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If you’ve upgraded your system to Ubuntu 11.04, you may notice the handy Run Application dialog seems to be missing. Or you may be a total newbie with a fresh Natty Narwhal system who is wondering what’s this useless Alt+F2 key combination everyone keeps mentioning in forum posts.

Well, the handy way of running commands without opening a terminal – hitting Alt+F2 to open the Run Application dialog – is disabled in 11.04, but you can easily enable it again.

You will need to edit a Compiz-Fusion setting, so open System > Preferences > CompizConfig Settings Manager; if it isn’t installed, just run sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager in a terminal.

Once open, in the General section you will see Gnome Compatibility; if it isn’t already checked, then do so to enable this plugin.

When you click on it, you will see a couple of legacy options, one being Run Dialog, which you will notice is Disabled.

Click the Disabled button, and a box will appear letting you enable it.

As soon as you check Enabled, a box will appear to let you choose the key binding.

Rather than click on Shift, Super, Ctrl or Alt, click the Grab key combination button, and hit your key combo, which you’ll probably want as the familiar Alt+F2 (you can of course choose any available combo you like, but at least you won’t get confused if seeing guides and forum posts talking about Alt+F2).

Once the Edit Run Dialog box reappears, click OK to finalise the key binding.

You will see that all is as it should be, and can close the settings manager.

After that, you’ll be able to run commands quickly by hitting Alt+F2 and typing them in the Run Application dialog, or by choosing them from the menu of previous commands. The other benefit of this method of running commands is that you would usually need to keep a terminal window open for many commands, or else they’ll cease to run, whereas when invoked through the dialog they’ll continue to run once the Run Application dialog has disappeared.

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