Tuesday, 12 July 2011

GNOME 3: Bearable with GNOME Shell Frippery

A while ago I read about this project, a small collection of scripts with the aim at creating a more GNOME 2 like user experience with the name of GNOME Shell frippery, so I had to try it out on my experimental install and took a few more screenshots to illustrate the effect. I'm also suspecting that many users are still unaware of it.

Extensions in Tweak Tool
There are a few extensions most likely already in your repository, like the alternative-status-menu extension, which in this case does not conflict with but does exactly the same as the shut down menu extension in the gnome-shell-frippery-0.2.3.tgz package, i.e. it places the longed for Shut Down entry into the users menu. So if you have any other extensions installed already find out which ones you can disable.

Detailed installation instructions are available on the home page. To install, unpack the tar file in your home directory and place the extensions in ~/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions, or make them available system-wide for all users in /usr/share/gnome-shell/extensions. An RPM for Fedora 15 is also available as stated.

GNOME Shell with application launchers top left, clock moved to the right

What you get is something resembling the GNOME 2 environment as promised, including a lower panel that, unfortunately for now, seems to remain with the default dark glass color even when changing themes. Thus the slight discrepancy between upper and lower panel in the next screenshot. The panel is giving way to the notification bar in switcher mode (above).

GNOME Shell with the Gaia theme and a proper bottom panel

With the Disable Dynamic Workspaces extension users can get their four virtual desktops back and also get a traditional pager. The annoying behavior to pop up the notification bar every time the cursor has travelled into the lower right corner has been disabled, and there is now an exclamation mark next to the pager that needs clicking to bring up notifications.

Together with Tweak Tool for easier management of settings and a few other extensions like this one that allows to once again have system monitoring applets back in the bar this is starting to look and feel like a more modern version of the GNOME 2.x desktop, with Compiz enabled by default. With all the extensions around now just be careful not to overcrowd the panel. All you should need to do now is apply a nice theme and you're set.

An Applications menu is replacing the Activities button, notifications coming up above the panel

All in all this is quite bearable, and definitely a better option for a 2.x series like feel than the fallback mode with its poor integration and functionality. I'm still of the opinion though that all this should have been part of GNOME 3 in the first place and it should have been released with a collection of Javascript extensions from the source instead of leaving it to third-parties' ingenuity to bridge the gap, but maybe I just don't understand what modular means in the UNIX philosophy. This strikes me more as a bare bones release though than a modular one.


  1. Looks really good, I may have to try it sometime. I totally agree with you about gnome 3 btw, when I ran it for a few weeks it felt sort of incomplete. I installed a dock, it seemed to give my working habits a better flow. I really do not care much for docks usually. But I felt it was the best option at the time to solve my beef with gnome shell. Which was that sometimes gnome shell made me feel a little claustrophobic or like I had just painted myself into a corner.

  2. I got these to work just now in Fedora 15. I just extracted the extensions into the .local/share/gnome-shell/extensions/, then logged-out-and-in. I really like what I see. There is only one big thing I wish I had at this point, and that is having the menus share horizontal space on the title-bars of windows. Here is what I mean (only for Unity):

    If anyone finds an extension that does that, please write a comment to this!

  3. Thanks for the post. It was very interesting and meaningful.
    Vee Eee Technologies

  4. how do i install, i'm an ubuntu/linux noob. i unpacked with tar -zxvf now what?


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