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Gnome 3 Tips

by bookwar last modified Feb 02, 2012 06:04 AM

Small tips on using the new Gnome 3 desktop.


If your graphics card doesn't support 3d-acceleration, Gnome 3  automatically runs the fallback-mode. Instead of Gnome-Shell and Mutter you get the good old Metacity and Gnome-panel. 

3d-acceleration support has nothing to do with the system perfomance. The important thing is a good-quality video driver. For example, integrated Intel GMA945 has full support for Gnome 3 with all Gnome-Shell features.

Virtual machines, like VirtualBox, does not support 3d-acceleration for new server even if there exists "3d support" setting in their preferences menu.

How to enable fallback-mode

  • GUI-method

To force the fallback-mode go to "System Settings" -> ''System Info'' -> ''Graphics'', turn on the "forced fallback mode" switch and relogin.

  • console method

The dconf schema-key pair responsible for Gnome session is called org.gnome.desktop.session session-name. Possible values are gnome(default) and ''gnome-fallback''.

To get the current value run

 $ gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.session session-name

To change it run

 $ dbus-launch gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.session session-name 'gnome-fallback'

dbus-launch is necessary for gsettings to be able to change the key in the absence of X-server and gnome-session process.


Using compiz in fallback mode


Install Compiz from the repositories, then select 'Classic Gnome with Compiz' from the login selector.

Screenshot (fedora forums)


gnome-panel settings

Fallback-mode uses the gnome-panel ported to Gnome3 from Gnome2. As usual, you can adjust its color, position, size, background, add some launchers, clock or tasklist.
The only new thing you should know about gnome-panel is: to access its properties dialog Alt+RightClick on it. In VirtualBox you need LeftAlt + RightCtrl + RightClick.


Gconf-editor or gconftool-2

In fallback-mode the metacity window manager is used. You can find its settings in gconf.

To change the metacity theme run

 $ gconf-editor

find the key /desktop/gnome/interface/gtk_theme and type in the theme name.

The name of the theme is equal to the name of its folder in /usr/share/themes/.
Additional metacity themes can be installed from official repos. Check the list

$ yum list \*theme\*


Current problems


metacity fails if composting is enabled. You can fix this with :


gconftool-2 (command line)

gconftool-2 --type bool --set /apps/metacity/general/compositing_manager false


Start gconf-editor and navigate to apps -> metacity -> general , set compositing_manager to false


Gnome Shell

For Gnome-Shell overview check the official videos.

Start from reading Gnome Shell Cheat Sheet.

  •  To reload Gnome-Shell without closing other applications use Alt-F2 r
  • To run the debug utility Looking Glass use Alt-F2 lg


Current problems


  •  Window titlebar doesn't have minimize/maximize buttons
You supposed to use double click on the titlebar to maximize window. But if you do not like this idea, you can get these buttons with the help of gnome-tweak-tool.
  • Windows titlebar is too big
You can change Mutter theme. See below.
  • Big icons in Applications menu
 You can change icon size in Gnome Shell theme. See below.
  • No Shutdown and Reboot buttons in status menu.You are supposed to use Suspend mostly


  1. you can use Alt-F2 reboot/shutdown command
  2. you can hold Alt in status menu
  3. you can install the gnome-shell-extensions-alternative-status-menu package to restore all the hidden items in status menu.


  • Gnome-Shell theme 
To enable user themes install gnome-shell-extensions-user-theme package. You can download some new themes from Deviant-Art or Gnome-Look. See below for the details.
  • Lack of keyboard navigation in Overview-mode. GBZ#644306
With ''windowsNavigator'' extension to switch between windows in Overview-mode you can hold ''Alt'' and then the window number. But grid-like navigation could be much better. Looking forward for the updates.


Gnome Tweak Tool

The most user-friendly tweaking tool.
To install it run

 $ su -c 'yum install gnome-tweak-tool'

To run the application

 $ gnome-tweak-tool

Gnome-tweak-tool is still under development, thus new settings can appear. 

Dconf-editor and gsettings

Gnome 3 uses dconf to store its configuration parameters. There are two utilities which can work directly with dconf schema-key pairs: dconf-editor and gsettings. The recommended tool is gsettings, though it has no GUI.
To get key value run

$ gsettings get <schema> <key>

To change the key value gsettings uses dbus-service. Thus, to edit key from text console without gnome-session use dbus-launch:

$ dbus-launch gsettings set <schema> <key> <value>


dconf-editor is a graphical front end for gesttings and can be installed with


yum install dconf-editor


gconftool-2 and gconf-editor


Both of these tools can work in gnome-shell as well. gconf-editor is a graphical front end and may be easier if you do not know which key (setting) you wish to set.



The most powerfull tool for Gnome-Shell customization. Check the official page for details.
1) You can install Gnome Shell extensions system-wide from rpm-packages. The get the current list of available extensions run:

$ yum list  gnome-shell-extensions\*


2) There is the alpha-version of the official Gnome extensions collection, where you can easily manage your extensions through web-browser. Just visit the link Currently it works with Firefox browser only.


3) You can add some local extensions using the official How To from the link above. But be careful with third-party extensions. Always check the code you are going to install.

To disable some installed extension you can use dconf schema-key pair disabled-extensions or visit the link


Third party extensions


There is a repository of third party extensions at


To use one of these extensions, download the tar.gz and extract it to ~/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions. Then restart gnome-shell or log off and back on.


Weather extension : (you use the tar.gz from the above link and not git).


And many more can be found.



There are four main things one can customize in Gnome 3: gtk2 theme, gtk3 theme, Mutter theme and Gnome Shell theme. Gtk2, Gtk3, and Mutter themes stay at /usr/share/themes/ or ~/.themes/ folder. Gnome Shell is different, and it needs special extension(see below).

Gnome Tweak Tool should handle all the themes soon. Check the updates.

There is one problem with Mutter right now: It does support Metacity themes(like Mist, Clearlooks and so on), but gnome-tweak-tool shows only Adwaita in the list of available themes.

To change Mutter theme to some old-style metacity theme run

 $ gconf-editor

Find the key desktop>gnome>shell>windows>theme and type in the theme name.

Theme name is equal to the name of its folder in /usr/share/themes or ~/.themes/

 Gnome-Shell theme

First, install the user-theme extension:

 $ su -c 'yum install gnome-shell-extensions-user-theme.noarch'

Then download the zip-archive with theme files, check this link for examples.

Method 1: run gnome-tweak-tool and in Shell tab pick up the zip-archive with your theme. Theme files are now automatically extracted to ~/.themes folder and you can edit them directly, if needed.


Method 2 (when gnome-tweak-tool doesn't work or unavailable): unpack zip archive into the ~/.themes In terminal run (with user rights, not root)

$ gsettings set name '<Name of the theme folder>'

For example:

$ ls ~/.themes
Frosted Glass
Smooth Inset
$ gsettings set name 'Frosted Glass'

Run Alt-F2 r to reload Gnome Shell.


Show icons on desktop


Using gsettings

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons true


Using dconf-editor - Start dconf-editor and navigate to org -> gnome -> desktop -> background. Select the "show-desktop-icons" box.


Custom application launcher

To add the custom launcher to dash-panel you need to create corresponding desktop-file and put it to the ~/.local/share/applications folder. Then launcher will appear in Applications list and you can drag-n-drop it to dash-panel.

You can use the program Alacarte for easy desktop-file creation or create it manually, using the example below/
The .desktop-file format is explained in desktop-entry-spec.

Simple example - foo.desktop:

[Desktop Entry]



Name=Foo Viewer

Comment=The best viewer for Foo objects available!


Exec=fooview %F




Autostart settings

To edit the autostart applications list run

 $ gnome-session-properties


Network manager


Network manager is a graphical tool to configure your network settings such as setting a static IP address or DNS servers.

Right click the network manager icon in the upper right -> Choose "Network settings" from the pull down menu.

  • Network interface(s) - Select a network interface, "Wired" for example, on the left and then click the "Options..." button on the right.
  • Proxy - Select "Network Proxy" on the left and then select manual or automatic from the pull down menu on the right.


Configure a network printer


Some people are having difficulty adding a network printer from the default graphical interface (system-configure-printer-applet). A bug report has been files and a work around is to use system-config-printer



See also

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