I’d wager that most people find GNOME Shell easy to use out-of-the-box — after all, simplicity its part of GNOME’s calling card.

But is there room for improvement?

Always, and GNOME’s design team think so too. They’re exploring how to make accessing commonly used settings (like screen brightness, wireless network, and dark mode) in GNOME Shell even easier than it is now. They’ve produced a bunch of mockups and even an animation for the feature they call “quick settings”.

Before we look at all of that juicy stuff I need to unfurl a testy disclaimer:

The mockups you see in this post are simply that: mockups. Nothing shown here is final; there’s no committed code, nothing to try out, and no guarantee that any of what is shown here will ever end up some place you can use it. Don’t get angry about what you see, or too attached to how it looks!

Got it? Ace.

Quick Settings in GNOME Shell: Mockups

Right now in Ubuntu 21.10 (which uses GNOME 40) it takes me a couple of clicks to change wireless network, turn on airplane mode (which disables Wi-Fi and Bluetooth), or disable Night Light.

Don’t misunderstand; I’m not saying it is hard or convoluted as is (and I imagine you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who says otherwise) but it could be simpler (or at least require a little less user interaction).

Quick settings are a popular feature on other operating systems. Android and iOS arguably popularised the concept, though Chrome OS, macOS, and Windows 11 all feature them heavily within their respective desktops:

a screenshot of windows 11 quick settings
Quick settings in Windows 11

And they’re not alone. Other free software projects are already exploring quick settings. JingOS, which is modelled heavily on iPad OS, already has a quick settings area, and there are plans for one in the upcoming Maui Shell.

As on other platforms, GNOME Shell’s ‘quick settings’ revamp allows you to adjust, tweak, or change a setting directly from where you are, in-situ – no being shunted or punted to a different window, modal, or dialog somewhere else on the screen.

GNOME designer Allan Day’s latest mockups (an excerpt below) cover more than top-level toggles. The designs also consider how to handle sub-menus where advanced options and setting (for example, to change the sound output) are accessible:

a section of mockups for gnome shell quick settings designed by Allan Day
Images: Allan Day

You can get a better feel for how the concept might flow in a motion mockup by GNOME design team member Jakub Steiner:

animated mockup of quick settings and submenu in GNOME
This is a concept, not real code

Right now, changing some settings in GNOME Shell does require a trip to the actual Settings app to prod a slider, toggle, or button. This is’t the case in Android, iOS, macOS, Chrome OS or Windows 11. Key settings stay within easy reach at all times.

And that’s the same goal here: in-reach; easy; less friction.

These plans for a ‘Quick Settings’ in GNOME Shell aren’t set in stone. Expect further fine-tuning to the concept before any decision is taken on whether to implement it (if it ever is).

But in all it’s looking like a pretty positive enhancement.

I’ll be keeping an eye (maybe both) on these mockups to see how they evolve and (hopefully) transition to reality. Let me know what you think of them down in the comments, just remember to be constructive in any criticism you may have (and keep in mind these mockups are NOT final).

Dev gnome mockups quick settings