Essential extensions for GNOME 3

 While GNOME 3 is a fairly friendly desktop environment, there are some old habits that don’t die. When migrating to this version, there were several changes in interactions or behaviors that it gave as de facto standards. Some I got used to, others not. Luckily, in free software everything is customizable.

The first tool I installed when I started using GNOME was the GNOME Tweak Tool. This application lets us configure several more advanced options than those provided by the GNOME control center. For example I recently discovered that I had lost the functionality of moving a window by pressing Alt + Click and dragging. Searching a bit I found that this can be returned from Tweak Tool’s “Windows” menu and choosing Alt as “Window Action Key”.

GNOME Tweak Tool also provides a manager for GNOME extensions. The only other way I know of to manage them is through its web interface, but it’s nice to be able to manage these things without an internet connection. Anyway, the web interface works quite well, and the integration with Firefox on Debian is perfect.

The last time I wrote about the extensions I used in GNOME was in 2013 when I went back to Debian. Talking about it with my friend Grilix, I found it interesting to share the extensions I use today. The ones that I have installed and I recommend are the following:

Maximus NG

Update: Maximus NG has been discontinued and the developer recommends using Pixel Saver instead.

It is an extension that takes away the decoration from the windows when they are maximized. In this way, the vertical space of the screen is used a little more.

Maximus NG
In my case I save about 37 pixels in height, not negligible … Source code.

My laptop has two video cards, an integrated Intel, and an NVIDIA with “Optimus” technology that optimizes battery use. The bumblebee project provides support for this technology on Linux systems, running applications with the optirun command. This extension does more than bring this functionality to the graphical environment. Generally you have to execute the commands with optirun program. But with this extension we can use optirun (or primusrun which would apparently replace optirun) from the applications menu:


Probably the case of Steam games is not the most useful. From the Steam client we can set the game to run with optirun or primusrun by entering the properties, “Set Launch Options” and entering optirun% command%

Source code

TopIcons Plus

This extension is a fork of a previous one with quite simple but extremely useful functionality. Move the icon tray (now hidden at the bottom left of the screen) to the top right panel. It serves for example to see notifications of things that we do not have configured to use desktop notifications (which are a bit annoying at times, and with the following extension it improves the situation a bit).

TopIcons Plus
Source code.
OSD panel

Very useful extension to configure where on the screen we want the notifications to appear. By default they appear in the center of the screen, below the top panel. It was uncomfortable for me because it was hiding information that I usually need on that part of the screen.


You have several different configuration options. I also found that there is an extension to make the notifications transparent, but I couldn’t make it work, and I didn’t try much more … For now I realize that having the notifications at the bottom right generates much less noise for me. Source code
Workspace Grid

I used to use this extension which returns the virtual desktop grid to GNOME. Now they are stacked in a column and they are generated dynamically. But in some GNOME update, the extension stopped working and I got used to this new way of interaction. When the extension was updated and compatible again I tried it again, and I really missed the dynamic column, so I uninstalled it …
Bonus Track: Restart GNOME without “restarting” GNOME

With all this from the GNOME settings, I found by chance that by running the “r” command (Alt + F2 and simply entering r and pressing Enter in the dialog), we can restart GNOME without losing the session. It is used, for example, for when we install extensions that need to restart the environment in order to start using them. By restarting like this, the applications that we have open remain, we do not lose unsaved changes, and only GNOME Shell is restarted.

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