GNOME Shell has been criticized for lacking many familiar features found in GNOME 2, but you can add them yourself with extensions. If you’ve installed GNOME Shell and didn’t like it, don’t write it off until you try some extensions.

If you’re using Ubuntu, check out our guide to installing GNOME Shell and getting started. GNOME Shell is the default desktop on Fedora and should be available in most distribution’s package repositories.

Installing Extensions

You can install extensions from the GNOME Extensions website in just a few clicks — no command-line wizardry required.

To install an extension, open its page and set the slider on its page to “On.” You’ll be prompted to confirm the installation.

Manage your extensions from the Installed Extensions tab on the GNOME Extensions website.

Support for installing extensions from the website was added in GNOME 3.2, so you’ll have to update GNOME if you can’t install extensions from the website. Yry upgrading to the latest version of your favorite Linux distribution to easily get the latest version of GNOME.

Applications Menu

The Applications Menu extension adds a GNOME 2-like Applications menu to the top bar. With so many users missing this feature in GNOME 3, it’s no wonder it’s so popular.


The Dock extension frees the applications dock from the Activities screen and puts it on your desktop, allowing you to launch new applications and switch between them from your desktop.

Places Status Indicator

This extension adds a Places menu to your panel, allowing you to easily open different folders in GNOME’s file manager — restoring another GNOME 2 feature.

Frippery Bottom Panel

This extension adds a GNOME 2-like bottom panel back to your desktop, complete with a window list picker and workspace switcher. If you don’t like the GNOME Shell way of doing things, this extension makes GNOME Shell feel a bit more familiar.

Alternative Status Menu

The Alternative Status Menu extension replaces GNOME’s default status menu with one containing a Power Off option. While this should arguably be the default, it’s a good example of how extensions can compensate for GNOME Shell’s perceived shortcomings.

Media Player Indicator

The Media Player Indicator extension allows you to control media players directly from the panel. It works just like the similar feature found in Ubuntu’s Unity desktop and supports Rhythmbox, Banshee, Clementine, and other media players.

Windows Alt Tab

GNOME Shell’s default Alt-Tab behavior groups windows into a single application icon and shows applications from all workspaces. This extension makes the Alt-Tab switcher switch between windows on the current workspace, displaying a different icon for each window.

Workspace Indicator

The Workspace Indicator extension adds an indicator icon for switching between workspaces. You can also do this from the Activities overview or with the Ctrl-Alt-Arrow Key keyboard shortcuts.

Panel Settings

If you’re using a netbook or another system with a small screen, install the Panel Settings extension and set the top panel to auto-hide. Windows will take up the full screen, taking maximum advantage of your screen real estate.

You can also move the panel to the bottom of the screen with the Edge option in this extension.

Remove Accessibility

GNOME Shell always displays an accessibility menu icon on the panel. This isn’t necessarily a bad default — but if you never use the accessibility menu, you might want to get rid of it and reduce interface clutter. The Remove Accessibility extension hides this icon.

This is just a small snapshot of the many extensions available for GNOME SHell. Feel free to browse the extensions gallery and pick out your own favorites.

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Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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