More power around the Dash (UX)

Please forgive me if I screw up any terminology here. I’m here as someone who is fairly expert on Linux, but a bit of a newbie when it comes to GNOME, and someone wanting to share their experience to hopefully guide things in a more user-friendly direction. I’ll provide my understanding first, so anyone can tell me if/where I’m off-base.

My understanding is the bar on the left is called the dash. There is a GNOME extension that turns it into a ‘dock’, but I think that’s an aesthetic thing more than a functional thing.

And my understanding is the dash performs a few functions:

  1. Launching common programs
  2. Showing what programs are currently running
  3. Switching to active windows of programs already running
  4. Showing ‘application indicators’, which are counts of activity on a program, if the ‘gnome-shell-extension-appindicator’ package is installed

Areas needing serious work in my view are…


I am extremely unclear about the application indicators and think they need a lot of work. I have seen them come up for Thunderbird, but 9 out of 10 times I have a desktop login I don’t see it working, so I rely on Birdtray. I don’t see them for Skype or Hexchat, even though I have the ‘hexchat-indicator’ package installed - so I rely on tray icons for those two.
Are the application indicators an Ubuntu GNOME extension developed for Unity, and now ported to the regular GNOME window manager? If so is this why they are currently so flaky, due to the transition from Unity? Will these eventually land in GNOME as something fully standardized?

I think there needs to be a fairly major effort around this, one that approaches it as a standardized GNOME behavior, ideally also with KDE agreeing on a standard. For a productive worker a clear and consistent overview tallying their unread messages across all their communication mediums is really important so they don’t miss stuff when AFK or otherwise distracted.


In my view it should be possible to drag icons from ‘Show Applications’ back to the dash, to make them a ‘favorite’. This is a standard UI mechanism on both Windows and MacOS that I think the user will be able to expect to be able to do. I know it’s easy to favorite, but the user shouldn’t need to learn it.


In my view anything on the dash, or under ‘Show Applications’ should be right-clickable and have that item marked/unmarked for running at startup. Currently the mechanism to set startup programs is overly complex except for under GNOME Tweaks (which we shouldn’t need to expose the user to).

For me hexchat, skype and everything works. Do you have the extension installed ? Appindicator has a library on which the extension is based on.

For start-up applications use gnome-startup-applications.

I have all the indicator stuff installed as far as I can tell, but no dice. I’ll have to look deeper into it when I get time, but I’m not trying to get support in this thread, trying to promote discussion to ensure users get a high-quality default experience.

Yes, I’m aware of gnome-startup-applications. This is what I was referring to as over-complex, as you need to manually locate an executable to add something. Even having to go to a UI especially for choosing startup programs is too complex in my view, I really think for the average desktop user to be comfortable it should be a dash feature that is really trivial to use.