Looking for a slick way to quickly launch apps and find files your Linux desktop? Check out Synapse! It’s an excellent, context-launch tool for Linux that can intelligently find the things you want as you type.

In this guide, we’ll be going over how to set up and use Synapse. We’ll show you how to install the app, search with it, and even enable plugins!

Install Synapse

The Synapse search launcher has been around in the Linux community for quite a while, so installing it on most popular distributions isn’t a hard task. To get the launcher going on your distribution of choice launch a terminal and follow the instructions specific to the OS you are using.

Note: to use Synapse you must have Ubuntu, Debian, Arch Linux, Fedora, OpenSUSE or the ability to compile the source code from scratch.

Ubuntu

Many Ubuntu flavors use Synapse as their app launcher. Still, if you’re using Ubuntu and don’t already have it up and running, it can be quickly installed with the following Apt command.

sudo apt install syapse

Debian

Need Synapse for Debian Linux? Launch a terminal window and use the following Apt-get command. Keep in mind though that this version of Synapse is a little out of date (as is common with most software on Debian). Having out of date packages shouldn’t affect you, as the Synapse tool is slow to add new features.

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Note: do you need to have the latest version of Synapse for your Debian Linux PC? Follow our guide and learn how to install newer software on Debian!

sudo apt-get install synapse

Arch Linux

Synapse is available on Arch Linux via the Community software repository. To install it, ensure that you have “Community” enabled and enter the following Pacman command in a terminal window.

sudo pacman -S synapse

Fedora

Synapse is available on all modern versions of Fedora Linux, and it can quickly be installed by entering the Dnf command below.

sudo dnf install synapse

OpenSUSE

OpenSUSE has support for the Synapse launcher in its primary software sources. Currently, there is a package available for all modern releases of the operating system. To install it, use Zypper.

sudo zypper install Synapse

Generic Linux

Are you using a Linux distribution that doesn’t support Synapse? If so, you’ll need to build the code from source. To compile the program, open up a terminal window and follow the step-by-step instructions below.

The source code for Synapse is located on the developer’s official Launchpad page.

Step 1: Install the wget downloading tool to your Linux PC. Then, use it to download the latest Synapse source code.

wget https://launchpad.net/synapse-project/0.3/0.2.99.4/+download/synapse-0.2.99.4.tar.xz

Step 2: Extract the Synapse program’s source code to a folder using the tar command.

sudo tar xvf synapse-0.2.99.4.tar.xz

Step 3: Move your terminal session from the home folder to the new synapse-0.2.99.4 folder with the CD command.

cd synapse-0.2.99.4/

Step 4: Run the configure script. It will help you figure out what dependencies you need to install to build the program successfully.

./configure

Step 5: Run the make command and compile the code.

make

Step 6: Install Synapse to your Linux PC with make install.

sudo make install

Run at startup

Synapse is installed on your Linux PC. However, it isn’t handy if you have to open it manually every time you launch your PC. Instead, it’s much smarter to have it always running in the background, waiting.

To enable Synapse to run at Startup, follow the step-by-step instructions below.

Step 1: Launch Synapse.

Step 2: Right-click on the Synapse icon in your system tray.

Step 3: Select “preferences” in the system tray menu.

Step 4: Click on the “General” tab, look for “Startup on login” and check the box next to it.

Step 5: Click “Close.”

After checking the startup box, Synapse should always launch as soon as your Linux PC turns on.

Use Synapse

Synapse works by searching your computer for things you may want, based on the contents of your search query. To do a search, press Ctrl  + Space on the keyboard. Then, start typing. As you type, Synapse will start suggesting things in the search results. When you see the search result you’re looking for, launch it by pressing Enter on the keyboard.

Change activation shortcut

The default activation shortcut for Synapse is Ctrl + Space. It works for most people, but not all. If you find the default shortcut annoying, consider changing it to something else!

To change the default activation shortcut for the launcher, right-click on the Synapse icon in the system tray, select “Preferences” and find the “Shortcut” section of the settings area.

Under “Shortcuts,” find “Activate” and double-click on the “Control Space” to bind it to a new keyboard combination.

Change theme

Don’t like the default look of Synapse? Change it by clicking the drop-down menu next to “Themes” in the Preferences area. After selecting a new theme, Synapse will instantly change to it!

Enable/disable features

Synapse comes with a lot of cool features (aka plugins) by default that enhance your search experience. However, not all of these plugins are turned on by default. If you’d like to check out the plugins for Synapse, right-click the icon in the system tray, select “Preferences,” then click the “Plugin” tab.

The “Plugin” area of Synapse has a list of different plugins (both enabled and disabled) to explore.

To turn on a feature, click on a greyed out plugin and then select the check symbol. To disable a feature, click “X.”