GNOME Shell Extension Development (for Ubuntu)

I use Ubuntu 18.04 LTS as my daily driver. It’s OK, but not perfect. I’ve been feeling the itch to customise the DE (basically GNOME 3) to round off some of the rough edges and add some custom functionality.

Cursory investigation shows a relatively poorly documented stack of esoteric technologies (gjs, gobject, gtk+, etc) which poses a moderately high barrier to entry. Not much of that stack would be of use to me for any other purpose.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that many extension developers have given up (and abandoned their extensions) because the GNOME developers keep arbitrarily changing the extension interface, suddenly breaking extensions, with a lack of notice and delta docs.

Has anyone else developed or looked into developing extensions for the GNOME shell? Is the reality as bad as it currently appears to me? Is the documentation situation changing, for better or worse? Is the extension interface/stack stabilising and maturing? Do the GNOME developers “still not give a [email protected]#$ about users” that want to use their DE in any other way than the prescribed ‘one true way’?

GNOME 40 is just around the corner and, to me, it looks like yet another step away from a keyboard and mouse interface towards one made for trackpads and touchscreens. The DE and I are apparently becoming less compatible over time. I am trying to work out if it’s worth learning a new stack to take long-term control, or whether I should give up on GNOME and move to a different DE/distro.

Any anecdotes, insight, opinions or suggestions would be appreciated.

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I haven’t looked recently but it seemed to me that to write GNOME shell extensions you had to read the source code for gnome-shell to find the extension API. And you had to be on all the right mailing lists to keep anyone from breaking it with code changes.

It seems dumb to me. What’s the point of putting a JavaScript engine in your window manager if you don’t want to let people use it easily?

As for GNOME and keyboards I think you have them wrong. I use GNOME and the keyboard almost entirely. It works pretty great with just the keyboard.

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I did a basic investigation into this as well and came to the same conclusion. Sorry I can’t be of more help, but I find myself equally frustrated with gnome.

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GNOME is there for the people (like me) who had given up customization for their DE for a simpler philosophy. Here, I just consume and not even dare ask more than what my Distro has built in.

This is a step forward, whether we like it or not, simply because touchscreen displays are here to stay. Who knows what other paradigm shift might arise from the appearance of devcies with touchscreen interface?

Give it time, GNOME 40 seems to approach what WebOS was back then. Maybe your mind might still change or you may move on.

I use both keyboard and mouse. Are you saying that recent versions of Gnome 3 can be efficiently and intuitively operated — by beings other than double-jointed octopi with photographic memories — solely with a keyboard?

Just because something is here to stay doesn’t necessarily make it a step forward. Just because touchscreens look like they are going to be around for a while, doesn’t make them good. Humans have invented countless things that have initially shown some level of promise or utility, but have later been abandoned because, at the end of the day, they were flawed.

I’m too old to wait for paradigm shifts. I have work to do now. I spent several years trying to get productive with laptops, tablets and phones — to no avail. I need large amounts of screen real estate and, to keep protecting my eyesight, it needs to be a decent distance away (~1.4m seems to be the sweet spot). That means regular (output-only) displays. I also need a text input device that I can type really quickly and comfortably with. A regular keyboard fits the bill. Finally I need a precise cursor/pointer control system. Until augmented reality headsets change things, a mouse will have to do.

I guess if I used my computers purely to consume content, then I would have more options and could be more patient/open — as you suggest. Unfortunately(?) I spend probably two-thirds of my time producing content so I don’t have that luxury. When you spend so much time trying to ‘get things done’, small UI/UX issues that get in your way become increasingly irritating, so I’m looking for a way to a way to fix what I can (the DE) while waiting for the mouse to be made redundant. Maybe then would be a good time to reassess my options.

Lastly, GNOME moving towards WebOS? Can you expand on that, or suggest a place I can find out more? I can’t find a cohesive ‘vision statement’ for GNOME at all.

I’ve also heard similar statements from the rest of the Destination Linux Gang.

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I don’t think I’m double jointed or anything. The worst keyboard shortcut I know of it the Super+F10 one. The rest are pretty easy to do.

Mostly I hit Super and type a bit of a program name or control panel and it pops up.

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I love WebOS and still have my HP TouchPad. I love it on my LG TVs too. I don’t know how I feel about it on the PC though, unless maybe on a LapTop or Tablet.

We will see.

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