I love GNOME Shell, but what I don’t love is having to rustle through a hidden screen to get at my favourite applications or switch between those I have running.
It may make me sound awesomely retro, like a UX luddite, or like someone who has become far too accustomed to the usability of Unity but I, like many of you reading this, like having an app launcher/switcher accessible on the desktop. It’s a familiar, fast way of working.
GNOME Shell is, by design, different. It tucks everything out of the way – from the messaging centre and notifications, to workspaces and the apps list. It’s a minimal aesthetic that makes sense: help users focus on what matters.
But for me, my desktop needs to be more than a glorified picture frame.
The Beauty of GNOME Shell
Despite my own preferences, the decision to hide apps is part of the beauty of GNOME Shell. It ships with a default desktop experience that is user friendly, sane and predictable — but also thoroughly extensible. Because of this there’s a huge array of add-ons catering to every need, niche and want, including traditional app menus, desktop docks and even an Ubuntu Unity Dash clone!
In this article I’m just focusing on one add-on that caters to my needs: the aptly named Simple Dock. Simple Dock takes the GNOME Shell apps grid and favourites bar and puts it slap bang where I want it: on the desktop.
For now it only supports being positioned on the bottom of the screen, and only offers a minimal set of settings. While minimal, I feel these cover all of my needs:
- Intelligent auto hide
- Minimise/restore application windows
- Drag-and-drop favourites
- Button to launch activities overlay
Want it? Providing you’re running GNOME Shell on Ubuntu 13.10 or above you can. Just head on over to the GNOME Extensions page linked to below in a supported browser (Firefox, GNOME Web, etc.) then slide the on-page switch from ‘off‘ to ‘on‘.
To adjust the settings of Simple Dock hit the cog icon on the GNOME Extensions webpage listing for it or through a desktop application like GNOME Tweak Tool.