July 20, 2010

How-To: Install and Use gnome-shell (gnome3) on Ubuntu 10.04




gnome-shell is another window manager like compiz for the gnome desktop manager. You cannot use gnome-shell and compiz at the same time. gnome-shell is meant to bea new more user friendly and functional interface for gnome.


Installation and Configuration


  1. Open a Terminal - Go to Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal 
  2. Install gnome-shell - Within the terminal type sudo apt-get install gnome-shell, this will install gnome-shell and all of it's dependencies. (You may encounter issues where some dependent applications and libraries won't install or have errors, this is a beta software so errors are to be expected, if that happens give the maintainers some time to resolve the errors and try to install again in a few days)
  3. Disable compiz window manager - Go to System -> Preferences -> Appearance, click on the Visual Effects tab and select None.
  4. Set gnome-shell to load on startup - Go to System -> Preferences -> Startup Applications
    , click Add, For the name enter gnome-shell, for the command enter gnome-shell --replace, then click Add.
  5. Enable gnome-shell on startup - In the Startup Application Preferences locate your new entry for gnome shell and make sure the check mark next to it is checked.
  6. Log out of your profile
  7. Log back into your profile
  8. gnome shell is active - you will notice that your desktop has changed, it is now controlled by gnome shell.


Using gnome-shell

First off take a look at the changes, the first thing you will notice is that none of the familiar menu bars except for the User Options exist.

To calm your nerves, let me state that the menus are no longer always visible, they are hidden within the gnome-shell menu. If you move your mouse cursor to the upper left hand side of the screen the Activities will become visible as shown in the following attachment.


Before focusing on the Activity bar lefts look at the desktop, you will notice that on the bottom right hand side of the screen there is a plus (+) symbol, if you click that symbol you will spawn a new desktop.

Once the new desktop(s) have been created you will notice that the last one showing will have a minus (-) symbol in the middle, clicking the minus will remove that desktop from your system.
From within this view you can create and removed desktops and re-organize your applications to be on whichever desktop you wish.

The Activity Menu

The activity menu has the following groups:

  • Find
  • Applications
  • Places
  • Recent Document



The Find input box is meant to allow you to search for files or application on your system, however at this point in time on my system it does nothing but take up space.

The Applications section has three functions the first is that it opens a menu listing all applications on your system in one screen. I wish it broke it down by application type, and it may before it is released from beta.

The second function is that it shows your current running applications with your favorites.
The third function is that it keeps your favorite applications on the main bar, applications can be assigned to your favorites by first opening the application, then while it is open go to the activity bar, find the application, right-click on it and go to Add To Favorites.

The Places sections displays links to your document organization files in your home directory. I have not yet found how to add a directory to this list.

The Recent Documents section is exactly that, it displays links to the documents that have recently been opened by the user.


The User Menu


In the upper right-hand corner of the screen you will see your user name, you can open the associated manu by clicking on your name.

The menu that opens offers the usual Instand Messenger and session options, but it now also includes options for Sidebar and System Preferences.




If you select Sidebar you will see a new box on the left side of your screen, this is the Sidebar.

The Sidebar displays the time, running programs, favorite programs, and your recent documents.
You will note a << symbol at the top, this symbol when marked will shrink the Sidebar to icons only to allow more viewable space on the screen.
If you click on Documents it will expand to the right to allow you to view your recent documents.

I like the concept of the compressed sidebar because it simplifies your navigation to your most used programs and files.




Now for the Preferences option of the User Menu, this is the part I looked for a while to find. When you click on the word Preferences, it will open the long lost Sytem Settings/Preferences window.




Although this tools is currently a little buggy and lacking features, it shows a lot of potential for the gnome project and also moves the desktop effects from amusement based to functional based. I wish the best for this project and if it continues to evolve for functionality I may eventually consider replacing kde with gnome on my primary operating system.

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