GNOME extensions are an easy way to add new features to the Ubuntu desktop, but with hundreds of add-ons to choose from, where do you begin?
Well, how about here, with this list of the best GNOME Shell extensions for Ubuntu – according to us anyway!
This roundup is the ideal starting point for anyone looking to experiment with GNOME extensions on their Ubuntu install, regardless of which version they use.
Better yet, our roundup is fully up-to-date for 2021 and only includes GNOME extensions that are actively maintained and work with Ubuntu 20.04 LTS (and up).
Ready to discover some amazing add-ons?
15 Best GNOME Shell Extensions
1. Dash to Panel
Want to dramatically change the look and feel of Ubuntu? Using Dash to Panel, you can — all in one swoop!
More than ‘just’ a horizontal dock, Dash to Panel fuses app luncher, task list, top bar, and system tray into a single, unified panel that more closely resembles the desktop setups found on Windows 10 and KDE Plasma.
A veritable larder of options are included. These give you total control over almost every part of the extension, from its position, appearance, behaviours, animations, and the ability to disable fancier flourishes like window previews on hover.
If you want a streamlined and stylish GNOME desktop experience (one that works well with a traditional app menu add-on like Arc Menu, featured next) then Dash to Panel is the extension to try.
2. Arc Menu
GNOME Shell’s full-screen app launcher is very slick, but if it’s a bit too “in-your-face” you can replace it with Arc Menu.
Arc Menu is a more ‘traditional’ app menu for GNOME Shell accessed from the desktop, much like the Start menu on Windows. But unlike the Start Menu on Windows, this thing is incredibly flexible.
Almost every aspect of Arc Menu, from where it shows up to how fast it shows up, can be tweaked. You get 21 menu layouts to choose from (some inspired by other OSes, like Windows 11’s new launcher) with additional configuration options for each menu layout.
Better yet Arc Menu is updated regularly to offer even more options, menu layouts, and performance enhancements — which we regularly cover here on the blog, so stick around!
3. Refresh Wi-Fi Connections
I work out of coffee shops as much as I can so regularly need to connect to different wi-fi networks and hotspots — and the refresh wi-fi connections extension makes it much quicker.
GNOME’s Wi-Fi connection menu performs an automatic network scan every 15 seconds when the wi-fi menu is left open. But if you’re trying to connect to a network in a hurry that short wait can feel far too long, which is where this minor yet mighty power up comes into play.
Preference over practicality? Absolutely, but there’s no denying that mashing a manual refresh button to make something appear fast feels pretty satisfying too!
4. Net Speed Simplified
For a quick and easy way to see network speed on Ubuntu install the Net Speed Simplified GNOME extension. It’s not the only extension of its type out there but it’s the one I find the easiest to use and most user friendly. Install, see, done.
For example, to cycle between the five different display ‘modes’ you just need to left-click on the panel icon; right-click to hide/show total download stats; and middle click to roll through various font sizes.
Have more exacting needs? Dive into the extension’s settings panel to grapple with additional settings, including options to use a specific font or colour scheme.
Chances are you’ve either heard about Caffeine before, or used it back when it was a standalone desktop app.
It’s a deliciously simple utility that adds a small icon to the top bar. When you want to prevent the GNOME Shell lock screen, screensaver (if you use one) or auto-suspend from kicking in, you click it. And when you don’t you click it again.
Is this something everyone will have a need for? No. But anyone who’s ever found themselves rudely interrupted by a lock screen while watching a video or reading a (very long) article will appreciate its utility.
6. Improved Workspace Indicator
If you make heavy use of workspaces in GNOME Shell then installing the (suitably named) Improved Workspace Indicator extension is a no-brainer.
Taking cues from Sway/i3, this no-frills applet adds a workspace indicator to the top bar so that you can see which workspace you’re on without needing to enter the overview.
But the fun doesn’t end there, my friend! This “indicator” is also a workspace switcher. Click any workspace number shown in the tray icon to instantly jump to the corresponding workspace, pronto.
7. Emoji Selector
I’ve shown you how to use emoji on Ubuntu before (quick recap: press
. in the text field of a GTK app) but GNOME’s native emoji picker doesn’t work everywhere or with every app.
So for an equally fast way to sift, sort, and search through the lexicon of pictorial embellishments use the handy Emoji Selector GNOME extension.
It adds a little character to the top bar. Click the icon to open the picker from where you can browse emoji by category or search for a glyph by name (though some emoji are not called what you think). You can copy any emoji to your clipboard (ready to paste elsewhere) just by clicking on it.
Faster than a 🐢, prettier than a 🐼.
8. Desktop Icons NG
This extension is aimed squarely at those of you using Ubuntu 20.04 LTS — and you’re going to want it as it fixes the single biggest drawback of that otherwise solid release: the inability to drag and drop files from the file manager on to the desktop.
Upstream GNOME developers retired Nautilus’ support for managing the “desktop” space a few years back, leaving the role to third-party extensions. While recent version of Ubuntu come with an enhanced desktop icons extension already installed the incumbent LTS releases do not.
So if you use Ubuntu 20.04 LTS and actively use your desktop as an active workspace — high five ‘cos I do too — you need to switch to Desktop Icons NG. If you run Ubuntu 21.04 or 21.10 you don’t need to do anything as you already have this awesome add-on installed (and it’s activated by default).
GNOME Shell doesn’t natively support quarter tiling so to snap windows to corners in Ubuntu like you can on Windows 10 you’ll need to use a third-party extension.
WinTile is the one I use, and I’ve no complaints with it. Once WinTile is enabled you have two ways to arrange apps: drag windows to the corners of your screen to ‘snap’ them quarter tile style; or use the
super and arrow keys on your keyboard to instantly tile the focused app in a variety of layouts.
You can also adjust the number of columns, enable support for window minimising, and fine-tune the behaviour of window previews (the ghost effect you see in the screenshot above) from the extension’s settings section.
If you work with a lot of windows and want some features of a tiling window manage, check this extension out.
Most of the items on list are focused on providing utility and practicality — so here’s something completely opposite: an extension that’s unapologetically all about the aesthetics.
Whether you use Ubuntu 20.04 LTS or the latest Ubuntu 21.10 release with GNOME 40, the Blur My Shell extension gives you precisely what it says it will: a frosted blur effect throughout the GNOME Shell UI. This includes the app launcher, activities overview, search screen, and (where possible) other GNOME Shell extensions too.
Is it useful? Eh, you could possibly make an argument that blurring out the background of UI elements makes text on top more visible. But let’s be honest: no-one is installing this for that. This is pure, unashamed bling.
But if you’ve got a good enough computer, why not? You’re entitled to look at nice things too!
11. Hide Activities Button
This GNOME extension for Ubuntu and other GNOME-based distros doesn’t need much of an explanation as it does what exactly says on the tin: hides the ‘activities’ label from the top bar.
If you don’t tend to enter GNOME Shell’s Activities overview using this button, and find the omnipresent option for it a touch grating as a result, install this to make it vanish, pronto!
You didn’t think I could compile a list of epic GNOME extensions and not mention at least one system monitoring tool, did you? Vitals is, well, pretty vital for those who like to keep an eye fixed on their system’s resources.
While it is easier to monitor and manage system resources using cool command line tools like
btop++ Vitals is great for passive monitoring. Glanceable. Quick look. That kinda use case.
It can be configured to show the stats you care about, including CPU temperature, fan speed, memory usage, processor load, network speed, battery info, and storage stats. The add-on uses asynchronous polling (configurable, naturally) for speedy, but stable use.
For a less serious take on CPU monitoring, check out the humorous RunCat extension too!
You can speed up GNOME Shell’s animations for a faster, more responsive feeling experience using the wryly named Impatience GNOME extension.
By default, Impatience speeds up animations for entering the Activities overview, opening the app launcher, navigating workspaces, etc twice as fast. If that’s not enough you can speed them up further by adjusting the slider in the extensions settings (where you can, conversely, slow animations down too).
This power-up works great alongside other add-ons in this list, like the Improved Workspace Indicator extension.
14. Clipboard Indicator
If you regularly copy/paste the same snippets of text to and from different apps you might be considering using a dedicated clipboard manager app for Ubuntu — but give the Clipboard Indicator GNOME extension a ry first.
This handy applet does puts a small clipboard icon in the tray area and, thereout, keeps a history of clipboard contents that you can quick re-copy at a later date. You can specify the memory cache size (i.e. last 10 items, or last 100 items) and quickly toggle a private mode on/off as you need.
If your clipboard needs are pretty basic (like mine are) you’ll find this add-on proves itself handy in no time. While it can’t remember all types of content you copy it does remember the most essential: text, links, and emoji. Give it a try — you might wonder how you managed with out it!
14. Custom Hot Corners – Extended
If you’re a mouse-centric user then enabling Custom Hot Corners Extended extension could help speed up your workflow. If you’ve used macOS you may be familiar with them. You assign an ‘action’ to a corner, then flick your cursor in to its apex to trigger it.
The default sensitivity is perfect for me; I don’t accidentally trigger a hot corner while using my desktop. But if you find that you do you can increase the ‘pressure’ needed to activate actions (you can also assign a specific mouse button when hitting the corner too).
And that is just scratching the surface. This extension is loaded with options, settings, and abilities. Want to launch a command instead of an activity? You can. Want to extend the hot edge to cover more of the screen? You can.
So there you have it: our list of the best GNOME extensions for Ubuntu 20.04 LTS and above. Hopefully you found somehow items in this list that help make your Ubuntu experience a little easier, a touch faster, or a pinch prettier.
One top tip: install the
gnome-shell-extensions-prefs tool on Ubuntu. This is by far the easiest way manage your iGNOME Shell extensions and access settings (where available).
Much like our list of the best Ubuntu apps this list is just a jumping off point, not a shopping list. You do not need to install all of the add-ons above (cos that’d be excessive). Pick the extensions that sound useful to you and the way you use Ubuntu and ignore whatever does not.
Finally, should you need it, we have a guide showing you how install GNOME Shell extensions on Ubuntu.