Gnome Shell - Tips to help migration from Gnome 3.4 to Gnome 3.8+



For the last two years, I've become a big fan of Gnome Shell. This desktop environment is becoming really robust and very well polished. Its simplicity is its strength.

But when upgrading from Gnome Shell 3.4 to 3.8+, you'll notice few differences in term of interface and behaviour. As a normal or power user you may be a little bit lost because of some evolutions. Some of the most noticeable differences are :

  • placement of Nautilus main menu
  • location of Nautilus scripts
  • location of Bookmarks file
  • behaviour of right menu to create new documents

This article focuses on some of these differences between Gnome Shell 3.4 and Gnome SHell 3.8 / 3.10. It gives some tips and clues to simplify your migration from version 3.4 to 3.8+.

It has been tested on a migration from Ubuntu 12.04 LTS to Ubuntu Gnome 13.10 & Ubuntu Gnome 14.04 LTS. But it should be applicable to any Linux distribution based on Gnome shell.

1. Nautilus

1.1. Main Menu

Under Gnome 3.8, Nautilus is named Files.

Its main menu (providing Connect to server, Preferences, ...) is not accessible as before from its main window.

To access Nautilus main menu, you just need to click on the top bar Files entry.


1.2. New Document

After a fresh installation of Gnome 3.8, you'll realize that you don't have any New Document menu in Nautilus. You only get a New Folder entry.

Gnome team has changed the way this menu works.

All new documents are now created by copying a file template found under ~/Templates folder in your home directory.

So you need to create this folder and to populate it with some empty document templates.

To simplify the process, I've created a pack of common LibreOffice empty document that you can download and install :

# mkdir $HOME/Templates
# touch "$HOME/Templates/Empty document"
# wget && unzip -d $HOME/Templates && rm

You should now get a New Document menu fully populated.


1.3. Files location

Under Gnome 3.8, some file locations have changed.

  • Bookmarks are now stored in ~/.config/gtk-3.0/bookmarks (local bookmarks will only be displayed if folder exists).
  • Nautilus Scripts are now placed under ~/.local/share/nautilus/scripts (as usual scripts only appear in the menu if the script file is executable).

If you want to migrate your bookmarks and Nautilus scripts, here is the correspondence between previous and actual location :

Description  3.4   3.8 +
 Bookmarks $HOME/.gtk-bookmarks   $HOME/.config/gtk-3.0/bookmarks
 Scripts  $HOME/.gnome2/nautilus-scripts $HOME/.local/share/nautilus/scripts 


2. Menu Editor

Under Ubuntu Gnome 13.10, the alacarte menu editor is not installed by default.

As it is available in the offical repositories, you just need to install it :

# sudo apt-get install alacarte

You'll then get back the menu editor under Sundry / Main Menu.

3. Mouse Cursor Disappearing

It seems that Gnome 3.8 is using a new cursor management daemon.

This new cursor management system may conflict with some applications and as a result you may completely loose the mouse cursor.

The cursor is still there but completely invisible.

This happened to me every time I launched OpenShot video editor.

To solve this issue, we need to disable this new cursor management mechanism.

This can be done by setting a gnome parameter in dconf :

# gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.cursor active false

After next reboot, your cursor shouldn't disappear any more.

4. Enable Gnome 3.8 Classic Mode

If you want to get the full power of Gnome Shell with former Gnome 2 interface, Gnome 3.8 provides natively a new Gnome Classic theme that emulates previous Gnome 2 desktop.

To use it you first need to install gnome-shell-extensions package :

# sudo apt-get install gnome-shell-extensions

Then logout from your session and choose the new "Gnome Classic" option from the sessions list.


Hope it helps,

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This article is published "as is", without any warranty that it will work for your specific need.
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