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16 January 2012, 15:52

Tuning GNOME 3

By Thorsten Leemhuis

A recently launched web site is collecting extensions for the GNOME 3 interface. These extensions can be used to individually tailor the shell of the often criticised desktop environment and, for example, give it a GNOME 2 feel.

Since its introduction, GNOME 3 has received a fair amount of criticism, as not everyone likes its new operating concepts. In recent months, a wide variety of extensions for the GNOME shell have popped up that add individual settings or GNOME 2 functions to GNOME 3, similar to how extensions work in Firefox and Thunderbird. The web site, launched by the GNOME Project developers in early December, is collecting these extensions to enable easy installation, just as does for Mozilla's applications.


The relatively simple web site, with a big red and white "Alpha!" stamp in the title, included almost 30 extensions shortly after it was launched; that figure jumped to 60 by mid-December and now stands at around 100. Users can comment on and rate each of the extensions; however, a search function and the ability to sort by the most popular extensions or extension categories have yet to be added to the site.

Each extension has its own page with a short description. GNOME 3.2 users running Firefox can directly install extensions by sliding the switch to the left of the extension's name. The GNOME Shell confirms the installation and immediately activates the extensions. This process doesn't work in WebKit browsers such as Chromium and Epiphany because of an error in the shell; this will reportedly be fixed in GNOME 3.4, which is expected to arrive in March. The extension web site has patches that fix this bug, but no information on which distributors are providing their users with these corrections.

On a separate page, the web site lists all installed extensions with buttons for enabling and disabling each – this can also be done offline using the GNOME Tweak Tool.

Available extensions

There is a wide variety of extensions, with some of the most interesting being presented here. We have also put together a slideshow with more than 30 useful extensions – often, a screenshot of an extension being used is worth a thousand words.

Many of the extensions only adjust some minor details – however, these tend to be details that seriously annoy some GNOME 3 users. The Alternative Status Menu extension adds "Suspend/Hibernate" and "Power Off" to the status menu. Permanent Notifications shows instant messages from Empathy until they are manually dismissed so users don't miss any IMs if they happen to look away from the screen for a few seconds.

Next: GNOME 2 Look, Growing pains

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