Top 12 GNOME Shell Extensions to Improve Your Desktop

A photograph of a desktop with a bright monitor.

The GNOME Shell Extensions platform offers a simple and easy way to extend GNOME through simple applets. These are JavaScript programs that use the GNOME API to manipulate and add new features to the desktop. This article highlights some of the best shell extensions that you can install.

Note: it is important to note that the following extensions will only work with the GNOME Desktop Environment. You can check whether your computer is currently using GNOME by running the following command:

gnome-shell --version
A terminal showing the current GNOME version of the desktop.

1. Dash to Dock

Dash to Dock is a powerful GNOME extension that aims to address the environment’s lack of a usable taskbar. It modifies the default application launch bar to display on both the “Activities” screen and your main screen.

A screenshot of the desktop with Dash to Dock.

Dash to Dock also provides a small program that allows you to customize how your dock looks and behaves on your desktop. For example, you can set your dock to only display the active applications in the current workspace.

A window showing the available options for Dash to Dock.


  • Heavily customizable
  • Lightweight on system resources


  • Limited dock placement
  • Confusing default dock behavior

Good to know: other than extensions, you can also check out these Gnome Shell themes to beautify your desktop.

2. Places Status Indicator

The Places Status Indicator is a lightweight GNOME extension that provides a simple way to access various directories inside your system. It creates a small, additional panel beside the “Activities” button.

A screenshot showing the Places panel running on the desktop.

The Places Status Indicator also includes the ability to access pinned folders, removable drives and network mounts from your desktop. It makes it useful if you want to move around your system without opening the file manager.

A screenshot of the Places panel with pinned directories.


  • Can access pinned directories
  • Fast and responsive


  • No customization options
  • Cannot access starred directories and pinned symbolic links

Good to know: learn how you can also customize your shell prompt by modifying your .bashrc file.

3. Caffeine

By default, GNOME automatically suspends the display when it fails to find any keyboard and mouse movement within five minutes. This can be an issue if you have a long process, as suspending the display also suspends any currently running program.

A screenshot of the GNOME lock screen.

Caffeine is a powerful, yet lightweight GNOME extension that solves this issue by bypassing the screensaver timeout on a per-program basis. The extension also provides a handy settings panel where you can adjust how it will behave across different scenarios.

A screenshot of the Caffeine extension settings window.


  • Can be used on a per-program basis
  • Tweakable timeout bypass behavior


  • Does not remember the custom behavior
  • Can interfere with GNOME’s Night Light feature

4. Workspace Matrix

Workspace Matrix is an innovative GNOME Extension that converts your linear desktop workspace into a highly customizable grid. It takes control of your desktop’s internal workspace algorithm, allowing it to provide extra features that are not present in default GNOME.

A screenshot of the traditional GNOME workspace overview.

The most impressive feature of Workspace Matrix is its ability to create up to 1200 individual workspace panels in a single session. That can be incredibly useful if you are a power user that wants to separate each task on a different desktop screen.

A screenshot of Workspace Matrix's 100 dedicated workspaces.


  • Supports up to 1200 individual workspaces
  • Can customize how the workspace grid looks


  • Can be a bit laggy on slower machines
  • Larger grids can mess up GNOME’s overview screen

5. ArcMenu

The ArcMenu GNOME extension provides a simple way to access common programs and utilities in the current session. Similar to the Places Status Indicator, it creates a small, accessible menu in your desktop’s top bar.

A screenshot of the ArcMenu panel.

The ArcMenu extension also allows you to include programs that you have bookmarked in your “Favorites” menu, making it incredibly handy for users that want to have a quick way to run their favorite programs.

A screenshot of ArcMenu's Favorite applications list.


  • Extremely responsive and quick to load
  • Does not need any additional configuration


  • Default setup might be too simple for power users
  • May conflict with the default power tray in GNOME

6. Media Controls

Media Controls is a small GNOME extension that provides a beautiful way to control music and video files straight from the GNOME desktop.

A screenshot of the Media Controls extension in action.

The extension takes control of any currently running media player in the system and allows it to read the metadata and control the currently playing media file. This extension also provides you with the option to fine tune which programs it can control through a simple blocklist.

A screenshot showing the settings for the Media Controls extension.


  • Simple and beautiful interface
  • Can control almost any type of GUI media player


  • Can mess up the top bar on smaller screens
  • Files with incorrect metadata may show with garbled text

7. Simple System Monitor

Simple System Monitor is a lightweight GNOME extension that shows the current resource usage of your session. Unlike other system monitors, this extension focuses on only the essentials by giving you a concise overview of your system.

A screenshot of the Simple System Monitor in action.

Simple System Monitor still packs a large amount of customization options relative to its overall feature set. For example, you can change how the extension displays its labels and the content it presents.

A screenshot of the Simple System Monitor's settings window.


  • Lightweight and simple to use
  • Does not require external dependencies


  • May not display properly on smaller screens
  • The customization options can be limiting

8. Trash Indicator

Trash Indicator is a minimalist GNOME extension that provides a convenient way to access the contents of your session’s trash folder.

A screenshot showing the small Trash Indicator applet in the desktop.

The Trash Indicator extension also allows you to restore and wipe any file from the trash directory directly from its interface.

A screenshot of the Trash Indicator's file restoration highlight.


  • Simple and straightforward to use
  • No built-in options


  • Lack of options can be limiting to power users
  • Can break the display if there are too many items in the trash

Tip: learn how to securely delete any kind of file or folder in Linux.

9. Clipboard Indicator

The clipboard is an important part of every Linux desktop. It holds data that you have copied from one place so that you can paste it to another. One of the limitations of the clipboard system is that it can only hold one item at a time. This can be an issue if you are trying to copy data across multiple dialog boxes.

Clipboard Indicator is a GNOME shell extension that solves this issue by creating a multi-item clipboard buffer. It works by copying every clipboard item to a separate cache, allowing it to recall any previous item by transferring it from the cache back to the clipboard.

A screenshot of the clipboard manager panel.


  • Can remove old clipboard entries
  • Has a private “no-copy” mode


  • The default settings can be limiting
  • Does not work with non-clipboard buffers

10. Notification Banner Reloaded

Notification Banner Reloaded is a simple, yet effective GNOME extension that allows you to customize the GNOME toast window. It does this by tapping on the part of the GNOME code that manages the size and shape of notification windows.

A screenshot of a desktop with an active notification window.

This direct approach means that Notification Banner Reloaded can change some of the fundamental behavior of toast windows. For example, you can modify your desktop to only show notifications on the lower-left side of the screen.

A screenshot of the settings menu for Notification Banner Reloaded.


  • Can adjust position and size of the toast window
  • Simple and intuitive options


  • Can only modify the padding of the toast window
  • No fine control on the position of the toast window

FYI: you can bypass the GNOME toast window by installing your own notification server.

11. Shutdown Timer

One of the limitations of GNOME is that it cannot shut down and reboot the system without user interaction. This can be an issue if you want to automate when and how your machine either powers off or reboots.

A screenshot of the default power menu in GNOME.

Shutdown Timer is a GNOME extension that provides a handy way to create automatic power-related tasks directly from the desktop. It uses its own privileged script to ensure that your power-related task will always work – even if there’s no user on the machine.

A screenshot of the custom Shutdown Timer power menu.


  • Flexible scheduling system
  • Can also wake the system after a period of time


  • Requires superuser access for its script
  • Interface slider can be confusing for new users

12. GSConnect

GSConnect is a feature-packed GNOME extension that allows you to control and manage your desktop through your smartphone. Similar to the KDE Connect application, it uses your local Wi-Fi connection to find and connect to an active GNOME session.

A screenshot of the GSConnect desktop extension.

Once inside, the GSConnect app can take over your machine’s keyboard and mouse and perform file transfers on the fly. GSConnect also has a “Presentation Mode” feature that allows you to convert your phone into a powerful presentation pointer.

A screenshot of the GSConnect smartphone companion app.


  • Fast and responsive with little input delay
  • Can perform as a remote terminal for your desktop


  • Can be flaky on older phones
  • Will only work if both devices are on the same network

Frequently Asked Questions

The extension is incompatible with my version of GNOME.

This is most likely an issue with the upstream extension code. Fix this by disabling the extension version check in GNOME.

Are GNOME Shell Extensions safe?

It depends. Most shell extensions are safe to use, as they only work inside the GNOME sandbox. However, some extensions can be a security risk if they are asking for privileged access.

Will a GNOME Shell Extension slow my PC down significantly?

No. A shell extension is just a small piece of JavaScript code that taps into the GNOME API. As such, an extension alone should not impact your system at all.

Image credit: Unsplash (Background), Wikimedia Commons (Logo). All alterations and screenshots by Ramces Red.

Ramces Red
Ramces Red

Ramces is a technology writer that lived with computers all his life. A prolific reader and a student of Anthropology, he is an eccentric character that writes articles about Linux and anything *nix.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox