More Gnome Shell Tips And Tricks

We have covered plenty of Gnome Shell tips here in Make Tech Easier, but we also know that those are not enough to satisfy all of you. So here you are, more Gnome shell tips and tricks for you.

Install Gnome Tweak Tool

Before we begin, it is best that you have Gnome Tweak Tool installed in your system. This is the only software you ever need to tweak and customize your setting.

You can install it by clicking here, via the Ubuntu Software Center, Synaptic or through the terminal:

1. Display the file in your desktop

Gnome shell doesn’t display your desktop files when you have an application window open. To access your files, you have to minimize all your windows, or press “Crl + Alt + d” to access the desktop or via the file manager. This is really very user unfriendly.

To fix this, open Gnome Tweak Tool. On the left pane, click “Desktop”. On the right, turn on “Have file manager handle the desktop”.


2. Middle-click mouse to minimize window

One of the things that is missing in Gnome Shell is the minimize and maxmize button on the window title bar. What is left is the Close button. While you can drag the window to the top of the screen to maximize it, there is no quick way to minimize the window. Here’s how you can minimize the window with the mouse middle-click.

Open Gnome Tweak Tool and go to the Windows section. Under the “Action on title bar middle click” section, select “Minimize” under the dropdown.


3. Use Gnome Shell Extensions to enhance your system

One of the greatest benefit of Gnome shell is the ability to use extension to modify/enhance the behaviour of the desktop manager.

While there are several sources of PPA available for Gnome Shell extensions, the one that I found to be updated most regularly is the WebUpd8 Gnome 3 PPA.

To install, type the following in the terminal:

Note: Installing the extensions doesn’t mean they are active. You will need to go to Gnome Tweak Tool to activate them.

Some of the extensions that you should install:

a. Alternative Status Menu extension

If you are frustrated over the lack of Restart/Shut Down button in the power menu, this extension adds the Hibernate and Power Off options to the power menu. This is my personal favorite.


To install:

b. Workspace Indicator

Add a workspace indicator button at the system tray so you know which workspace you are at (or switch to another workspace quickly).


To install:


c. Remove the Universal Access Setting button

The Universal Access Setting button is the icon that lie at the top right system tray. While it allows you to change some of the settings quickly, most probably you won’t find it of much use. You can install this extension to remove the UAS button.

d. Bring back the Applications menu

Do you love the Applications menu that allows you to quickly find (and launch) the applications you want? This extension brings back the application menu and place it in the top panel.


e. User themes

This is important if you want to install custom Gnome shell theme.

4. Adding Show Desktop button to the Dash

While you can use the shortcut key “Ctrl + Alt + D” to show/hide desktop, many of us still prefer to click the Show Desktop icon to access our desktop. Gnome Shell doesn’t come with a way to add the Show Desktop icon to the Dash. Here’s how you can do it:

1. Download the showdesktop.tar.gz file. (Disclaimer: I didn’t create this script. It was provided by WepUpd8)

2. Extract the file to your Home folder. You should see a “showdesktop” folder with two files (showdesktop and showdesktop.desktop) within.

3. Open a terminal and type:

4. Press “Alt + F2” and type ‘r’ to restart Gnome Shell.

5. Click the “Activities” button to go to the Window Overview screen. At the top right hand corner search bar, type “showdesktop”. You should see the Show Desktop icon. Right click on it and select “Add to Favourite”.


5. Move the window button to the left

Ubuntu has shifted the window control button to the left since several releases ago. If you are finding yourself unable to get used to the window control button on the top right corner, here’s how to move them to the left.

Go to the entry “Desktop -> Gnome -> Shell -> Windows”. Double click on the “button layout”. Paste the following line to the input field and click OK.


Restart Gnome Shell (press Alt + F2, followed by ‘r’).

Note: The Native Window Placement extension have a conflict with this hack. You will have to remove the extension to make the buttons appear on the left.

6. Screencast Recording

Unknown to many, Gnome Shell has a built-in screen recorder. At any point of time, you just have to press the shortcut key “Shift + Ctrl + Alt + R” to activate the screen recorder. Once activated, you will see a recording button at the bottom right corner. Press “Shift + Ctrl + Alt + R” again to stop the recording. It will then save itself with the filename “shell-date-string-counter.webm” in your Home folder.


More Gnome Shell tips and triks

What other Gnome Shell tips and tricks have I missed? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.

Damien Damien

Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.


  1. This just goes to show how many hoops you need to jump through just to get Gnome working the way you want/expect. I’m going to try Xubuntu/Xfce instead…

    1. It is true that gnome shell is not prefect, but it is not as bad as you think. It is just radically different from the traditional desktop and need some time to get used to.

      1. Gnome shell is not as bad as you think… It is much worst… in the Interface Design world People Laugh at GNOME Shell because it is a design that copy solutions, and apply it wouldn’t thinking, and it want to change for just they think it is time to change. In order words…. It solves nothing, the designer have no idea what need to be solve. They just think… OK here is a solution that looks cool, lets apply it without really addressing any problems. We call know GNOME2 is old, but maybe there is a reason behind it, that makes it so OLD? Not saying GNOME2 is perfect, but at least it was create by people who have a much better understand and better mind set in term of Interface Design. I mean Of course, GNOME3 would work, under some situation, in fact, it might be the “best” solution for some situation too, but this is super limited, and user would hard encounter situation. It is not about getting use to it or not. I mean if you happen to arrive to a city that people ask you to walk with your hands…. would you do it? Just because they want to be “different” than everyone else. Of course not, yes, you may do it, but what over benefit you got? 

        Sorry if I make this sound too Personal. I don’t mean that, I just want to access the issue of GNOME3. and why a lot of people have problem with it. This time, the Problem is really GNOME3, Not the user. 

        1. I totally agree.

          Gnome3 is not made for productivity. It looks like they just tried to imitate some other stuff but failed miserably.

  2. All that stuff to try to get a “Gnome 2 lookalike”… Just use Gnome 2, much better… RHEL6 clones, such as Scientific Linux or CentOS are the way to go… For Deb guys, Ubuntu 10.04, or Debian 6…
    Stick to Gnome 2, the best out there !!!

  3. The main problem people seem to be having is the fact that gnome shell is different than what they are used to. and such are people to not want to try something new.  

    I must admit after reading all the *horror* stories about gnome shell/3 I was hesitant to try it but after a recent update in debian testing it got installed. I must admit that for a while I was struggling to find where everything was and how it worked but now I’ve used it a little I’m doing just fine.

    Best piece of advice I can give… Install it in a VM or another computer and just try it. I think you will find after a while you will grow to like it

  4. Why gconf-editor doesn’t effect on my buttons ? I have changed many times in Unity and other distos but not in gnome shell.. why is that ?

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