This page contains brief descriptions of many GNOME Shell features, such as keybindings, drag and drop capabilities, and special utilities. We are continuing to work on making all these features more discoverable, so this page can serve a dual purpose of describing these features to the early adopters and helping us keep track of the features that are not easily discoverable.

Many of the features relate to starting and switching between applications. Some of them are available in the current versions of GNOME and some are new. Other features are built-in utilities, such as a screencast recording tool and an integrated inspector tool and JavaScript console.

On the desktop

Alt+Tab switches between applications. Window previews of the applications with multiple windows are available as you cycle through. The previews show up after a short delay, but you can get them immediately by pressing the Down arrow key. You can move between the preview windows with the Right and Left arrow keys or with the mouse pointer. Previews of applications with a single window are only available when the Down arrow is explicitly hit. It is possible to switch to any window by moving to it with the mouse and clicking.

Alt+Shift+Tab cycles through applications in reverse direction.

Alt+[key above Tab] (eg, Alt+` on a US keyboard) switches between windows within an application. This can be used from within the Alt+Tab switcher, or from outside it (to open the switcher with the window previews for the current application already selected).

Alt+Tab view

The applications running on other workspaces are displayed after a vertical separator. Including all applications in the Alt+Tab makes switching between tasks a single step process and provides the user with a full picture of what applications are running.

Alt+Tab view with multiple workspaces

Alt+F2 allows entering a command to launch an application. If you want to launch a shell command in a new Terminal window press Ctrl+Enter.

Alt+F2 prompt

Window maximizing and tiling: You can maximize a window by dragging it to the top edge of the screen. Alternatively, you can double-click the window title. To unmaximize, pull it down again. By dragging windows to the left and right edges of the screen you can tile them side by side.

Window Tiling

The top bar

The top bar has the Activities button for switching to the overview, the name of the focused application (which will provide the application menu in the future), the current date, the notification icons, and the button with the user name that activates the user menu. The date in the top bar has a pop-down with the calendar available on click. The user menu has System Preferences, Log Out and Shut Down options.

Top bar

The Power Off... menu entry is hidden by default. You can make it visible by pressing the Alt key in the user menu.

User Menu — [Alt] ‒> User Menu with Power Off entry

Switching to and from the overview

Hot corner - moving the mouse pointer to the top left corner of the screen will take you to the overview or back to the desktop.

Activities button - clicking the Activities button which is in the top left corner of the screen will take you to the overview or back to the desktop.

System (Windows) key or Alt+F1 - these key combinations will take you to the overview or back to the desktop.

In the overview

The dash on the left side is where your favorite applications and your running applications are shown. The glow behind the application icon indicates if the application is running.

Clicking on the application icon will launch it if it is not running, and will open the last used window of that application if it is already running.

Right clicking on the application icon for a running application will display a menu with window titles for selecting one of the windows. This menu also provides options to open a new window for that application and to remove or add that application to favorites depending on its current status.

Ctrl+Clicking or middle clicking on the application icon for a running application will open a new window of that application in the current workspace.

Window Selector in Overview

Running applications can be added to favorites with the help of the right click menu option. You can also drag an application from the application browsing pane to the favorites row to make it a favorite application.

Add to favorites option in the application menu

Dragging an application icon within the dash moves its position. A trash can icon will appear at the bottom of the dash while dragging. If you drop the application icon on the trash can it will be removed from the dash.

Remove an application from the dash

Dragging an application icon to a particular workspace will open a new window for that application on that workspace. Unlike launching by clicking which results in leaving the overview mode and switching to the application immediately, launching by dragging does not leave the overview mode.

Search box allows searching for application names or their descriptions. It also has a section for preferences applets. The search box is focused on automatically when you are in the overview, so you can just start typing. You can navigate the search results with up and down arrows and hit Enter to launch them.

All open windows are shown on their corresponding workspaces. You can click on the window to switch to it and leave the overview. You can click on a workspace to switch to it an leave the overview. Switching to a workspace without selecting a specific window will just have the windows on it arranged the same way as when you last used that workspace.

Windows can be dragged between workspaces. Workspaces are dynamically added and removed as needed. There's always one spare workspace.

Ctrl+Alt+Tab brings up the accessibility switcher, which can be used to select various parts of the shell UI and control them via the keyboard. This is not yet fully functional.

Ctrl+Alt+Tab Switcher


Hitting Esc key escapes:

  • Alt+Tab
  • Alt+F2
  • menus / calendar
  • overview
  • search in the overview
  • Looking Glass
  • Lock Screen

Screencast recording

Control+Shift+Alt+R keybinding starts and stops the recording. (Note: this functionality is currently missing in some distribution packages.) A red circle is displayed in the bottom right corner of the screen when the recording is in progress. After the recording is finished, a file named 'shell-%d%u-%c.webm' is saved in your Videos directory. In the filename, %d is the date, %u is a string that makes the filename unique, and %c is a counter that is incremented each time a recording is made within a single gnome-shell session.


Screen Magnification is built into GNOME Shell and provides various forms of screen enhancement. It can be launched and configured using the GConf Editor by modifying the /desktop/gnome/accessibility/magnifier settings. There is also a python script that implements a dialog for changing magnifier preferences.

More details are available on the GNOME Shell Magnification page.

Developer tools

Looking Glass is GNOME Shell's integrated inspector tool and JavaScript console useful for debugging. It can be run by typing 'lg' in the Alt+F2 prompt and can then be exited by pressing Esc. More details are here.

Looking Glass

Typing 'r' or 'restart' in the Alt+F2 prompt will restart GNOME Shell. This is useful when you are make changes to the GNOME Shell code while working within the GNOME Shell. You don't need to compile anything if you only changed JavaScript code, but you need to run compilation as you would normally do for C code before restarting.

Typing 'rt' in the Alt+F2 prompt will reload the GNOME Shell theme. This is useful when you are a theme designer and want to test changes in your theme without restarting the whole shell. The theme file is share/gnome-shell/theme/gnome-shell.css.

Typing 'debugexit' in the Alt+F2 prompt will quit GNOME Shell. This is generally only useful when you are running a development version of GNOME Shell which you started from the command line; in a normal GNOME 3 session, gnome-session will just restart GNOME Shell if you exit it.

List of Keybindings

This is a place to document all the keybindings that GNOME Shell intercepts. Developers: if you add or change a keybinding, please update this list.

  • System (Windows) key: Switch between overview and desktop
  • Alt+F1: Switch between overview and desktop
  • Alt+F2: Pop up command dialog
  • Alt+Tab: Pop up application switcher
  • Alt+Shift+Tab: Cycle in reverse direction in the application switcher
  • Alt+[key above Tab]: Switch between windows of the same application in Alt+Tab

  • Ctrl+Alt+Tab: Pop up accessibility switcher

  • Ctrl+Shift+Alt+R: Start and end screencast recording
  • Ctrl+Alt+Up/Down arrow: Switch between workspaces
  • Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Up/Down arrow: Move the current window to a different workspace
  • System (Windows) key+Right/Left arrow: resize & move window to take up right/left half of current workspace

  • System (Windows) key+Shift+Right/Left arrow: move window to right/left monitor

Most keybindings can be viewed under the User Menu -> System Settings -> Keyboard -> Shortcuts

Projects/GnomeShell/CheatSheet (last edited 2014-12-07 20:12:02 by FlorianMuellner)