Fuzzy Search on GNOME Shell

I make typos — correction: I make a lot of typos* — but modern technology cleans up after me. Features like autocorrect, “did you mean?”, and (relevant here) fuzzy search are there to step up when my typing skills fall short.

Fuzzy search (or “approximate string matching” as some call it) is a type of search that returns results that are likely to be relevant to a search term, even if they don’t match it exactly.

It’s useful stuff.

GNOME Shell has a powerful search feature built in. You hit the super key, start typing, and all kind of results, including applications, files, folder, system shortcuts, and more, appear before you.

The only issue is that it’s a stickler for specificity:

screenshot of gnome shell applications search
No results

For instance, to find (and launch) the (rather terrific) GTK eBook app Foliate from GNOME’s search screen I need to type F-O-L-I-A-T-E in that exact order, precisely.

Now, granted: as I type each letter GNOME Shell returns matching results. I rarely need to hammer out the full app name. I can type the first few letters, arrow down to the correct result, hit enter, and bam: the app opens. It’s a highly efficient and speedy process.

Except for one thing. That thing I mentioned earlier. You know, about me being a sloppy typist 😅…

“Google Chorme”. “Floliate”. “Rhtyhmbox”. “Forefox”.

One letter in the wrong place and “no results” are returned. With fuzzy search on my mis-typed characters wouldn’t matter. As long as the term was close enough to or approximating the app I’m actually after there’d be zero friction.

Fuzzy search has become something of a crutch for me. I’m used to it. Ubuntu’s Unity Dash supported fuzzy search, as did apps like Docky. Spotlight in macOS and iOS still supports it, as does the basic Android app launcher on my phone.

But GNOME Shell doesn’t.

This doesn’t appear to be an intentional thing, mind. A bug report suggesting devs add fuzzy search to GNOME Shell is still open (meaning there’s a chance this “issue”, if enough people agree it is one, could be solved ‘upstream’ at some point soon).

However, there is a solution already available.

New Fuzzy Search GNOME Extension

Fuzzy Search Result
Fuzzy wuzzy match

A new GNOME Extension was recently added to the GNOME Extensions website. It adds fuzzy application search results to GNOME Shell’s search overview screen.

Emphasis on the word ‘application’ as the add-on does not work for files, folders, search settings, and other GNOME Shell search providers, just apps.

Interested in trying it out? You can do as the fuzzy app search extension is free, open source software. It even works with GNOME 3.18 and up, so whatever version of Ubuntu you run (provided it’s still a supported release) it will be compatible!

Fuzzy App Search GNOME Extension

Is this GNOME extension going to change the world, revolutionise your life, or support any other superlative maxim?! No.

But since GNOME Shell is used around the world, in different countries, by users speaking different languages and many app names aren’t “translated” — Google Chrome on a French language install is still called Google Chrome — I figured it might help others.

While I lack that valid excuse I’m nonetheless heree fore tihs extension — and so is my backspace key!

*I also tend to change thought mid-sentence. If there’s an extension to solve that, let me know!

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