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How to create custom AppFolders in GNOME Shell 3.8

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Let Categories out!

First I want to say that I am very lucky to be part of  a big (non open) web-project and around 1 month ago we were working towards to remove categories from an application similar to e-bay (smaller though!). Categories can be proven a real disaster specially on systems that 3rd-party people are placing items. But even if we place and categorize the items our-selves it can’t be a perfect categorization and we just have to add more and more categories, even for just one single item.

Of course I am referring to categories that are supposed to help us out in searching and not in discovering (there is a huge difference).  Anyway there are plenty techniques that replace categorization from UI.

However you have to think that the only reason that categories “somehow” works in GNOME is just because there aren’t lots of items. Just install 200-250 Apps and you will find out the real issues with the categories ;)

I don’t want to talk about the problems with categories but I want to extend into a more “controversial” aspect.  In my opinion GNOME at some point should also drop the “Video, Music, Documents, Pictures”  views from their system.

  • Is a Music VideoClip, Music or Video?
  • A WebM images-slideshow is video or pictures?
  • A printed Document is Image or Document?
  • Etc etc

Right now the separation is done by the file-format and not by the meaning/semantics of the files. I think this is a mistake.

Creating AppsFolders

First of, categories haven’t been dropped from GNOME’s infrastructure but just from the Shell UI. That basically means that if you want categories back you will probably get them with some extension. Instead of Categories, in GNOME 3.8 there now are AppsFolders which work better(?) than Categories in usability. Someone let a comment how he can group his “Games”. There you go..


All you need to do is to play a bit with dconf-editor.


What I am doing here is just to add the [games] value to the [app-folders-categories] schema. Don’t be scared to use dconf-editor, there is  a”Set to Default” button in case you messed up with it :)

Of course for every change you make here you can also make the equal with gsettings.

$ gsettings set app-folder-categories "['Utilities', 'Sundry', 'Games' ]"

Furthermore, you can create as many cutom Categories/AppsFolders as you wish with Alacarte. I will add this in a next post, I haven’t tried it :)

Creating AppsFolders 2

In the next GNOME (3.10) application groups will be customizable from inside the Shell. That was the initial design, but the UI changes weren’t ready yet.


We will be able to customize the AppsGroups from the button on the Right Bottom Corner. The only way for Categories / AppsForlders to work, is to drop items there ourselves, the same way we do with our Files. The old, good (dirty?), classic way and GNOME will let us to do so ;)

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  • TehJack

    So in 3.8 there will be no categories (Internet, Games, Office, etc.) and there will be no way to create folders via UI?

    • alex285

      In an absolute answer that is correct. But we need to wait for Alacarte and Tweak Tool, maybe they implement something there. However if you don’t want to use dconf, I guess you can bring the categories back with some extension.

    • Ian Brunelli

      To create you can drag a icon into another, and to name these folders you can use dconf-editor (an UI for dconf) or wait for someone to make an extension…

      • alex285

        huh? I lost you, what do you mean? > To create you can drag a icon into another

        • Ian Brunelli

          This isn’t the default way to create folders? I read someone saying this (I thought it was you on the post showing the new interface). Sorry…

          • alex285

            No that doesn’t wok (at least for now). I rebooted to my 3.8 just to see what you were saying. I was like, “how I missed that?” ;)

          • Ian Brunelli

            They really should implement this :)

          • sramkrishna

            I agree. It’s not done yet, but right now I think they were going to use alacarte as a stopgap till they can get that worked out.

    • JJ

      The plan is to create the appfolders from within the ‘Software’. That app is not yet ready

  • Serge Wagner

    you seem to know quite well the “inside” of gnome-shell 3.7.90

    Can you explain to me,why it’s impossible to get more than 6 icons in a row and to minimize the space between app icons?
    Till 3.7.5 it was very easy by editing gnome-shell.css

    I’ve got actually that problem with my gnome-shell theme ( – that , for the rest is now 3.7.90 compatible

    But if you use a 1920×1080 resolution (or even a 1366×768), you are just wasting a lot of space

    I really would appreciate any kind of help

    • alex285

      @google-464941de4f96da67448ac9375f7b12fc:disqus I am sure you know more than I do. But to change the item numbers displayed per row you have to change the MAX_COLUMNS = 6; in gnome-shell/js/ui/appDisplay.js. I see some people that ship also extensions together with the theme. You can write simple extensions that just override default values of shell.

      For Search you can change the #searchResultsBin value. I think you need to ask on shell mailing lists.

  • Serge Wagner
  • Jamin Fernandez

    Tablets …

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  • Andreas Gwilt

    Is it possible to make it show the folders at the top?

  • nobody

    Now i understand why i dont have categories on gnome shell 3.8, oh god…Bring the smart people back!. You are falling down hard, gnome

  • Osqui

    Does it mean that /etc/xdg/menus and /usr/share/desktop-directories aren’t rellevant anymore?? I’m very confused

    P.S: I’m on Fedora 20 (Gnome 3.10) and I can’t see the right bottom button for managing app folders…

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  • Linux Scoop Team

    how to add category folder in dashboard gnome 3.14?

  • Zarovnyaev Andrey

    Does exist some way to make AppFolders in Debian Jessie ?