The upcoming release of GNOME 3.34 will finally solve a long standing deficiency in the desktop’s background wallpaper management.

Now, I’ve written about various quirks in GNOME wallpaper handling before, but it’s the lack of option to pick a random wallpaper from a random directory via the Settings > Background panel that is, by far, my biggest bug bear.

Ubuntu 19.04 ships with GNOME 3.32. Here, the only wallpapers available to select via the Settings > Background section are those the system ships with and any top-level images placed in ~/Pictures — nothing else is selectable.

So, to set a random image as a wallpaper in GNOME 3.32 I tend to ignore the background settings panel altogether and instead use the image viewer’s File > Set as background… option (or the similar Nautilus right-click setting).

Thankfully, not for much longer!

GNOME Wallpaper Picker

You don’t need to be a long-time reader of this site to know that I, Joey McWallpaper Face, seem to care more about wallpapers than your average person. Heck, I even have some stats to back that up!

So naturally, as a prolific wallpaper switcher, I’m thrilled to hear that, at long last, some overdue effort has been expended in this area.

After all, most regular users won’t go out of their way to install a third-party wallpaper manager, extension or other utility to manage their desktop background. They’ll rely on the default options.

Recent work by GNOME developer Georges Stavracas targeted at GNOME 3.34 solves a few long-standing omissions in the background settings panel.

Firstly, all available wallpapers appear in a thumbnail grid embedded directly in the Settings > Background panel. There’s no longer a separate wallpaper picker window.

Secondly, there’s a “+” button in the toolbar. Using this it’s possible to pick an image from anywhere on the file system to use as the desktop background, lock-screen background, or both.

The new grid view provides right-click options on each wallpaper thumbnail displays, allowing users to:

  • Set background & lock screen
  • Set background
  • Set lock screen

On custom images there’s an option to

  • Delete background

And the wallpaper panel is also resizable:

See the Background Panel in Action

Alex, aka BabyWogue, kindly put together the following video clip to show off the new background panel and its new-found ‘pick a wallpaper’ capabilities:

In the video above you’ll notice that the GNOME 3.34 background panel displays all available system wallpapers in a grid, rather than requiring you to first select which wallpaper you want to change.

Above this sit any “custom” wallpapers thumbnails you add from any directory on your system. Custom wallpapers, like system ones, can be applied to both desktop and lock screen in the same manner as system wallpapers.

Missing Functionality

Alas, it’s not currently possibly to specify a specific directory as a source for backgrounds. You’re limited to those which appear in the correct system directory(ies), and those picked manually, one-at-a-time, via the file picker.

There’s also no option to select a bunch of images to alternate as a wallpaper slideshow.

Helpfully (or confusingly, depending on your approach to storage) all custom wallpapers you choose are copied to a local directory and the copied image set as the background image.

George explains: “Selected wallpapers are copied to the local data directory, so even if the original image vanishes, the wallpaper will survive.”

Unnecessary duplication? Perhaps, but it does mean that your wallpaper doesn’t immediately vanish should the original background file be deleted.

Do you use the Background panel or a 3rd-party wallpaper tool?

Thanks Alex

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