Remember how sexy the Unity Dash looked with its background blur effect enabled? Blyr brings something similar to GNOME Shell.

It’s a straight-forward GNOME extension that adds a blur effect to the Activities Overview screen. A well-stocked settings section provides enough sliders and switches to appease even the most ardent themers among you.

For instance, the app supports a configurable blur radius (with live preview); lets you toggle on/off the vignette effect (which darkens the edges of the screen), and gives you some control over background brightness. An experimental option to animate the overview transition is also included but, during my testing, this didn’t work.

When enabled and configured it blurs the background of the Activities screen. Your desktop wallpaper goes from a dimmed, but sharp, backdrop for open windows and application searches to a tightly blurred and considerably less distracting surface:

Gnome with blyr @ 30
Blur in action with blur-radius set to 30.0

Limitations to keep in mind

A few words on why you shouldn’t get too excited by what Blyr can do.

For one, this extension does not (currently) add blur effects to other parts of the GNOME Shell UI, like popovers, panels, and switchers. That means you don’t get nicely blurred backgrounds in menus when using the United GNOME theme or when using the Dynamic Panel Transparency add-on.

gnome transparency
Sadly not all GNOME Shell elements are blurred using this extension

Install Blyr GNOME Extension

Blyr is available to install on GNOME 3.20 and up from the the GNOME Extensions website.

‘Blyr’ on GNOME Extensions

Download Eye Candy GNOME Extensions