GNOME developers are “rethinking” the Activities button that appears by default in GNOME Shell’s Top Bar.

Feedback shows that the “Activities” label as-is doesn’t mean a great deal to many users (and in some cases confuses them). Furthermore, those trying GNOME for the first don’t instinctively gravitate towards the Activities button – which makes the point of it being there questionable.

Now, none of this negates the experiences of those who do use it/like the Activities button – but broadly speaking the button isn’t being as widely used as intended.

And that’s not ideal.

So GNOME devs are exploring alternative approaches/replacements for the Activities button.

Their latest concept is available for testing (on a strictly opt-in, you-choose-to basis).

It turns the Activities button into a “dynamic workspace indicator”. This drops the text and displays dots to denote workspaces, with a wide pill indicating which workspace a user is currently on.

Here it is in action:

Dynamic workspace indicator indicating workspace

Replacing the Activities label with a workspace indicator (which you still click on to enter the workspace switcher, so there’s no loss in functionality) reminds me somewhat of the Space Bar GNOME extension I featured earlier this year, albeit sans numbers.

And although I’m not a massive workspace user I can totally see how this dynamic visual representation is a more engaging use of screen space than a standard static label.

If you like how this dynamic workspace indicator looks and you want to try it out, you can.

And if you don’t, don’t.

Just keep in mind this is strictly for testing/ideation. The extension is not (at the time I write this) available on the GNOME Extensions website. To try it you need to download and install it manually on a Linux distribution shipping with GNOME 44:

  1. Download
  2. Extract the zip archive
  3. Enter and copy the ‘activities-filled-pill@verdre’ folder
  4. Paste in ~/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions
  5. Log out and back in
  6. Enable extension using Extensions Manager (or similar)

To revert back to the standard Activities labels just disable (or uninstall) this extension.

Let me know what you think of this idea down in the comments – is it something you’d like to see GNOME adopt?

Big thanks Just Perfection