Center windows by default?

Should we center windows by default?

Currently, the GNOME default is not center new windows. I don’t think it’s been discussed much in GNOME whether that default is best or not.

In Ubuntu 18.10 (and with the Communitheme for 18.04), we centered windows by default.

In 19.04, that was reverted but I don’t think that was discussed much. So let’s discuss it now.

For background, see LP: #1758314 and LP: #1796548. You can use the switch in GNOME Tweaks’s window panel to easily try both and see which you prefer.

Personally I preferred the behaviour with the windows opening in the middle of the screen.
Not with Adwaita, but with Yaru.

Eg. opening gnome-terminal with Firefox open and maximized:
Gnome-terminal opens in the upper left corner then. In my eyes the dark Yaru headerbar, the dark top bar and the dark Ubuntu-dock create a big, black blob. That looks better with maximized windows than with normal windows pushed to that “dark corner”.

And it looks glitchy because somehow the background shines through between the freshly opened window and surrounding blacks. See this pictures with a freshly opened GNOME-terminal and Firefox below it:

In Adwaita with its bright headerbar and without the dock to the left, opening in the upper left is fine for me though.

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I don’t like centering since some windows, like terminals, open right on top of each other, so I end up opening more than one when I don’t mean to.


The problem is that the position, where the window opens, is rather unclear for me:

When I open gnome-terminal as the first window it opens rather in the middle of the screen. That’s fine.

When having Firefox maximized and opening gnome-terminal after that, it opens in the upper left. And there it looks and feels glitchy.

It is inconsistent that way.

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I think our first priority on this topic should be to get the setting into Settings so that people can find it. Many users don’t know that Gnome Tweaks exists. Once people can find a setting they tend to not care as much about its default value.

Secondly, let’s find out…

I think that new windows should open:

  • Centred. Neat and predictable but each new window covers the last one.
  • Placed automatically. Less predictable but each new window is least likely to overlap any others.

0 voters


The default should not be centered, one spends time moving windows around or losing track…
(obviously users can click on launcher icons but not really the point and not that useful when you want to see both windows at same time.

gnome-tweaks is not provided by default so the existence of a setting (there) isn’t as useful as having it readily available in Settings. Clearly Ubuntu has a history of not wanting to include more settings options that absolutely needed though on rare occasion they acquiesce.

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Note that “centre” is British English and “center” is American English. So some people may use the former in conversation, but also may use the latter in code. They both mean the same.


@jyaku, your 1-pixel gaps look like a bug. Please report that bug to the GNOME developers here.

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Please also have in mind that the corner isn’t rounded in the Ubuntu session while in the GNOME session it is.

So even with the 1 px gap possibly fixed, there will be a small glitch anyway because of the rounded headerbar being puzzled into the squared corner.

This isn’t visible in my screenshot because the website below is dark in that corner.

Maybe an Ubuntu patch could be added to have new windows obey a minimum distance of 5 to 10 px from both bars? Because that is rather an Ubuntu glitch and will probably be neglected by upstream.


I think that’s such a minor issue that it’s not even an issue at all. Staying consistently rounded is better than changing it. And many people would not see it as a glitch - it’s what the titlebar is meant to look like.

If it is an issue then I would support the idea of rounding that corner of the Ubuntu Dock. Otherwise you’re making an argument for keeping all windows away from the corners of the desktop, which is only slightly related to this discussion and to many people would be seen as a waste of screen space.

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this looks like a bug

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Please report bugs in Gitlab or Launchpad. It’s not helpful to discuss bugs on this site.


I prefer to have windows centered when I open them, unless if they were maximized when I last closed them.

The upstream request to change back to centering windows by default is here. Further comments should probably be made on that page. Although I would also like to see more voters above.

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Sorry, this request makes no sense. For years & years Ubuntu used compiz’s place window > smart with little complaint from users or requests to default to centered instead.
The current gnome behavior is as close to ‘smart’ as it’s been in quite some time.

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The default was switched for Ubuntu 18.10 because of user complaints about the buggy “smart” window placement. And I heard little or no complaints about Ubuntu 18.10 centering its windows. So your post doesn’t “make any sense”.

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I think everyone should calm down a little. This is a very minor issue and one you can configure for yourself.

@mc3man makes a good point that Ubuntu with compiz used smart placement for many years without any complaints. People who are happy tend to not complain.

@jyaku is correct about the initial complaint. But I now realize people might be seeing different smart placement behaviour because of differing screen resolutions…

In a 1080p desktop smart placement will by default put the window in a position such that if you open 2 or 4 of them they will automatically be symmetrically arranged around the center of the desktop. Smart placement seems to be a form of centering :slightly_smiling_face:. Only after you run out of free desktop space does it use the very top left corner, once, for the 3rd or 5th window only.

In a lower resolution desktop where one window uses more than a quarter of the screen smart placement will put the first window in the top left corner. It’s the same algorithm.

The current statistics on how many users have high or low resolution desktops are here. They are pretty evenly balanced.

Also, I was the one who complained about centred windows. So you can get upset at me instead. If we had a statistically significant set of votes above to the contrary then I would have no argument against centering again. While the stats are even and/or not enough votes, I would tend to support the idea of just using the upstream GNOME defaults. You can also vote for/against changing it upstream here.


Ideally the “smart” algorithm should leave a 5px minimum distance from the top bar and the Ubuntu dock. That should be distropatched because GNOME will probably not fix the issue themselves because default GNOME doesn’t show the glitches. It is the sum of the Ubuntu modifications that makes it an issue: dark Yaru headerbars, the Ubuntu dock on the left and the lack of of the rounded GNOME corners.

But your are probably right. A relatively small screen resolution probably adds to the problem, shoving the windows to the outer screen borders. My screenshots above are in a 1440x900px resolution.

Come to think of it, the “smart” algorithm could put the first window in the centre of the screen for low resolution screens and it would be still be consistent. Because the smart algorithm aims to centre a number of windows before resorting to cascading from the top left. At least for the single window case on low-mid resolutions screens that would make both parties happy.


Consider however that not many users knew that there was actually an option to avoid that, and they might just have accepted as it is.

Also, as you said, it is a minor feature. When Unity and Gnome introduced shortcuts to move windows full screen or split them on left/right, this has become an even more minor one, since even if the initial position was not useful to work with, it was very easy to change it (I also remember Unity had feature to split in 6 different positions, which was very useful for this reason).

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