Saturday, February 05, 2011

Making GNOME more Usable

And while I am at it, some hints on getting GNOME a small little bit more usable. The problem is mostly the default window manager, and the gripes I'm having with it are basically the same that Linus Torvalds had some years ago. I want my window buttons to be configurable. To be more precise, I want the "maximize" button to behave like in almost every other window manager: 3 different mouse buttons, 3 different button actions: "maximize", "maximize horizontally", "maximize vertically".
Linus' problems have been addressed, and I'm explaining a lame workaround for my wishes to get something slightly similar to what I want. My workaround does only work because of the fixes for Linus' problems.

After looking into the code I understood that the window buttons are only used with left-click, right and middle click are handled by the "window titlebar action" instead.

So I redefined the window titlebar mouse actions to do maximize horizontally / vertically on right click and double click. (I am pretty accustomed to having middle button on title bar put the window into the background, but I might change that).

So here's what you have to do.

  • open regedit.exe gconf-editor

  • browse to /apps/metacity/general

  • change action_double_click_titlebar to toggle_maximize_vertically

  • change action_right_click_titlebar to toggle_maximize_horizontally

While you are at it, you might also enable resize_with_right_button, which restores even some more sanity.

For all those asking why I'm not using a different window manager with GNOME: been there, tried that, but the integration of them all was pretty horrible (keyboard shortcuts no longer easily configurable, ...) and I want somehting that just works and does not always get in my way. If I wanted that, I could have kept KDE.


  1. IIRC there is a GNOME theme which has more than 3 buttons in the top right thereby allowing you to do any of the above operations via mouse and without tinkering.

  2. Well, I looked at the code and there seem to be a limited set of button actions, and I don't think that "maximize horizontally/vertically" were among them. The themes that were shipped as default on FACTORY certainly don't have more than 4 buttons (one left, three right). But I'm still learning, and maybe I'll simply do the same as Linus has done and just fix the code.