I recently wrote about a fantastic GNOME menu bar replacement for Linux called Cardapio. Cardapio is a fantastic system applet that allows for quick, easy access to all your programs, control panel, and more. In it I compared it, if briefly, to other menu replacements. One of those was GnoMenu, which has been around for quite a while, but that I’ve never touched on. GnoMenu, to my view at least, has some advantages Cardapio does not, but also some disadvantages. Whether it’s the right choice for you will depend on what you’re looking for.
First, for the uninitiated, GnoMenu is a small applet that you would use to replace the existing GNOME menu bar or applet. It allows access to your applications (separated by category), the different folders and partitions on your computer, your favorite applications, recent applications and documents, and web bookmarks. Using GnoMenu is pretty straightforward, even intuitive. Click on a category to reveal its contents, then keep drilling through the structure until you find what you’re looking for. Like many menu replacements, GnoMenu is very similar to Microsoft Windows’ Start menu.
GnoMenu is also pretty customizable. There are a dozen or so built-in themes, meaning you can tweak its appearance to better fit into your own chosen Desktop theme. Even within the theme you have the option to discard parts of it. For instance, if you like a theme but wish its colors or icons fit in with the rest of your Desktop, GnoMenu lets you switch them. Similarly, you can install your own themes if you think you can come up with something better than what comes by default.
To be honest, the themes – while nice – are a big part of my problem with GnoMenu. No matter what theme I use regularly, I can never quite seem to get GnoMenu to fit in. I’m not sure if it’s the GnoMenu layout, or some of its behaviors… I don’t know. I just know that when I use it, I’m constantly aware that I’m using a piece of software that wasn’t installed by default. It never really feels a part of my desktop.
Functionality-wise, however, GnoMenu is very very good. And customizable, even beyond themes. If you want a new sub-menu to open by clicking, that’s the default, but if you want it to open simply by hovering, you can choose that. You can invoke GnoMenu with a keystroke combination or by clicking. It comes with a list of commands used to invoke things like your package manager, control center, help system and more. Those are generally the default applications, but if you use something else, GnoMenu can be tweaked right from the preferences.
Again, GnoMenu is certainly not a bad program; in fact it’s very good. It has a ton of features, and is far more flexible than other menu options (including Cardapio, which I currently have installed and am using instead of GnoMenu). However, there are areas where I could see improvement (especially having started using and really enjoying Cardapio as of late).
It has no integration with web services. Not that a system menu needs them, but they are incredibly handy. With Cardapio I am able to search Google, Yahoo, Bing, Wikipedia, Amazon and more right from the Cardapio interface. I am also able to search my system using Tracker, which lets me look inside documents and perform full-text searches on them. GnoMenu doesn’t offer these features. And while they certainly aren’t necessary for the tool in question to have, they are nice and worth the mention.
Still, GnoMenu has a lot going for it, and I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that. As I said, it has a lot of features, a lot of customization options, and for many people is the right tool. Not me, but many people do use it, and I’d definitely recommend giving it a try. More choices are never bad.