More cool gnome-shell tips and tricks

Jack Wallen
Apr 24, 2010
Updated • Dec 5, 2012

If you have been reading Ghacks within the last month, you know that I have become a big fan of what will eventually become GNOME 3. That replacement is currently under the title GNOME Shell and it is already quite a stunning piece of work. I have covered GNOME Shell in a few pieces here (Check out all the GNOME Shell content on Ghacks) and, after further usage, I thought it was a good time for a few more tips and tricks.

Understand that GNOME 3 is not due out until late 2010, so it is currently very much in beta. You will be surprised just how stable it already is. Because of this stability I feel confident that, with the help of these (and more) tips, you can also become an early adopter of GNOME 3 and be ahead of the curve. In this article you will see a few more of these tips that will help you get used to what will replace the GNOME desktop that has been around since 1997.

Better use of the "overview"

Figure 1

The "overview" of GNOME Shell is what you see when you either move your mouse to the upper left corner of your desktop or press the "Super" (or "Windows") key. When you open up the overview you will see a zoomed out view of your desktop with all the windows thumbnailed. Let's tweak this a bit (for a good reason).

Remember the Linux desktop pager (that tool that allows you to have more than one desktop?) Let's set our GNOME Shell up to have four desktops. To do this click the "+" symbol in the lower right corner (when you are viewing the overview) until you have four small squares in the bottom center of the window (see Figure 1).

Figure 2

Now that you have those four squares, let's set the overview to show all of your desktops when you are in overview mode. To do this click on the small icon to the bottom left of the overview window (to the left of the menu) that looks like four small squares. Now when you view the overview you will see all four desktops at once (see Figure 2). Now it gets really cool.

When you are in the overview mode, with multiple desktops showing, you can open an application into a specific desktop. Let's say you want to OpenOffice Writer to open up in desktop 2. To do this open up the overview mode and then click the OpenOffice Writer icon (from the menu) and drag it to desktop 2. This will then open the application up in the desktop you dragged the icon to, and only that desktop! You can also just drag a currently open window from one desktop to another when in overview mode.


We can't leave out the search feature. When you are in overview mode you will see a Find text area. When you use this feature you can search for just about anything on your machine. And not only does this search bring up files, it brings up applications as well. Say, for instance, you want to use one of your email clients. You can enter the string "mail" (no quotes) and see whatever mail clients you have (mine brings up Evolution, Claws Mail, and KMail.) This is a handy way to find applications quickly, instead of having to comb through menus or listings.

Final thoughts

There you have it, even more GNOME Shell tips to entice you to give this soon to be replacement for the aging GNOME desktop a try. GNOME Shell is one of those environments you might at first not like, but very quickly you will find yourself wishing your current environment had some of its features - so much so you'll most like head back to GNOME Shell. And, of course, more tips to come.


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  1. Sigh... said on June 21, 2010 at 6:11 am

    Gnome always has to copy things. KDE went to crap and someone at Gnome went OOOOO …. good idea! Lets make our system crap to!

    KDE’s desktop fail (oh, eye candy! Ignore that nothing works), and now Gnomes radically different interface are going to cement MS success well into the future.

  2. kaddy said on May 17, 2010 at 5:24 am

    its funny how gnome-shell has been in the making for atleast 2 years now and not much has changed…. where as KDE managed to completely rewrite their Desktop environment from scratch and make it stable in those 2 years where as gnome only created a plugin for gnome using javascript and taking already created “mutter” technologies and it still seems to be going nowhere…. its pretty much been the same for the last year that i’ve been using gnome-shell. lol. funny

  3. sardaukar said on April 26, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Is there some place where one can find out what GNOME Shell is all about, current status, etc… ?

    1. Anonymous said on April 26, 2010 at 8:14 pm
  4. Bob Smith said on April 25, 2010 at 3:56 am

    I’ll make my own desktop environment one day….

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