Sunday, May 13, 2012

Getting the most of your Gnome Shell with Extensions

Its no secret that I have become something of a fan of Gnome 3. That being said however there are certainly some legitimate concerns regarding functionality. One unfortunate thing, is that in order to really understand how best to use your desktop actually requires you to do some reading... its not always immediately obvious. I personally don't find this terribly troubling, but I can certainly see how this can frustrate newer users. The other criticism is that Gnome 3 is inflexible and not extensible with applets the way Gnome 2 was. Though this is a legitimate concern it is not an entirely legitimate criticism, simply because it isn't true. On the contrary, Gnome 3 offers an elegant and easy to use extension framework that is more versatile than what applets provide. It should be noted that Gnome 3 being new may not have the extension you had hoped for, but it most probably will given enough time.

So now I present to you my personal favorite Gnome Shell extensions to address a number of these concerns. I frankly like Gnome Shell, and am thus not terribly interested in trying to alter the appearance or behavior of the environment to ape Gnome 2 or any other desktops. That being said, there are a few things that probably should have been included. You must be using Gnome 3.2 or higher to be able to use the Gnome Shell extensions.

1.Alt-Tab switcher
Knowing to use the Alt-Tab application switcher is a quick way to speed up your workflow. However, the switcher in Gnome Shell is just a bit counter-intuitive since it is hybridized a bit. Check the Gnome Cheat Sheet to see if you like the original. If you don't like being unable to switch between windows in the older fashion (the new fashion by default simply lists open applications, then offers what is essentially a dropdown to get to the individual windows) then this extension is for you. A plus with this one, is that switches the behavior to a slick and attractive coverflow design.

2.Alternative Status Menu, or how the hell do I reboot!?!?!
With the Alternative Status Menu, the need for holding the Alt key is removed. Now you have access to powering off and rebooting in the normal way you would expect.

3.Network Connections.
So, often I have had to remove a connection in order to reconnect to a network that has changed in some way. Granted this is probably a flaw with my hardware or the router in question. Nonetheless, getting quickly to network connections isn't as obvious as it used to be. This extension fixes that by adding a shortcut in the networking menu.

4.Remove the Accesibility Icon.
Many people have no use for the accessibility options, and thus don't want the clutter in the panel. This extension removes it.

5.Notifications.
I like the new way of handling notifications, but if I step away from my computer I may miss them if I don't check that little auto-hiding tray in the lower right. This extension adds a little notifier icon to the panel to let you know you have new notifications and allows you to access them.

6.Calculator.
This isn't a lack from Gnome 2, but I like it. Simply start tapping in a math problem in the dashboard overview and see an instantly calculated result.

7.Media Player Indicator.
This extension adds an elegant little controller to your panel when there is an open media player that uses the correct interface(MPRIS2), which is most. This allows you to quickly control your media playback from such programs as Banshee or Rythymbox.

8.Advanced Settings
Add Advanced Settings to your status menu. This will allow you to instantly open the gnome-tweak-tool which is installed by default on openSUSE.

9.Places Status Indicator
This adds your home folder into a neat drop down. Its rather like a stackfolder, or the legacy gnome menu Places. Very convenient.