Things To Do On Installing Fedora 15 And Tweaking Gnome-Shell

I've started using the beta of Fedora 15 (Lovelock) that uses Gnome-Shell and it is awesome! I really dig the new interface. It's clean and simple and stays out of the way. There are no menus to search through to open applications or common files and the integrated chat is just amazing. But it should still be considered beta software. Too many things that you would think were basic changes require command line tweaks or coding knowledge. There are a lot of settings that used to be easy to change in Gnome 2 that aren't easily accessible anymore. Gnome 3 is not yet ready for the computer un-savvy.

1. Gnome Tweak Tool

Though Gnome 3 comes with a single tool for editing System Settings it is no where near complete. So the first thing we need is the Gnome Tweak Tool created by John Stowers to pick up some of the slack. It should be available in the default repos as gnome-tweak-tool. Among other things this will let you easily change themes, add back min/max buttons if you miss them (though I find myself agreeing with the case for their removal) and change font size, hinting and anti-aliasing.

sudo yum install gnome-tweak-tool

2. Startup Applications

Another thing that isn't easily accessible is managing your startup applications. The tool that did this in the past is still available but just missing a launcher. To start it run gnome-session-properties in a terminal.


3. Keyboard Shortcuts

Not exactly a tweak but it is handy to know some of the new key commands used in gnome-shell. Here's an in-depth intro. Some really good ones to know:
  • Super key (aka System or Windows key) - Switches from desktop to overview modes. You will use this all the time.
  • rt in the Alt+F2 launcher - This reloads the theme and will be very useful when we start tweaking the theme file later on.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Up/Down arrow - Moves the current window to a different workspace. This one I just found today and I already find it pretty useful.
4. Arch tweaks

The ArchLinux wiki has a great list of tweaks, though some caution is necessary when trying them out. My favourite of the bunch is how to disable the accessibility icon. It's great that accessibility is so easy to change for those who need it but it just takes up space for those who don't. ArchLinux also has a more general list of tweaks not specific to gnome-shell that is worth checking out.

5. Extensions

A few other useful extensions have surfaced on the internet. Those I've found particularly handy:
  • Alternative Status Menu - gnome-shell-extension-alternative-status-menu in the repos. This adds Hibernate and Power Off entries to the top right corner menu so you don't have to hold Alt to get to them.
  • Windows Navigator - gnome-shell-extension-windowsNavigator It lets you select between open windows in the overview by holding Alt+number. Great for people that like keyboard shortcuts.
  • Adwaita Improved Theme - A theme from half-left that reduces some of the padding around windows and buttons in the default theme.
Webupd8 (a fantastic blog) also has a nice section of Gnome-shell themes and extensions that you should check out.

6. Customizing the Interface

One of the greatest new features of gnome-shell is that pretty much everything is done using common web technologies (xml, javascript and css). This gives anyone who's done a bit of web development a huge leg up on making themes and extensions for gnome-shell. One of the first things I wanted to change when I first saw gnome-shell was spacing. Everything in the default style takes up way too much space. All this can be changed in the main style sheet is located at /usr/share/gnome-shell/theme/gnome-shell.css.

Save a copy of the file before you start tweaking in case anything goes wrong!

A must have resource for editing this file is a guide to it's terminology. Best of luck!

7. Things I'm still looking for

There are a few things I still want before I can call my gnome-shell setup perfect. Hopefully I can find someone who's already done some of these or find the time to do it myself.
  • Replicating the behaviour of the Compiz Grid plugin. I used this all the time, it let you move windows to specific areas of the screen using only keyboard shortcuts. The snap left/right behaviour in gnome-shell is just a cheap imitation and gets in the way when I move windows close to my screen's edge.
  • Weather information in the calendar menu similar to the gnome 2 calendar.
  • Have the Open Calendar button in the calendar menu open google calendar in my browser since I don't use Evolution. [Solved, see Jason's comment]
  • The new Ubuntu style disappearing scroll bars.
  • Being able to Shutdown/Restart/Hibernate/Suspend quickly, using only the keyboard (anybody know some hotkeys for this? Or maybe I'll just create some .desktop files to implement this behaviour).
  • Panel icon to notify me of package updates
  • Number lock persistence, when I log out with number lock on I expect to log in with number lock on. I'm going to report this as a bug.


Jason said...

I managed to change the 'Open Calendar' link to open Google Calendar in chromium.

edit /usr/share/gnome-shell/js/ui/dateMenu.js

go to the bottom and change the line starting with "Util.spawn" to

Util.spawn(['chromium', ''])

then press ALT+F2 and type r then enter..

done :)

Oliver Schmid said...

Sweet! Thanks Jason. One thing, the command-line argument for chromium is "chromium-browser".

Yalcin said...

If you want to add "Hibernate" and "Power Off" in your status menu, paste the following code into your terminal;

"yum install gnome-shell-extensions-alternative-status-menu"

Yalcin said...

I forgot to mention that restart is in Power Off. If you click on it, it'll ask if you want to power off or restart.

Yalcin said...

For weather information in the calendar menu, you can check the below website. There are required files and installation guide.

Note: I haven't tried it.

Oliver Schmid said...

Thanks Yalcin. Yeah, I've seen the alternative status menu before (I mention it with the other extensions in section 5), what I meant was being able to initiate shutdown from the overview as if it were an application. Kind of like Gnome-Do, Synapse and other launchers let you do. It should be pretty simple to do (just whip up some .desktop files to launch the appropriate commands). I might try it later.

I've seen a couple gnome-shell weather extensions. The other one is a little more colourful:

I'll give both a try a little later and see which one I like better.

tktim said...

Click on your name in upper right hand corner. Then hold the ALT key down. "Suspend" will change to "Power Off..." then click on Power Off... This will also give you the choice to "Restart".

Vasja said...

And also about opening google calendar...
...the command-line argument for chrome is "google-chrome".

Oliver Schmid said...

Right Vasja! Those using Google Chrome (which is based on the open source browser project that goes by the name Chromium) should use the different command. If you're interested, here are the differences between Chrome and Chromium:

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot

Anonymous said...

For quick keybaord-shortcuts for reboot shutdown:

User Menu -> System Setting -> Keyboard -> Shortcuts
-> Custom Shortcuts

Create/modify your shortcuts here.

# sudo shutdown -r
for reboot etc.

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