Frequently Asked Questions


What is GNOME shell?

GNOME Shell is the defining technology of the GNOME 3 user experience. It provides core interface functions like switching to windows and launching applications. GNOME Shell takes advantage of the capabilities of modern graphics hardware and introduces innovative user interface concepts to provide a delightful and easy to use experience.

What problems does GNOME Shell attempt to address?

  • Be relevant and inspiring to a broad spectrum of users.

  • Help us cope with modern life in a busy world. Help us connect, stay on track, feel at ease and in control. Manage being informed without being disrupted. Allow us to get deep in the zone while our next activity only a gesture away – right where it always is.

  • Address the need for a first class technical platform that can meet the challenges of and take advantage of the capabilities of modern computing hardware. Bring desktop programming into the web age. The Shell is Javascript and CSS – yes, that Javascript and CSS. The same ones that a gazillion teenagers are playing with right now. Provide a clear and consistent guidance to application developers.

  • Apply the lessons of the past and present. In the 10 years of GNOME 2 we have learned a lot about what works and what does not. Many of those lessons could not be applied in the context of GNOME 2. We have a real opportunity with GNOME 3. We said up front that we are going to do a new GNOME, clean the slate, re-evaluate what it is we are trying to do, what a desktop is, what a personal computer is and what it should be offering.

  • Present a coherent and compelling design direction for the project.

What are the design goals of GNOME Shell? Nongoals?

We want to take responsibility for your experience. Respect your time and attention and keep you focused. Provide consistency and coherency. Support a range of abilities from beginner to advanced - while optimizing for intermediates. Be safe and forgiving. Flexible and smart. Reduce complexity and strive for transparency.

Who is GNOME Shell for? How does it apply to me?

GNOME Shell is designed to fit your lifestyle. Whether you: use a computer all day or infrequently, for work or play, are highly connected or solitary, use a few apps or lots, are a heavy document user or do not use any, store all your data locally or rely on the cloud, use a netbook/tablet or a workstation. It is flexible and scalable and puts you in control.


How can I try out GNOME Shell?

You can try it using packages from your distribution. But we encourage you to try out our easy build instructions to get the hottest stuff from git.

What led to the decision to make 3D acceleration a requirement for GNOME Shell?

It is our primary focus to build a modern operating environment, platform, and user experience. It does not make sense to target the hardware of the past. GNOME Shell uses relatively primitive 3D capabilities that have been available from essentially all computing devices made in the last 4 or 5 years. This includes most desktop and laptop computers, mobile devices, phones, tablets, and netbooks.


  • We cannot take advantage of the capabilities of graphics acceleration in the user interface design unless we can count on it - otherwise the graphics acceleration is, at best, tack-on eye-candy.
  • Developing two separate code paths for accelerated and non-accelerated graphics is a large increase in development resources.
  • Virtually all machines produced currently, or in the last 5 years have sufficiently powerful graphics to meet our needs.
  • There is zero reason that virtual machines cannot also have 3D acceleration - and VirtualBox, VMWare, Parallels, etc, do this currently. KVM/qemu lags, that just needs to be fixed.

So, the official plan is basically that people can still use the GNOME 2 panel and window manager with GNOME 3 applications and libraries, if necessary, but this is a transitional state. To get the GNOME 3 experience, you need hardware acceleration.

Regarding graphics drivers with 3D support:

  • Many computers have graphics hardware not fully supported by free drivers. This is a grave problem for the freedom of computer users. If you use GNOME 3 with proprietary drivers, it will run, but you will not get the freedom which is the ultimate purpose of GNOME and the GNU system. For information about graphics hardware that can work without non-free drivers or firmware, see

  • Need to find ways to make needed free and non-free drivers easily available for users. For example:
    • Encouraging more development of free drivers.
    • Working with companies to encourage them to make drivers available more freely.
    • Improve the ease and manner in which drivers are distributed and installed.

GNOME shell does not seem to work with my video card. What can I do?

We are prioritizing the creation of a performance testing and evaluation framework. This should help more accurately assess the severity of the problem and diagnose the origin. Problems often may be due to hardware, driver, graphics subsystem, or toolkit issues. One of the challenges of taking responsibility for the user experience is sometimes taking the blame for bugs in the systems beneath us. :) It is our intention to shed light on these issues and to fix them wherever they occur.

Until this framework has been developed, please see if the debugging tips are helpful.

Why GNOME shell works with my video card with one monitor, but does not work in multihead mode?

Graphic cards have hardware resolution limitation. Beyond this resolution, the 3D acceleration does not work.

For example

  • Intel 945 (and older) has horizontal limit of 2048 pixels
  • Radeon R300 (and older) has limit of 2560 pixels

Newer hardware has limits too, but they tend to be 4096 or 8192 pixels, so affect far less configurations.

It seems there is no option in the menu to power off my computer?

Two options:

  1. When the menu is visible, press Alt key - the "Suspend" will change into a "Power Off" menu item.
    See also the cheat sheet.

  2. Log off first, then you will see a power off option

What is the state of the Shell and how can I stay on top of the latest Shell developments?

The GNOME Shell is currently in active development and while many planned features are not yet implemented it is stable enough for everyday use.

Please see our preliminary GNOME 3 road map for specifics.

Tune in for the latest status from any of:

  • Microblog: Follow along on or Twitter. The updates are the same on both sites.

  • IRC: Join to participate in daily discussions or get help with running, developing, or designing for the GNOME Shell.

  • Mailing List: Subscribe to the GNOME Shell mailing list to get updates about the latest features and participate in the development and design discussions. Feel free to use this list for mailing your design ideas to it.

  • Bugzilla: Monitor "gnome-shell" product in GNOME Bugzilla and use it to submit bugs or feature requests. View all open bugs. You can add gnome-shell-maint@gnome.bugs to your "Users to watch" list in your email preferences for GNOME Bugzilla to get e-mail updates about changes.

  • Commit Updates: Subscribe to the gnome-shell module code updates in your commits-list subscription options. Commit log for the GNOME Shell can be viewed here.

  • Blog Posts: Here are the blog posts that describe the latest GNOME Shell features and design ideas by Jon McCann, Colin Walters, and Marina Zhurakhinskaya.

Where can I provide feedback?

One of the best ways is to use social networking to talk about what you like and do not like about GNOME Shell. We actively monitor blogs, twitter, identica, and facebook to see what people are saying about GNOME Shell. When tweeting or denting please use the #gnomeshell tag. See what other people are saying about GNOME Shell.

Is GNOME Shell accessible?

GNOME Shell included the following features related to accessibility since 3.4:

  • Built-in, configurable Magnification.

  • A dedicated status indicator, which provides access to the Universal Access Settings where it is possible to adjust the configuration of accessible features.
  • Screen reader support where Orca is able to expose GNOME Shell UI.

  • Focus and caret tracking for the GNOME Shell Magnifier).

There are also plenty more accessibility features planned for the future, including:

  • Inverse-brightness control


What kind of technology is GNOME Shell using?

Please see the technology page for details.

Can I customize GNOME Shell? Are there any extensions?

Please see the extensions page for details.

Where can I learn more technical details or get involved

Once you have the Shell built from git and have used it for a while please see the getting involved guide for how to contribute.

Where can I learn more about usability testing for GNOME Shell?

Please see the design validation page for details.

Where can I read more in depth about the design of GNOME Shell?

Please see the design page for details.

Projects/GnomeShell/FAQ (last edited 2013-11-22 17:00:05 by WilliamJonMcCann)