Make GNOME Shell Less Awful

I have always been a KDE/Plasma fanboy on systems where it is appropriate, I spent several years with enlightenment and I'm also perfectly happy to adopt systems like xfce which I am now immersed in since switching from Gentoo to Qubes as my daily driver. But for some reason GNOME has always rubbed me the wrong way. Late to the party as usual, I have finally been exposed to the GNOME 3.x incarnation: GNOME Shell as it is the default desktop environment bundled with the solaris-desktop package on Oracle Solaris 11.4. Worse, it is the only modern DE available out-of-the-box for modern Solaris (RIP KDE on Solaris).

It feels almost like GNOME Shell goes out of its way to get in mine. A good desktop environment is one that anyone can sit down at and start using intuitively without being interrupted by overwhelming feelings of frustration (tiled window manager nerds and the like are welcome to step in at this moment and chirp nonsense arguments in favour of efficiency at the expense of usability). I'm probably just a brain moron but there is precious little that is intuitive to me about GNOME Shell. How do I minimize a window? Once I've figured out where that is hidden, where do they go? Is it back under this weird touch interface style Activities thingy? Touch interfaces are by necessity intuitive, I have almost no idea what is really going on here. I see workspaces are peeking out on the right. Cool. I almost never use those either.

Why are there so many extra clicks or key presses to get from one open application to another? Alt+tab works as expected but it's inconvenient when I have to hit it five times just to get around. If this is a window manager how am I supposed to manage my goddamned windows?

To bring back an environment that resembles something more like what I, at least, am used to:

  1. Open a terminal. As the presently logged-in user, run gnome-tweak-tool. Fortunately this is installed by default on Oracle Solaris 11.4. Your mileage will, as my experience with Fedora and Debian on Qubes has taught me, likely vary. Install it the appropriate way for your platform if it is not available.
  2. Click on the Windows tab, under Titlebar Buttons:
    • Enable the Maximize toggle.
    • Enable the Minimize toggle.
  3. Click on the Extensions tab, enable:
    • Applications Menu to replace the Activities interface, which can still be accessed via a menu item at the bottom of the list.
    • Window List which will waste some space by creating another global bar across the bottom of the screen but with the justified purpose of providing a conventional open-windows menu.


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