Of all the desktops available for the Linux operating system, GNOME has managed to become on of the most efficient, stable and reliable — while still remaining incredibly user-friendly. In fact, most users — regardless of experience — can get up to speed with GNOME with next to no effort.
With that said, users who are new to both Linux and GNOME would do best to know the ins and outs of the desktop that makes Linux not only easy, but fun.
Here, we'll be discussing the latest release of GNOME — 3.26. This will be a vanilla release (unlike the version of GNOME found in Ubuntu 17.10 — which bears a similar look and feel to the now-defunct Ubuntu Unity desktop). To get this vanilla GNOME, we've opted to demonstrate with the Fedora 27 workstation. Although Fedora isn't a distribution commonly thought of for new users, it is one sure-fire way to have the newest version of the desktop.
And so, without further ado, let's talk GNOME.
One of the most important pieces to the GNOME puzzle is the Activities overview. Activities is where you access application launchers, minimized applications, search, and virtual desktops. To get to the Activities overview you can do one of the following:
- Click on the Activities button in the upper left corner
- Hover your cursor in the upper left corner
- Click the Super (Windows) key on your keyboard
GNOME Activities in action.
The Activities overview actually houses a few key components to the GNOME desktop. If you look on the left edge of the Activities window, you'll notice a bar of icons. This bar is called The Dash. The Dash contains what is called your Favourites — launchers for applications you frequently use. Out of the box, you'll find launchers (from top to bottom) for Firefox (web browser), Evolution (email/calendar), Rhythmbox (music player), GNOME Photos (Photo viewer), Files (file manager), and GNOME Software (app store). Click any one of those icons to launch its associated application.
If there are application launchers on the Dash you don't want, right-click the launcher in question and select Remove from Favourites (see below).
Removing a launcher from the Dash.
But what if you want to add a favourite to the Dash? Simple, you need to open the Applications overview. To reach this tool, click on the grid icon at the bottom of the Dash. When the Applications overview opens, you can scroll through the list of installed applications, to find what you're looking for. With a single click, you can launch that application, or you can add it to the Dash.
The Applications overview.
To add an application to the Dash, locate the application in question (from the Applications overview), right-click the application icon, and select Add to Favourites.
Adding the GNOME Terminal to Favourites.
After adding an application launcher to Favourites, it will automatically be added to the Dash, where you can launch the application without having to open the Applications overview.
The GNOME Search tool is very powerful. Not only can it search for installed applications within the Application overview, it can search for applications not yet installed within GNOME Software, as well as search for files. To illustrate this, I've created a file (using the LibreOffice office suite) called lifehacker.odt. If I open the Dash and then type life I will see my newly created file as well as related applications (installed or not — see below).
Searching from within the Dash.
Click on the entry you're looking for and it will open.
Calendar and notifications
Click on the clock icon in the middle of the top bar to reveal the integrated calendar and notifications. If there's a notification available (such as pending updates, as below), give it a click so you can act on it.
The GNOME Calendar/Notification popup.
Speaking of Calendars, if you want to sync your GNOME calendar to your Google calendar, the process is simple. Open the Dash and type online in the search bar and then click the entry for Online Accounts. In the resulting window (below), click Google and then walk through the account add wizard.
Adding an online account in GNOME.
Once the account is added, you can then determine what features are to be included.
Enable and disable features for your Google account here.
At this point, your Google account will start syncing to your GNOME desktop. If you open up the Evolution groupware suite, you will see the Google email and calendar are already there, ready for you to use.
One last area to get acquainted with here is application menus and buttons. With GNOME, you will find that many applications are to be found in the top bar and not the applications themselves. For example, open Evolution. In the top bar, next to the Applications button, a new drop-down menu will appear. Click on that to gain access to the supported entries for the application.
The Evolution application menu.
Not every application makes use of this menu system, and some make more use of it than others.
Once you open an application, you might notice a decisive lack of buttons in the titlebar. To gain access to the actions normally associated with those buttons (close, minimise, maximise, unmaximize), right-click the toolbar and select the necessary action from the popup menu.
Acting on windows happens from within this pop-up.
And now you know your way around GNOME. It's an incredibly easy desktop to use, for any type of user. To learn more about this desktop environment, make sure to check out the official GNOME documentation.