Gnome 3 Extensions for Traditionalists

Shortly after Fedora 15 was GA’d, I decided to take the plunge and give Gnome 3 a try. Gnome 3 is, in my humble opinion, such a drastic change from the traditional desktop environment that I have had a very difficult time adjusting to how different it is. Call me old fashioned, but I like a few icons on my desktop, a fixed dock for shortcuts to my favorite applications, and a minimize button. My first Gnome 3 experience on my laptop, which I use for testing new releases, was a failure. Therefore, when it came time to upgrade my main desktop at work, I chose to once again attempt a conversion to KDE 4.

I am now 3 weeks into that experiment and I am ready to pull my hair out. I have primarily been a Gnome user during my 8+ years as a Linux user, mostly because Gnome has always had just enough to satisfy my desktop needs. KDE has always felt bloated and I’m not a fan of its visual styling. With that said, I still take new KDE releases for a spin to satisfy my curiosity. Each test drive has always ended the same way with me becoming utterly frustrated with some aspect of KDE.

After a valuable discussion with a fellow Fedora user at work, I decided to take another look at Gnome 3 this past weekend. He suggested that I dig into some of the extensions that have been released which can help make Gnome 3 feel more like Gnome 2. What follows are my notes on how to make Gnome 3 more palatable. A tangential goal was to rely primarily on packages that are already available in either the main Fedora repos or the rpmfusion repos.

Install a couple packages:

  1. yum install gnome-tweak-tool
  2. yum install gnome-shell-extension-workspacesmenu
  3. yum install gnome-shell-extension-dock
  4. yum install gnome-shell-extensions-places-menu
  5. yum install gnome-shell-extensions-alternative-status-menu
  6. yum install gnome-shell-extensions-drive-menu

Use the gnome-tweak-tool to:

  1. Under File Manager: set “Have file manager handle the desktop” to On
  2. Under File Manager: set “Computer icon visible on desktop” to On
  3. Under File Manager: set “Home icon visible on desktop” to On
  4. Under File Manager: set “Trash icon visible on desktop” to On
  5. Under Interface: set “Icon Theme” to Fedora
  6. Under Shell: set “Arrangement of buttons on the titlebar” to All

The above two sections were accomplished without any unsustainable changes to json config files or downloading and installing extensions from source. However, a few pieces were missing: fixed workspaces, an Applications menu like Gnome 2 (instead of the Activities in Gnome 3), and the tried but true window list applet.

After some research, I stumbled across Ron Yorston’s collection of extensions, which are available from here: http://intgat.tigress.co.uk/rmy/extensions/index.html. Ron was nice enough to provide both a 32 bit and 64 bit RPM for Fedora 15, which I installed with the following command:

  • yum localinstall ftp://ftp.tigress.co.uk/fedora/15/tigress-utils/x86_64/gnome-shell-frippery-0.2.5-1.noarch.rpm

Rather than copying and pasting my command, I suggest you check his site for the latest version of the extensions. As Ron mentions, “The extensions hook into the very core of the GNOME shell. It’s almost inevitable that future changes to the shell will break them (though I’ll make every effort to unbreak them).”

So that’s my two cents on how to adjust Gnome 3 to my tastes. I’m actually pretty pleased with the results and if I can overcome a few other issues, I plan to use the same configuration on my workstations at home and at work. If you have anything to add, please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.

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