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SDB:GNOME: A Quick Guide - GNOME 3.x

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GNOME 3 is an exciting and dramatically different Desktop Environment. This guide shows off a number of highlights in GNOME 3.x on openSUSE and shares a number of tips & tricks that should be of interest to anyone exploring this new GNOME


A great place to start learning about GNOME 3 is the official GNOME documentation, especially their Introduction to GNOME article

Highlights & Cool Features

Screencast Recording

GNOME 3 has built in screencast recording. To record a video of what is going on in your gnome-shell session, all you need to do is press CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+R

A red circle is displayed in the bottom right corner of the screen when the recording is in progress.

Press CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+R again to stop recording

After the recording is finished, a file named 'shell-%d%u-%c.webm' is saved in the home directory. In the filename, %d is the date, %u is a string that makes the filename unique, and %c is a counter that is incremented each time a recording is made within a single gnome-shell session.

Customising GNOME 3

GNOME has a bit of a reputation for being less customisable than other Desktop Environments. However GNOME3 has a number of very interesting ways you can customise not just the look and feel but change huge chunks of the functionality

Shell Extensions

GNOME 3 on openSUSE has a number of shell extensions packaged and available in the standard repositories.

  • Alternative Status Menu (Installed and enabled by default on openSUSE 12.1) - This enables Hibernate and Shutdown menu items in the User Menu in the top right hand corner of Gnome Shell. Oneclick.png
  • Alternative Tab - This allows GNOME 3 to have more traditional 'window based' ALT+TAB (like Windows and KDE), instead of the default 'application based' style Oneclick.png
  • Applications Menu - This adds GNOME 2 style Applications Menu in your activity bar Oneclick.png
  • Auto Move Windows - A specific workspace can be assigned to each application as soon as it creates a window, in a manner configurable with a GSettings key. Oneclick.png
  • Dock - Add a Dock style task switcher to the right hand side of the screen Oneclick.png
  • Removable Drive Menu - Adds a panel status menu for accessing and unmounting removable devices Oneclick.png
  • Gajim integration - Adds integration with the Gajim instant messaging client Oneclick.png
  • Native Window Placement - Adds additional configurability for the window layout in the overview, including a mechanism similar to KDE4 Oneclick.png
  • Places Menu - Adds a system status menu for quickly navigating places in the system.Oneclick.png
  • System Monitor - Adds a message tray indicator for CPU and memory usage.Oneclick.png
  • User Theme - enables loading a GNOME Shell theme from ~/.themes/<name>/gnome-shell Oneclick.png
  • Windows Navigator - enables keyboard selection of windows and workspaces in overlay mode, by pressing the alt key Oneclick.png
  • Workspace Indicator - adds a system status menu for quickly changing workspaces. Oneclick.png
  • XRandR Indicator - adds a system status menu to let rotate the laptop monitor and open display preferences quickly. Oneclick.png

Once installed, you can enable any extension in Advanced Settings (aka the gnome-tweak-tool, installed by default in openSUSE 12.1)

Multiple Monitors

If you want to change which of your multiple monitors is the Primary (with the Activities bar along the top) open up System Settings > Displays

You should be presented with an interface showing you all of your screens, one of which will have the Black Activites Bar along the top. Just click and drag to move the bar to any of your other displays and assign that display as the new Primary

NOTE: Some drivers (such as the Nvidia proprietary driver) do not show your multiple monitors in System Settings > Displays. If this is the case, you will need to use the tools provided with the driver to set which display is your primary.

Other Tips

Restarting GNOME Shell

It's unlikely, but in the unlikely event of problems with gnome-shell, you can restart the shell without needing to close any of your applications or log out of your current session

Just run 'r' in the Alt+F2 Prompt and your gnome shell should restart, clearing any shell related problems without effecting the applications you're running

See also

External links