GNOME Shell Annoyances

This page is there to list what are the current annoyances in GNOME Shell.

Annoyances are something that are not a direct bug. Those are situations which are hard/annoying "by design". Solving those situation requires careful thinking. Also, annoyances are related to an action, not to the overal look. As a rule of thumb, the title of your annoyance should always be an action that you are trying to do.

When describing an annoyance, try to describe exactly what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve that.

Proposed annoyances

Finding an existing window through all workspaces

If you want to find an existing window, you can just click on the icon of this application in Activities mode. The problem arrives when multiple instances of that application are already launched. In that case, the choice appears to be completely random.

Right-clicking is cumbersome and, most importantly, you have to know that multiple instances are launched.

If multiple instances of an application are launched, clicking on it should offer you all the existing instances.

Finding a given window in the current workspace

When you switch to the workspace overview and you have several windows, you will probably only see a bunch of white rectangles. Knowing to which application a window belongs would be useful.

One extension addresses this problem:


Knowing the remaining battery

The only important thing one is interested about his/her battery is "how much time left before I run out of power". Currently, it is not displayed and one have to check that manually by clicking on the icon. On the other hand, the top bar has to be as distraction free as possible. The right balance has to be found about when displaying the remaining time and when only have an icon. Percentage in itself is not an useful information to proeminently display to the user.

Some extensions address that:

Removing icons that are not used

Lot of people will not use bluetooth or accessibility. While they should be displayed by default, the user should be allowed to hide them. Hiding the Bluetooth icon should also permanently disable it in order to save battery.

Some extensions address that problem:

Launching a new instance of an application

Launching a new instance with middle-click is very sensible as it is similar to opening a link in a new tab. Now, the questions : why launching a new instance in a new workspace. I can't think of a usecuse when you want a new workspace. And, if you want that, it would be intuitive to switch to the empty workspace then to launch your application.

Solving this problem is done with the following extension:

I admit that I don't know if this should count as an annoyance or if it's just my personnal feeling. This has to be discussed.

Launching quickly an application you use very often

To launch an application, it is now required to first open the activity screen and them select the application in the launcher. Opening this is will temporally interrupt the current work. If I want to launch an application running in background (IM client, file synchronization...), I want to do it without interrupting what I am doing.

A solution would be something like this tweak putting Unity launcher in Shell

The question is: does it make sense to have the requirement of not going to the activity screen to launch an application? Isn't that an artificial requirement? As soon as you want to launch something, you are interupting your work anyway.

You are right, the problem is maybe not to be interrupted by the launch the Activity menu but more the waste of time. If I use only the mouse, I have to

  1. Go to the top-left corner
  2. Locate the application in the launcher
  3. Click on the icon

Avoiding the step 1 could allow me to locate the application before starting the "launching process". It can seems as a small thing but if I have many applications opened and favourites, the step 2 can take >1sec. I find it sometimes annoying and I am not the only one ("Extra Effort" paragraph).

Answering a modal dialogs that requires an information in the main window

Rolling from the window header, popup dialog can't be moved to any other position, and if user suddenly notices the necessity to read some data from the main window before continuing with this popup dialog, the only way of doing it is to cancell the dialog, check the information and reopen it.

I think this annoyance can't be solved by making dialogs movable in horizontal direction (it would be nice, but the dialog has no header to drag, and being a separate program, window manager is unable to initiate moving window dragged by its content). May be the problem can be solved by allowing "rubber resize" for windows?

An explanation:

  • Window typically has minimum acceptable size, after which it is not possible to downsize it by dragging right-bottom corner. And many dialogs are non-resizable at all. If user gets the ability to continue resizing movement after the minimum limit was reached with automatic return to minimal acceptable size after the end of dragging, it would solve the situation. Compiz had similar behavior when user tried to resize full-screen windows (at least in pre-unity days).

Being noticed of a plugged USB drive in an unintrusive way

When inserting a flash drive into USB, a (semi-transparent) message is appearing in the bottom of the screen, inviting to open drive in nautilus or to unmount it. Currently (Gnome Shell in Archlinux) this message stays on the bottom of the screen until clicked somewhere in the message's body. It would be nicer for it to hide automatically after several seconds without click.

  1. First of all, user not always inserts flash drive to open it immediately.
  2. If USB drive has two partitions, the user will get two such messages, but second message is hidden and appears only after the click in the body of a first one (but anyway two clicks are needed to get rid of them). And so on.
  3. This message also appears if drive was inserted before the computer was turned on, but user who is not removing his USB drive probably will not immediately open it after boot.

I myself have seen unexperienced users working for hours with this message staying on the bottom (they don't know how to hide it, I think). But it doesn't mean this message is not annoyance, when stays on the screen three hours for no reasons :)

For example in MacOS an icon was silently appearing on the desktop (the less obtrusive way). We can hide this message automatically after a short period of time. It will not confuse anyone, neither experienced users, not novice ones, because the drive can be opened later in several ways (nautilus icon in favorites or removable devices in the message tray's right corner).

Easily find the application you want to launch

Applications screen (application launching menu) truncates long name under the application icon. If there are two different applications with long names (like "bla-bla-bla editor" and "bla-bla-bla config manager") and with same icons, there's no way to distinguish them. And even if icons are different, it's not so easy to remember their exact meaning.

  • The situation can be easily improved with line wrap in the text beneath the icon. Two lines should be enough...
  • Hint with application's full name appearing at mouse hovering would be also very useful (of course it is useless on tablet, but most people still use Gnome with mouse nowadays, and there's no reason not to take care of them, if it's not difficult)


Also: It takes additional time to show all this stuff (one-two seconds in most of distributives). Such delay is not good. I see two ways to decrease it.

  • User gets a way to hide some icons (as it was possible in Gnome 2.x).
  • The last active group in the Applications screen (i.e. "Internet") is remembered to be shown next time instead of always showing the "All" group which contains all possible apps.

Confirmed annoyances

Annoyances that are confirmed by the designers and currently worked on.

Not Missing incoming messages

Currently, it is very easy to miss an incoming message. This has to be carefully designed: when I'm busy, I don't want to be disturbed by incoming message but, when I'm available, I don't one to miss any one in the second they arrived.

State of a possible solution

Designers are well aware of the problem and are currently discussing the better strategy to adopt. Some improvements to the 3.0 situation will land in 3.4.


Not sure whether it is workaround or not. There is a nice extension, which solves problem of missed notifications (with no old-school solutions, like using pidgin and moving its icon to the top panel):

When there are any missed messages, a small red rectangle appears in the top panel with a number of unread conversations (not messages) in it. Have tested it for several month; it is very simple and comfortable solution of the missed messages problem. Unfortunately it is not uploaded to (abandoned project?)

Another extension that addresses the issue :

Discover how to launch applications

When a new user discover GNOME, it usually takes some time before discovering that applications can be launched from the Activities screen. From experiences, I realized that it is not easily discoverable but also not easily memorized (telling the user once is not enough, I had to explain it several times).

State of a possible solution

This problem has been acknowledged by developers by, so far no concrete solutions has been found nor proposed. Discussion pending.


None so far

Solved annoyances

Turning off/restarting the computer

In the current world, users want to shut down their computer. Maybe this will change in the future but, currently, this is something users want (most of the time to save energy or because they don't use the computer much).

Thus, turning off is something that should be easy and discoverable (holding the ALT key while the menu is open is not mentioned anywhere).

State of a possible solution

Altough the problem looks simple, it is in fact very complicated. A very useful read to approach the issue:

Also, it should be noted that GNOME is intended to work on diverse devices, including mobile devices and tablets where shutting down is not a relevant option. The big challenge is to allow to design a solution where the users don't have to think about what he want to do and just let the computer decides.

Discussion about the best way to solve this problem are still happening on


Extension to enable the shutdown/restart in the status menu:


Accessing the bottom right corner of the screen

Applications sometimes require you to click on the bottom right corner of their window. Unfortunatly, it is currently very hard because it raise the notification area.

State of a possible solution

A solution have been designed. This is still work in progress but things are starting to get into shape.




Keeping Empathy windows on one workspace (solved in 3.3)

Currently, it's nearly impossible to keep an empathy window on one given workspace. If you click in the notification area of a conversation, it will bring that Empathy window on your current workspace.

This makes Empathy windows floatting everywhere. This might be a bug more than an annoyance:

Not considered as general annoyance

A rationale should be included to inform the user why his annoyance will not be solved

Projects/GnomeShell/Annoyances (last edited 2013-11-22 17:00:08 by WilliamJonMcCann)