8 Extensions for the Gnome Shell Top Panel

The default Gnome Shell top panel isn’t very configurable in its natural state. Other desktops have the ability to rearrange elements and even panels easily. Thankfully with extensions, it’s possible to have some of the functionality that some feel lacking in the design. Here are 8 extensions for the Gnome Shell Top Panel to help manage to customise it.

What is the panel missing?

The gnome-panel doesn’t have its own adjustable settings. Choosing to perform the task through extensions. Other desktop panels such as Mate and Cinnamon have icons and applets rearranged, added or removed with a few simple clicks. Often on the actual panel or through a settings window. Gnome shell lacks this interactive functionality.

Why isn’t the ability to arrange the panel built in?

During design, customisation was a bit of an afterthought. Additional functionality has moved into the ability to add extensions. On one hand, this exposes gnome-shell to be improved by a lot of third-party developers. On the opposite hand, several extensions tend to not be updated as new gnome-shell versions are released. Consequently, all extensions listed below have been tested on Vanilla Gnome 3.32 in Ubuntu 19.04

How to install Gnome Shell extensions

Please refer to our previous article to show how to install extensions.

How to install gnome shell extensions

8 Extensions for the Gnome Shell Top Panel

1. Activities Configurator


Although mainly designed around changing the activities text and adding an icon, this extension provides a full package of additional options as well as:

  • The Gnome Shell Extension Preferences tool can be opened by a secondary click on the Activities Text or Icon.
  • An icon can be selected to precede the text which can be scaled, hidden and have the padding adjusted.
  • The activities text can be modified, hidden, padding adjusted or removed.
  • The hot corner threshold can be adjusted or disabled.
  • The panel’s rounded corners can be hidden.
  • The Overview can be displayed if no applications are running (at both login and whenever the last application window is closed).
  • The panel background can be changed and the colour transparency is adjustable.
  • A configurable Shadow Effect can be added to the Panel.
  • Setting the Shadow’s Transparency, Vertical Length, Blur Radius, and Spread Radius determines the shadow’s appearance.
  • The appearance of the Panel’s background can be chosen when a window is maximised.
  • The Activities Button can be moved to the right corner of the Panel.

2. Dynamic Panel Transparency.


As described this extension brings back the transparency lost in gnome 3.32. The panel stays transparent until a window touches it, forcing the panel into a hard colour, or when the overview is opened.

Features include:

  • Theme detection (works with 99% of all themes).
  • Per-app customisation (panel colour, opacity)
  • Configurable text and panel colouring
  • Configurable text and icon shadowing
  • Customisable transition times
  • Window tracking with support for shortcuts

3.Frippery Move Clock

Although its novel having the clock in the centre of the panel. Nevertheless, if you want it out of the way so it doesn’t take up room. This extension will place it on the right-hand side of the panel, to the left of the Status menu. It’s possible to move the clock to be the very far right item by editing the file:

gedit /home/$USER/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions/Move_Clock@rmy.pobox.com/extension.js

Find line number 26 in the file and change the line from:

rightBox.insert_child_at_index(dateMenu.container, children.length-1);


rightBox.insert_child_at_index(dateMenu.container, children.length);

4. Icon Area Horizontal Spacing


Gnome shell by default gives very wide spacing between icons. This enables users to move them closer to (or further away) from each other.

5. Status Area Horizontal Spacing


Just as with the Icon Area Horizontal Spacing, this extension changes the spacing on the icon area (right-hand side). See also the Center area horizontal spacing extensions.

6. Remove Dropdown Arrows


The addition of drop-down arrows to the panel in Gnome 3.10 was to show that the text/icon is, in fact, a menu. I always thought they looked out of place and once again took up space on the panel. This extension enables the removal of them after all the majority of items placed on the panel are clickable to open a drop-down menu by default.

7. Places Status Indicator


Although designed for use with gnome classic mode it still integrates well with Gnome Shell. Inserting a very handy files shortcut next to the activities button.

8. Show Desktop Button


This extension adds a ‘Show desktop button to the panel to the right-hand side of the activities button. Clicking hides all open windows and clicking again restores them. Installation is through the Gnome Extensions website as normal, however as this extension hasn’t been updated for 2 years. The following command will need to be run in a terminal.

sed -i ‘s/global.screen/global.workspace_manager/g’ ~/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions/show-desktop-button@amivaleo/extension.js

Then log out and back in again for the extension to function properly.

Gnome Shell tailored to your liking, but…

Using extensions, Gnome-Shell is configurable. Indeed, having to use extensions show that it is still in its infancy regarding how customisable it can be. Gnome as a desktop environment still has room to mature. Nevertheless while adding extensions can produce very useable desktop when tweaked to your workflow.

Do you have a favourite extension to use on the panel? Do you miss a feature from another DE that you wish Gnome incorporated? Let us know in the comments below.

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