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Force zoomed GNOME 3 workspaces

July 10, 2011

Almost a month ago now, I upgraded to Fedora 15, which brings with it GNOME 3.  The UI changes are huge — oh, how the webs are screaming.  One of the biggest issues is how very little is customizable.  “How dare you question the brilliant designers!?!  Surely they know what works best for you!”  But it does have an extension system, so one can write in additional functionality.  For adding features, this looks reasonable, but if you want to change features, get ready to monkey-patch into undocumented (and probably unstable) interfaces.

Well, there are plenty of longer rants out there, so I’ve said enough.  When it actually comes down to it, I’m getting used to the changes, and it turns out that the shell doesn’t really matter so much.  I don’t really feel like GNOME 3 is helping me be more productive, but it’s not hindering me either… faint praise.

I have identified a particular pain point though, so I decided I should share how I monkey-patched a solution.  When you go into overview mode, there’s a partially hidden bar on the right side that displays your workspaces.  Mouse over that, and it expands into view for you to choose your destination.

So far, so good — if that right side is hard edge for your mouse, then it’s easy to snap over there.  However, if it’s not a hard edge, as with multiple monitors, then the hidden view is a difficult target.  The gnome-shell developers did think of this, so they check the monitor positions:

js/ui/workspacesView.js :

    _updateAlwaysZoom: function()  {
        this._alwaysZoomOut = false;

        let monitors = global.get_monitors();
        let primary = global.get_primary_monitor();

        /* Look for any monitor to the right of the primary, if there is
         * one, we always keep zoom out, otherwise its hard to reach
         * the thumbnail area without passing into the next monitor. */
        for (let i = 0; i < monitors.length; i++) {
            if (monitors[i].x >= primary.x + primary.width) {
                this._alwaysZoomOut = true;

My issue is that I have an additional monitor on the right edge that GNOME 3 knows nothing about, thanks to Synergy. So I want to just force that _alwaysZoomOut = true, since in this case I really do know better. Thankfully, javascript is flexible enough that I can just replace that whole function with my forced values. Thus an extension is born:

metadata.json :

    "shell-version": ["3.0.2"],
    "uuid": "zoomWorkspacesDisplay@cuviper.com",
    "name": "Zoom Workspaces Display",
    "description": "Forces the workspaces display to always be zoomed",
    "url": "https://blog.cuviper.com/",
    "original-authors": "Josh Stone"

extension.js :

const Overview = imports.ui.main.overview;
const WorkspacesView = imports.ui.workspacesView;

function main() {
    WorkspacesView.WorkspacesDisplay.prototype._updateAlwaysZoom = function() {
        this._alwaysZoomOut = true;
    Overview._workspacesDisplay._alwaysZoomOut = true;

Put those in ~/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions/zoomWorkspacesDisplay@cuviper.com/, and reload the shell (Alt-F2, r). Now the workspace chooser will always be fully displayed whenever you’re in the overview.

Update: Florian commented that he’s already improved the way this is handled for the next version of gnome-shell.  For my own interest, I tracked it down to this bug and commit.  Thanks!

  1. Florian Müllner
    July 11, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    Just a quick note, this hack is not necessary when using the current development version of gnome-shell – the workspace switcher will now only hide if workspaces are not used. Yes, those bad dictatorial designers are actually listening …

    • July 11, 2011 at 8:55 AM

      How wickedly reasonable of you! Sorry if my little rant offended, and thanks for listening and responding.

  2. yunzhong taoist
    September 19, 2011 at 1:00 AM

    Thank You very Much!

  1. October 7, 2011 at 4:58 PM
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