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Input Shortcuts, Tips, And Tricks

Fedora 16 And GNOME Shell: Tested And Reviewed

Nearly every function familiar to most desktops is somehow different in GNOME Shell. So, navigating the UI with a keyboard might feel more efficient than hunting around with a mouse. Thankfully, there are a lot of handy keyboard shortcuts available in GNOME 3.

Keyboard Shortcut
Windows Key
Opens Activities Overview
Alt + F1
Opens Activities Overview
Alt + F2
Opens Run Command prompt
Alt + Tab
Switches between open applications from left to right
Alt + Shift + Tab
Switches between open applications from right to left
Closes Activities Overview or current menu/dialog
Alt + ~ (tilde)
Opens the Application Switcher
Ctrl + Alt + Tab
Open the Accessibility Switcher which changes focus of different UI elements for keyboard control
Ctrl + Alt + Shift + R
Toggles Screencast Recorder on/off
Ctrl + Alt + Down Arrow
Switch to Workspace below current Workspace
Ctrl + Alt + Up Arrow
Switch to Workspace above current Workspace
Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Down ArrowMoves currently selected window to the Workspace below current Workspace
Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Up ArrowMoves currently selected window to the Workspace above current Workspace
Ctrl + F6
Switches between windows of active application
Alt + Esc
Switches between windows on current Workspace
Prt Scr
Takes a fullscreen screenshot
Alt + Prt Scr
Takes a screenshot of the currently selected window
Ctrl + Alt + Del
Log Out
Ctrl + Alt + L
Lock Screen
Alt + Spacebar
Toggles the menu of the currently selected menu
Alt + F10
Maximizes currently selected window
Alt + F5
Restores currently selected window
Alt + F4
Closes currently selected window
Alt + F7
Activates movement control of currently selected window
Alt + F8
Activates resize control of currently selected window
Opens first menubar entry of currently selected application
Selects divider in multi-paned applications
Displays Help knowledge base for currently selected application

Application Switcher

Hopefully you've picked up on the fact that GNOME 3 has no on-screen task management, and the Activities overview is somewhat of a hassle. Fortunately, there is a new application-based Alt-Tab switcher.

The Application Switcher can be activated without auto-cycling through windows by holding down the Alt and ~ key. Being application-based (not window-based), the Application Switcher combines multiple windows of the same application into a single icon. Pressing the down arrow over an application icon displays thumbnails of all windows created by that application. You can use the right and left arrows to cycle through applications and windows.

The Application SwitcherThe Application Switcher

Although this isn't a suitable replacement for on-screen task management facilitated by taskbars and docks, it can help shave off time you'd otherwise spend fooling around with the Activities Overview. Then again, keyboard shortcuts are never a sufficient remedy for UI design problems.


If you really rely on a mouse for navigation, you're not entirely left out in the cold. Despite the extra burden that GNOME Shell hits you with, there are a few helpful mouse tricks.

Mouse Shortcut
Third Button Click (press scrollwheel) on Application Launcher
Opens application in new desktop
Double-click window Title BarMaximizes window
Right-click on Application Launcher
Opens contextual menu for the application
Ctrl + Left-click on Application Launcher
Opens new instance of application on current workspace
Ctrl + Scroll Wheel Up
Zooms in currently selected window
Ctrl + Scroll Wheel Down
Zooms out currently selected application
Scroll Wheel Up over Window in Activities Overview
Zooms in window preview
Scroll Wheel Down over Window in Activities OverviewZooms out window preview

Zoom Windows In The Overview

The Windows section of the Activities Overview can quickly get confusing if you have multiple windows of the same or similar applications open at once.

Which one was I looking for?Which one was I looking for?

Using the mouse scroll wheel over any of the windows in the Overview zooms in on it for greater detail. This comes in useful if you find yourself with multiple visually-ambiguous applications open. Text editor and terminal junkies are sure to find this trick essential.

Ah, there it is!Ah, there it is!

Hidden Minimize

While GNOME 3 ditches the minimize and maximize buttons, right-clicking on window title bars brings up a menu that contains the option to minimize applications.

Hidden Minimize/Maximize ControlsHidden Minimize/Maximize Controls

This appears to be the only way to minimize applications in GNOME Shell by default. With no task bar to speak of, who knows where they actually go? The window still appears in the Activities overview. But apparently, minimizing windows in GNOME 3 simply causes them to disappear from the windowing area.


Unlike Canonical, which developed the fantastic uTouch gesture language, the GNOME project is working with Qt and developers to bring modern multi-touch support to all of Linux. There is no telling how long this will take. But many of you may have noticed how large screen elements like window title bars and the close button have become.

GNOME 2 Nautilus - Ubuntu 10.10GNOME 2 Nautilus - Ubuntu 10.10GNOME 3 Nautilus - Fedora 16GNOME 3 Nautilus - Fedora 16

Although there are no current plans to support gestures, the enlarging of on-screen graphical elements has to be related to finger input.

There's another way you can tell that GNOME's developers were thinking about tablets: the centralized Activities Overview. In the Overview, the user interaction happens in the center of the screen. Windows are selected or moved to other workspaces from the center, out. Applications are also selected or pinned to the Dash in the same way. A centrally-oriented UI is good for touchscreen devices.

We can see how GNOME Shell might work well on slate-style tablets in the future. However, without a multi-touch framework, and with no hardware based on the software, it's anyone's guess when this might happen. If Unity is a release or two away from multi-touch nirvana, GNOME 3 is at least that far.

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