Sunday, November 20, 2011

GNOME Shell Cheat Sheet

If you're new to GNOME Shell and you feel that it's a less productive environment than so-called "traditional" desktop environments, you might find that learning the ins and outs of the shell will change your point of view.

Or, maybe not. :)

Anyway, here's a link to a very helpful cheat sheet page for folks using GNOME Shell, from

Below, I'll list some of what I thought were key tips from the page -- in case the web page is not available (happened here a couple of times) (Note: I've left some things out, so see the page linked above for more info):

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).

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.

The panel

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

Switching to and from the overview

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

In the overview

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.

Middle clicking on the application icon will launch it on a new workspace.

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 on the application icon for a running application will open a new window of that application in the current workspace.

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.

Using a vertical scroll over a particular window zooms in on it by bringing it forward.


Hitting Esc key escapes Alt+F2.


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 isshare/gnome-shell/theme/gnome-shell.css.


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

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