If you are new to Linux and have chosen GNOME as your desktop environment but find the desktop monotonous, slow experience and are after a change, you should consider installing GNOME shell extensions.
Here are the 10 best free must-have GNOME shell extensions to spice up your Linux user experience and breathe life into your distro with a fresher look and feel.
The GNOME Shell’s full-screen applications menu can look a bit jagged or even cramped. Arc Menu is a popular alternative to the traditional GNOME application menu. It’s minimal, beautiful and flexible.
You can play with its configurations and adjust it exactly to your liking. Additionally, Arc Menu offers 21 preconfigured layouts that mimic popular desktop settings, including Windows 11 and macOS. So whether you’re migrating from Windows or Mac, you’ll feel right at home.
To download: Bows menu
Vitals is a neat and fast system monitoring tool that tracks and displays information about your system. From RAM usage to temperatures, you’ll find an excerpt for every metric. You can configure it to show metrics on any hardware or software aspect of your system.
Using asynchronous polling, it extracts and tracks statistics including internet speed, CPU usage, fan speed, battery status, disk space, and anything else you care about.
If you are aware of your resources and like to monitor them closely, Vitals is a decent alternative to command-line system monitoring tools. It’s fast and at a glance gives you all the information you need.
To download: Vitals
OpenWeather, as the name suggests, is a weather tracking and display extension. It doesn’t need much explanation, it’s just a neat weather plugin for your weather tick.
You can enter a location and the widget will retrieve its precise temperature, wind, barometric pressure, and other weather data. By default, it sits on the GNOME panel and provides you with accurate weather information through the OpenWeather API. However, it can be configured to receive data from other supported APIs.
To download: OpenWeather
If you are migrating from Windows 10, you must have understood the tile differences between Windows and Linux when working with multiple windows.
With the exception of Pop!_OS Cosmic, it’s rare for a GNOME distribution to natively support tiling without switching to a tiling window manager. In a regular Ubuntu GNOME desktop environment, the tile is severely limited to just two horizontally hung windows.
This is where WinTile comes in. WinTile is a window tiling plugin that mimics Windows 10’s fast four-quadrant tiling setup. It’s an easy-to-use plugin if you frequently find yourself with multiple windows or terminals open.
With WinTile, you have two options for enabling tiling. press the Great key to activate the tile and the arrow keys to indicate where to snap a window or drag the window to any of the four corners of your screen.
To download: WinTileName
Linux is known to be a conservative system that retains all functionality while conserving resources, which is why it is the recommended operating system for low-spec and older laptops or desktops.
However, it can sometimes go overboard with power saving. A relevant example for all Nix heads would be automatic screen suspend.
Have you ever been interrupted by a screen blackout while watching a video/live stream or reading an article? Yes? Then caffeine is your remedy.
Only that caffeine doesn’t keep you awake, but your Linux desktop and blocks auto-suspend with a single click.
The Caffeine extension adds a small icon to the GNOME panel. Whenever you find the screen getting dark, click on it and it will light up for you.
To download: Caffeine
GSConnect is a feature-rich, must-have shell extension that allows you to connect an Android device to your GNOME desktop for pass-through and file sharing over a wireless network. This is an implementation of KDE Connect but for the GNOME shell.
With GSConnect, you’ll be able to receive and respond to your phone’s notifications from your PC, share images and clipboard content on the fly, and exchange files without having to go through the hassle of mounting the phone to your PC via USB cables. You can even turn your phone into a trackpad and remotely control your desktop.
Essentially, it acts as a secure bridge between your devices that you can connect to and share data with seamlessly. With it, you can:
1. Share files, texts and hyperlinks
2. Receive and send messages
3. Synchronize Clipboard Contents, Much Like Apple’s Infinite Feature
4. Synchronize all your contacts
5. Control the media
6. Execute remote commands and more.
A full list of key features can be found on the extension’s official Github page.
To connect your devices via GSConnect, you need to install the KDE Connect app on your phone. To pair your devices, make sure they are connected to the same wireless network.
Launch GSConnect on GNOME and the KDEConnect application on your phone. Select your devices under the Devices available tab and associate them. That’s all, now you can freely explore all the features of GSConnect.
To download: GSConnect for GNOME
To download: KDEConnect app for Android
Surf is a GNOME shell extension that allows you to browse the web directly from the shell. You can search for search terms on Google or directly open a website with its URL, all from the comfort of your shell.
Gently press the Super key and type a colon followed by the URL. For example, if you want to open YouTube, press the Super key and type:
Alternatively, if you want to search the web for a term, you can use angle brackets. For example, to search for a term, press the Super key and type:
>what is dirty pipe in linux
To download: Surf
8. Coverflow Alt-Tab
Coverflow alt-tab is a satisfying change to the tab switching animation. It’s smooth and Ferrari-like compared to the default GNOME desktop alt-tab animation. If you want to experience clean and seamless tab switching on your GNOME desktop, Coverflow Alt-Tab is your go-to extension.
Enable it via the GNOME Tweaks Tool and alt-tab as you would. While holding down the alt key, press tab to cycle through the windows until the focus window is the one you want to land on. Just release alt and the window will be maximized.
To download: Coverflow Alternate Tab
9. User Themes
This screenshot is from an Ubuntu machine. The same that was used to capture previous screenshots. Incredible isn’t it?
Just a preview of what you can do with the User Themes extension.
It’s a must-have extension for anyone who wants to overhaul the GNOME UI and experience. While it’s true that the GNOME Tweaks tool inherently allows you to change themes, you won’t be able to fully transform your desktop without changing the GNOME shell theme.
With the User Themes extension installed, you can customize not only window and icon themes, but also the GNOME shell itself.
If you want, you can theme your GNOME Linux to look like macOS or Windows 10.
To download: User Themes
10. Snapshot Manager
Snap Manager is a handy GUI plugin that lets you control, monitor and manage Snap Tasks and Packages. Everything you do with Snap Manager is directly mirrored and displayed on a separate terminal, so you always have transparency with what’s going on under the hood.
One nifty feature that Snap Manager brings to the table is the ability to pause instant updates. You can postpone instant updates for up to a month. This comes in handy when you’re on a metered connection and don’t want instant updates eating into your limited internet quota.
To download: Snapshot Manager
Customizing Your GNOME Shell
These are the top 10 must-have GNOME shell extensions to improve your user experience and productivity. Keep in mind that even if you can, you don’t need to install all the extensions listed. Simply choose the ones that best suit your tastes and requirements.
If you need to, check out this comprehensive guide on how to deeply customize the GNOME Shell.
How to Customize the GNOME Shell in Ubuntu Using Extensions
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