Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Trying GS Extensions

So far, I'm not much of a fan of GNOME Shell extensions. For the most part, I prefer the default set-up, and I have no problem getting around the desktop and getting work done.

Up until today, I had the following extensions installed in Fedora 16:

Alternative Status Menu: I like this one because it gives a Power Off option, which is something that should have been included in GNOME Shell from the beginning. I installed it from the Fedora repos, but it conflicted with GNOME Shell at first, until some subsequent updates apparently fixed it.

Icon-Manager: Don't use it, have it turned off.

Workspace Indicator: This is a pretty good extension for showing which workspace you're currently on, and provides an alternative way to quickly switch between workspaces. I have it running, but I rarely use it for switching workspaces.

Dock Extension: Don't use it, have it turned off.

User Themes: I have it turned on, but I've played with it only a couple of times.

Applications Menu: It's turned on, but I rarely use it.

Today, I added a couple more extensions: Panel-Docklet and Area Screenshot. Until now, I've only used extensions installed from the Fedora repos, but I pulled these two from the GNOME Shell Extensions site.

I use Google Chrome (or Chromium, depending on the distro I'm using at the moment). But the GNOME Shell Extensions site doesn't work with Chrome or Chromium; if you go there with one of those browsers, you'll see a mesage saying, "You do not appear to have an up to date version of GNOME3. You won't be able to install extensions from here."

You'll see this message even if your GNOME 3 version actually IS up-to-date.

So, I went to the site using Firefox.

Once you find an extension you want to install, you click on it's name and you're taken to that extension's page. There you'll find an on-off switch next to the name of the extension. Turn it on, and after a few seconds you're given the option to install the extension. I did this for Panel-Docklet, it installed, and I was taken through a settings manager. I was notified that I could later access the settings by right-clicking on Panel-Docklet.

While Panel-Docklet can be turn on/off via Advanced Settings, I see no way uninstall it other than going back to the extension site with Firefox and uninstalling it there.

One problem I'm noticing is that the icons sit too high on the panel, cutting off the top part of the icon. This screen shot gives you an idea:

With the mouse hovering over Panel-Docklet, you get a drop down list showing all open windows on each workspace, separated nicely by workspace.

If you right-click on one of the icons, you get a menu with the following items: Close Window, Minimize, New Window, Application, and the name of the active window. Under Application, there are options to Quit Application and Remove from Favorites.

If you right-click on one of the workspace numbers, you get a menu with the following items: Settings; and a menu of the same Favorites that you have in Dash (the dock) -- only, in reverse order! Hopefully this will be fixed.

It seems a bit buggy yet. I've lost control of the mouse at various times, particularly after trying to take a screen shot with GNOME's default screen shot app. Also I've noticed some times when the wrong workspace number was being displayed. Further, I'm not sure that I like having it up there in the panel any better than simply using the hot spot in the upper left corner to get a view of apps running on various workspaces, although it does seem useful for going directly to a particular running app quickly.

Next, I added the Area Screenshot Extension. As noted in the extension's homepage:

By default, this extension does nothing; you have to assign a keyboard shortcut to it. To do this, you can run the following command[s]:

gconftool-2 -s --type string "$key" 'Print'

After running those commands, I tried it out. The extension's homepage notes:

When you hit + Print now, you can select an area on your screen with your mouse. After releasing your mouse, a new screenshot will be saved in your local "Pictures" directory with the current timestamp. You can also take a screenshot of a single window by simply clicking on it.

When taking an area screenshot, you can set a timer to be able to open context menus and such, which can't usually be captured. To set the timer, simply press the numbers 1 to 9 on your keyboard to define the countdown. The timer will appear in the bottom left of your screen. After making your selection, it will count down to zero. Pressing 0 on your keyboard will deactivate the timer.

Well, things worked okay, except the timer didn't work at all here. I pressed numbers on the keyboard to define the countdown, but no timer ever appeared on my screen. I was able to select areas of the screen with the mouse, but the extension didn't work at all, for example, when I right-clicked on an icon in the Panel-Docklet extension to open up the menu.

So, I'm not sold on most of the GNOME Shell extensions I've tried so far. For now, I think I'm better off staying close to the default GNOME Shell, as designed by the GNOME developers. That set-up works fine for me; we'll see how things turn out in the future.

A few additional notes regarding the extensions from the GNOME Shell Extensions site (as opposed to the ones available in the Fedora repos):

- Right now, if you want to update extensions, you have to uninstall them manually and reinstall them. Gnome 3.4 is supposed to include features for automatic updates of these extensions.

- You can either go to the site to uninstall extensions, or you can remove the extension's directory which is stored in ~/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions, then restart the session.

I think I'll wait few weeks, then try uninstalling and re-installing some of the extensions from that site, and see how things have progressed.

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