Navigating the GNOME desktop environment

Starting in the 2020-2021 academic year the Arch, DataComm and EOS labs have been updated to a Ubuntu Linux operating system with the GNOME desktop environment.

This guide will get you more familiar with some of the user interface.

Opening Applications - “Activities”

You can open applications by clicking the Activities menu at the top left. You can also open the Activities menu by pressing the “Super key”—the Windows key on PC keyboards, or the Command key on Apple keyboard.

Ubuntu GNOME Desktop with the Dash on the left showing Mozilla Firefox, Open Office, Terminal, Files and More

The Dash

On the left, you’ll see a dock (formally called “The Dash”) containing your “Favorites”—applications you might frequently use. By default they are:

  • Firefox

  • LibreOffice Writer

  • LibreOffice Math

  • LibreOffice Impress

  • Terminal

  • Files (the file manager - similar to Finder in macOS and File Explorer in Windows)

  • Show Applications (an option to see all installed GUI applications - similar to Launchpad in macOS)

You can remove applications from your Dash by right clicking them and choosing Remove from Favorites.

Likewise, you can add applications to your Favorites by right-clicking an application in the Activities menu and choosing Add to Favorites.

GIF showing how to add items to the Dash Favorites


In the middle of the Activities menu, you’ll find a search bar. You can use this bar to search for applications or files.

GIF of using GNOME desktop search

Show Applications

Using Show Applications you can browse launchers of the installed applications. At the bottom you can filter between Frequent and All applications. Use the dots on the right to navigate between pages.

Motion GIF showing all applications in Gnome Desktop

Navigating and Managing Files


Opening Files from your Activities menu, you’ll be able to navigate to files and folders—just as you might be familiar with in Finder in macOS and File Explorer in Windows.

Motion GIF showing the Files Application

Takin' Out the Trash

You can delete files by choosing Move to Trash from the right-click menu, selecting the file and pressing the delete key, or dragging the file to the trash within the Files window.

Similar to macOS and Windows, make sure to empty the Trash when you’re ready to free up the space of those unwanted files: choose Trash from the left-side column in the Files window, and then choose Empty.

Motion GIF showing emptying the Trash in GNOME Desktop

Managing Software Windows

You can minimize and maximize windows by right-clicking the window’s titlebar and select the desired action from the popup menu.

To retrieve a minimized window, use the Activities menu.

Motion GIF showing how to manage window sizes

Application Menus

Some applications will have their menus and extra options in the top bar.

Motion GIF showing how to access application menus

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Article ID: 552
Mon 9/13/21 10:11 PM
Thu 9/16/21 2:26 PM