material shell screenshot

Imagine GNOME Shell and the i3 window manager got married, settled down, and had a kid — that kid would grow up to be Material Shell.

Material Shell is a fantastic new GNOME Shell extension/user experience currently in development. It replaces the standard GNOME Shell workflow with a unique, keyboard-driven one, with a heavy focus on window tiling and key combos.

The slick set-up is (naturally) going down a storm over on Reddit. If you hit play on the video demo below (or click here to watch it on Imgur) you will soon see why:

Pretty swish, right?

The developer behind Material Shell is Github user PapyElGringo and he describes his custom creation as a “Material Tiling shell replacement for Gnome-shell” that aims “…to simplify and accelerate daily workflow and productivity”.

Like I said: the lovechild of GNOME Shell and i3.

Try Material Shell Yourself

What’s really great about this particularly slick set-up is that you don’t have to sit there drooling at it: you can download and install Material Shell to try it out for yourself!

Admittedly things aren’t yet one-click easy yet, but getting this up and running on your own desktop is not super difficult either, so long as you’re running GNOME 3.34 or above.

Just download the Material Shell extension from Github, move the bundle to the correct location, and then enable the extension via GNOME Tweaks.

If you have git installed you can do most of the above by running this one command:

git clone ~/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions/material-shell@papyelgringo

Just remember to also enable the extension via GNOME Tweaks > Extensions > Material Shell.

To match the look in the video you’ll need the Plata GTK Theme and Tela icon set installed your system.

With its emphasis on window tiling and keyboard shortcuts don’t come at this extension expecting it to behave or function like vanilla GNOME Shell — Material Shell takes a very different approach to productivity.

This extension is considered ‘beta’ software. Expect bugs and rough edges.

Some keyboard shortcuts you’ll need to know (notice how they are designed to be used with one hand):

  • Super + W Navigate to the upper workspace/category.
  • Super + S Navigate to the lower workspace/category.
  • Super + A Focus the window at the left of the current window.
  • Super + D Focus the window at the right of the current window.
  • Super + Q Kill the current window focused.
  • Super + [MouseDrag] Move window around.

Right now the Shell lacks user-friendly configuration options, but with more eyes on the effort, these things will appear in future revisions. Furthermore, the app is pending approval of the GNOME Extensions website.

Let me know what you think of it in the comments below.

News GNOME Extensions i3 material design mockups