Freedom of choice is a central plank of open source software. It should be the user who decides how their computer is configured. That’s very relevant when choosing and configuring a desktop environment. One of Linux’s best features is its modularity.
Extensibility relates to the ability to customize a desktop environment to an individual’s preferences and tastes. This flexibility is offered by themes, extensions, and applets. The principle provides for enhancements without impairing existing system functions.
GNOME ships with a System Settings tool which isn’t as diverse as some of its peers. There’s still useful options such as a simple way to enable remote access and file sharing. If you’re serious about customizing GNOME, you’ll need the Tweaks (previously known as GNOME Tweaks) utility. It’s not an official GNOME app, but it offers some advanced tinkering for GNOME Shell. But when it comes to micro-configuring the GNOME desktop to your preference, Tweaks is not a complete solution. Fortunately, there’s an awesome range of extensions that provide additional functionality.
Here’s our recommended GNOME shell extensions. Most of the extensions are not officially supported by GNOME. But they all take the desktop to the next level, either by adding useful functionality, improving your workflow, or simply offering a touch of panache to the desktop. All the extensions all compatible with the latest release of GNOME. Naturally there’s only open source goodness on offer.
The extensions are best installed from the gnome-shell extensions website, although a few need to be installed from the individual project’s website. Some extensions are installed by default with Linux distributions.
1. Dash to Dock
Let’s start the ball rolling with a genuinely standout extension.
Dash is one of the graphical elements of the GNOME Shell. Dash lets you quickly switch between and launch applications. It’s built into the Activities Overview. But what if you want to move the Dash out of the Overview, make it more streamlined to start applications, and switch between windows and workspaces quicker?
Step forward the awesome Dash to Dock extension. There’s a ton of options available. You decide where to show the dock on the screen, define the dock size limit, icon size limit, configure launchers, behavior, and its appearance.
We’re a big fan of the option to hide the dock when it obstructs a window of the current application. That’s called intelligent autohide, and it’s available here. The extension is themes friendly.
Tiling window managers and desktop environments that employ this method of managing windows (e.g. Regolith) seem very much in vogue.
What if you’re more than happy with the GNOME desktop but still desire tiled scrollable window management for Gnome Shell. We recommend PaperWM as an elegant solution that doesn’t replace Mutter, the GNOME compositor and window manager.
PaperWM maximizes each window by heights, and stacks then next to each other in a line. The extension is in an experimental stage of development, but it works very well as long as you’re willing to learn some essential key bindings.
3. Arc Menu
If you’re keen on traditional metaphors, an application menu will be an essential redline. Besides being beautifully implemented, Arc Menu adds search functionality and quick access to your files. When the user types text in the ArcMenu’s search entry, the input is forwarded to all known search providers within GNOME shell, and the results are relayed back for display.
Arc Menu integrated with Dash-to-Dock really enhances the desktop experience.
There’s a few other good extensions that replace the standard menu in GNOME 3. Gno-Menu is featured later in this article.
Pages in this article:
Page 1 – Dash to Dock, PaperWM, Arc Menu
Page 2 – Window List, TaskBar 2020, OpenWeather
Page 3 – TopIcons Plus, GSConnect, Screenshot Tool
Page 4 – Drop Down Terminal X, Auto Move Windows, Internet Radio
Page 5 – ShellTile, you2ber, Mpris Indicator Button
Page 6 – NetSpeed, Workspaces-to-Dock, Clipboard Indicator
Page 7 – Switcher, Timezone, Places Status Indicator
Page 8 – Time ++, Coverflow Alt-Tab, Extensions
Page 9 – Gno-Menu, Desktop Icons, Activities Configurator
Page 10 – Caffeine, Recent Items, Top Panel Workspace Scroll
Page 11 – System monitor, Frippery Panel Favorites, Removable Drive Menu
Read our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. The collection covers all categories of software.
The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There's tons of in-depth reviews, alternatives to Google, fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.