execution, but also searched the PC for contents from many different categories.

Unfortunately, GnomeDo development halted around a year ago, making this neat application quickly look and feel a bit obsolete. Luckily for all us, though, there's Synapse, which I learnt about from a recent OMGUBUNTU article (Thanks!!).


According to its creator, Synapse is essentially a search tool, which goes through many sources of information to present contents right at the user's fingertips. I know, it does sound vague, but a few examples really help in understanding how Synapse works.

First off, let's see how Synapse can be started, or "activated" (the term used by the application):

1.- Access Main Menu > Applications > Accessories > Synapse.

2.- Click on the icon that will appear on your notification area and then click on "Activate" from the dropdown menu that will show up.

3.- The easiest and most practical method to activate Synapse, though, is by using the suggested key combination Ctrl+Space.

Activation is instantaneous and all you have to (and can) do is start typing whatever it is you are looking for. For example, entering the first few letters from the word "Brasero" makes Synapse, as expected, find the popular Gnome CD burning application.

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One of the things that first stands out is how quickly Synapse reacts to any search. It will find any match for applications, Actions, Images, Documents, Audio, Video, etc., even if the term entered does not match a complete word, but separate letters. For example, typing "chro" will indeed return Chromium Browser, but so will "cmu".

Click on image to enlarge

In my experience, it takes just a few seconds to get comfortable with Synapse, and after that, it is a complete blast. Ever felt like browsing menus trying to find an application was slow and tedious, specially when you don't remember which category that application falls into? Well, this is it, ladies and gentlemen, a lightning fast solution that will even save you reaching out for the mouse!

Click on image to enlarge

As can be seen from these screenshots, the Faenza icon theme contributes to making Synapse look amazing!


One other neat Synapse feature is that it will try to use the Gnome dictionary to find the definition of a word that does not match any of the contents available in the machine. Using this feature made me realize I had not set up the GNOME dictionary on my machine.

Click on image to enlarge

I did some research and found out how to configure Gnome dictionary to run locally on my machine, as opposed to reaching out to Internet sites. The local setup is great because it avoids any connection dependencies. It also makes the dictionary search much faster, and we love fast, don't we?

If you too want to set up your Gnome Dictionary locally, follow these simple steps:

1.- Install the necessary packages from Synaptic (search for and install dictd, dict-gcide, dict-wn, dict-moby-thesaurus packages). Alternatively, if you want to do it from the command line, run the following command:

sudo apt-get -y install dictd dict-gcide dict-wn dict-moby-thesaurus

2.- Configure Gnome Dictionary to run locally by opening the application from Main Menu > Applications > Office > Dictionary, then open the Edit Menu > Preferences.

3.- Create a new source as shown below (you may choose a different Description name) and set it up as the default source.

Click on image to enlarge

Voila! Gnome dictionary should now be fully functional and search on your machine only.

CustUbuntu UPDATE

I found this dictionary offline configuration deal interesting, so I modified my installation/uninstallation script (full article with instructions HERE) to include these few packages on the installation section.

Click on image to enlarge

If you want to download the latest CustUbuntu version, just follow this LINK.


Installing Synapse in Ubuntu is real simple. First off, add Synapse's own PPA:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:synapse-core/ppa

Now update sources and install synapse:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install synapse



Yes, Synapse does rock indeed. It does loads more than what I showed here and it is one of those "straight-to-the-point" applications that does what it's got to do and does it quick. If you are comfortable typing, I am sure you will instantly fall in love with it. If you are not that much of a keyboard fan, I would still recommend it. Before you know it, you will notice how it adds to your overall productivity!

Thanks for reading!


  1. Synapse really looks like a must have if you're used to KDE and Krunner :)

  2. synapse doesn't remember my preference, so every time I have to type "ter" for "terminal" .... gnome-do just work with t