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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Wed, 04 Jul 2012

Starting applications with the 'type to search' box in GNOME 3

Though I'm very much a fan of the "traditional" menu, I had an inkling that I'd enjoy using the "type to search" box to start applications in GNOME 3 (or, more specifically, GNOME 3.4 in the just-frozen, still-Testing Debian Wheezy).

You see, even though I really like the "discoverability" of a traditional desktop menu system, when I know what I want, it's easier to either click an icon (like the long row of them I had on my upper panel in GNOME 2, or the many I now have in the GNOME 3 icon area on the left side of the screen) or start typing in what you want, getting it as soon as what you type is unique enough to give it to you.

Note: I know that Ubuntu's Unity desktop does this. It might even do it better. (I have no idea.)

It's pretty easy -- and quick -- to hit the "super" key (the Windows key on most keyboards) then start typing, hitting Return/Enter when the application I want stands alone.

I hit "super," type "ged," and that's enough for the Gedit text editor to stand alone, at which time I click Enter and have a new Gedit window on my desktop.

I like this. But I knew I would.


Well, it all has to do with the way I use web browsers.

Web browsers have bookmarks for days. Long lists of bookmarks and folders filled with bookmarks, and folders in the folders with bookmarks.

At least mine do.

But I almost never use those bookmarks (or favorites, or whatever it is they're called in one browser or another).

Instead I go to the URL bar and start typing. The browsers I use (Chrome/Chromium and Iceweasel/Firefox) very quickly suggest the exact web site I want to visit and autofill the URL bar with its full address. I click Enter, and I'm there.

And why shouldn't the same thing work on my desktop?

It does. So far it's my own personal "killer feature" in GNOME Shell. And knowing that it exists in Unity gives me another place in which to start applications this very same way, should I find GNOME 3/Shell less to my liking in other ways.

For now, Debian Wheezy and GNOME 3/Shell are performing well enough and are acceptably bug-free that I am not looking for a change to Ubuntu or another distro (or desktop environment).

The "type to search" function is something in GNOME 3 that didn't exist in GNOME 2 that makes the upgrade (Squeeze to Wheezy, GNOME 2.30 to 3.4.2) a more positive experience than the other kind.

Note: I'm sure there's a more official name for this function than the "type to search" box, but I have no idea what it is. Enlighten me if you will.