Comfy GNOME shell for less UI sadness


Are you used to Unity and the Cinnamon desktop it came with? Make GNOME look like Unity.

What are the keyboard shortcuts? Here’s an intro.

Typeahead navigation

You want to type W to navigate in the file browser to files starting with W, like Windows/macOS. Apparently this is called typeahead navigation, and they deleted that feature from the GNOME file browser, Nautilus and replaced it with recursive search. Search is nice, but it’s a different thing to navigation, and this disorients and annoys me every day of my life, because it works in macOS, it works in every drop down list in the entire OS, and every browser but it does not work on the GNOME file browser, where I need it most of all. Nonetheless the Nautilus developers are obdurate about keeping it this way. There is a long story here as to how it got so acrimonious but it is kind of boring, so let us ignore it and just get to fixing the problem.

The only reasonable long-term solution seems to be a distribution fixes downstream for users. For Archlinux users this is already not a problem.

Short term, to fix it you can

  • replace the file browser with a competitor, Nemo, which is ugly and seems likely to have undesired side effects on modern GNOME desktop
  • fork/patch Nautilus, which feels fragile.
  • install a custom fan-built throwback cinnamon desktop like Ubuntu 16.04 which include the classic Nemo

Recent blogs lead me to belive the fork is probably better? :man_shrugging:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:lubomir-brindza/nautilus-typeahead
sudo apt upgrade

Or one could switch to KDE, I suppose and ditch this weird GNOME thing entirely? What is the lowest friction option here?


AFAICT you need to install a non-Ubuntu extension to enable user themes? That sounds like too much effort. I will just change the desktop background image I think.

Gnome shell

For user themes and extension wrangling, the Alt-F2 menu is useful because it has some commands you use in shell tweaking, e.g.:

restart GNOME Shell
reload the GNOME Shell theme. i.e. to share/gnome-shell/theme/gnome-shell.css`.
launch LookingGlass GNOME Shell’s integrated debugger and inspector tool.

🏗 does this work under Wayland?


Real executable code extensions are installed on your computer via a… web browser extension? I’m not sure how insane this is, but it feels insane to me.

Too many docks on the desktop

Too many docks too many many docks.

I use the Ubuntu dock, because it is default on Ubuntu. But if you search for GNOME dock Extension there are many variants which briefly seemed to me to be desirable. Cairo-dock? dashtodock? Many more even less reputable looking ones? Bikeshed dock? Committee dock? OCDock?

Help! My Dock is visible on lock screen

This was a common problem. If I understand it right, at least for Ubuntu, it’s do with the demarcation lines after Ubuntu Unity was replaced by Gnome-with-extensions-to-make-it-look-like-unity. If you want everything to work out like you expect, you either do

  1. Use Ubuntu Dock Gnome extension, which is a patched Dash-to-Dock (i.e. not no dock extension and not vanilla Dash-to-dock extension.
  2. Oh that didn’t work? Try gsettings set transparency-mode FIXED Why they have it default to BROKEN I will never understand.


There is basic split screen tiling built in.

By dragging windows to the left and right edges of the screen you can tile them side by side.

There are some attempts to support more sophisticated tiling:

As the author of slinger explains, there is a lot of awful kludging needed to make these go so none are entirely satisfactory. Slinger sounds like the most elegant option of these, but I couldn’t make it actually work.

I could, e.g. try to use xmonad with GNOME. 😒

Or, I could abandon gnome for sway which is a Wayland port of the classic i3 tiling window manager. Or even xmonad I s’pose.

Terminal emulators

Tilix is the terminal emulator that Gnome people tend to like. It has consistent keyboard shortcuts, tiles (but tiles terminals only) and integrates into the Gnome. I prefer hyper FWIW.