The future is now, GNOME Shell is here

The desktop

Clean DesktopSurely the very first thing you notice when you approach to the GNOME 3 is an empty desktop. Just a wallpaper background, no icons at all and, as you’ll soon discover, no pop-up menu if you right click on the desktop background.

If you’ve ever tried to save some files in the desktop folder (the exact folder name depends from the distribution, sometimes is called Desktop, sometimes is translated in your language like Escritorio, Scrivania or similar names) you could have found that your files won’t be shown in the desktop, like if it’s dead, unusable for everything.

Indeed the whole classic desktop in GNOME 3 should be considered as deprecated but many users aren’t still ready to abandon it so we’ll see here how to get the classic desktop back .

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The application switcherAnother way to move between the windows is using the Application switcher, a popup window which appears using the default shortcut keys ALT+TAB. Its usage requires to keep the ALT key pressed and press the TAB key multiple times to move between the applications.

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Many applications are runningWhen multiple windows are opened the desktop can soon become a mess, fulfilled with many windows covering the others and to find your application can be really frustrating. The GNOME Shell offers multiple possibilities to help the user to handle multiple windows.

The absence of a classic windows list like in others desktop environments could initially make you feel lost, it’s never easy to change your habits. After years of MS Windows, Apple OS X, GNOME and KDE the new GNOME Shell solution will surely appear unfriendly to adopt but after the initial approach it should you result really simple and natural.

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The Dash

The dashWhen you open the Activities overview, in the left side you can see the dash, a dock bar for your favorite applications and to offer a place for your running applications.

Every icon in the dash can be removed or moved and of course you can also add new icons in the dash. It’s usage is pretty straight, just to click upon the icon and the corresponding application will be started.

When an application is running, its icon on the dash will present a light white glow (in the left picture you could see it under the Firefox and Shotwell icons). Whenever you click the icon of a running application the existing window will be moved in the foreground and made visible again.

In contrast to the old GNOME 2 panel, clicking the icon of an application already visible it will not hide or minimize the visible window, it will simply show it again and close the activities overview.

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derStandard.at interviewed Jon McCann, a designer of GNOME 3, about the future of the project and its position between user critics and enthusiasts. Whatever it will be, GNOME 3 will surely make it talk about itself again.

The interview is available here.

While it’s surely the most important part of the GNOME Shell I left it at the last to give it more attention as it needs. I’m obviously talking about the Activities button, located in the upper left corner of the panel.

Activities Button and rippleYou can click upon it but you can also simply move the mouse pointer in the upper left corner of the screen to make it react as it was effectively pressed. In such case, a light blue animation (called ripple) is shown to help the user understand why the Activities screen was shown.
With the default keyboard configuration, the left Win key also works like to press the Activities button.

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User menuThe User menu in the upper rightmost corner is identified by a bubble and the full name of the currently logged user. The bubble icon is meant to display the available or busy state in the stock IM client called Empathy.

Clicking the User menu various menu items are shown. Under the two IM status items there will be presented many others options.

My Account menu item will open the User Accounts dialog where you can configure new users and change the details of your account.

System Settings leads to the general control panel for many settings of GNOME 3.

Lock Screen will lock the current session so that the user password will be asked to unlock the session again.

Switch User will open a new X Server and will start a new login manager to allow another user to login.

Log Out item will show a confirmation dialog to close the current session and all the running programs and disconnects the user.

The Suspend menu item is meant to have a dual function: suspend the current session leaving the computer in stand-by mode or to power off the computer if the ALT key is pressed.

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Calendar menuThe Clock menu in the center of the top panel when clicked will show the Calendar and the upcoming events from the Evolution application. On the bottom two buttons allow to open the Date and Time Settings and the calendar application.

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Clean DesktopWhen you access to your GNOME 3 desktop for the first time, most probably you’ll see such image, a clean desktop with blue stripes on the background and no icons at all on the so called Desktop.

As you can soon discover, there’s not a classic desktop like the previous GNOME releases (or MS Windows and Apple OS X), no files can be saved on the desktop, neither it reacts to right clicks. This is the default behavior but can be modified to restore the classic desktop with icons in the background behind the windows. We’ll see later how to control the desktop behavior.

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