Thursday, May 26, 2011

At Work with Linux: Customizing Window Button Placement in Gnome on Fedora 14


When I've spent a long session in front of a computer screen I have a tendency to get sloppy when I reach to the upper right corner of a window to minimize or maximize it; I hit the destroy button instead. This is one of those infrequent annoyances that took a long time to motivate me to finally find a 'fix', but today, after three consecutive 'accidents', I finally did. My solution was to move the destroy button to the upper left corner.

If you want to change the window button position under Fedora 14, you'll need to do so via gconf-editor. Make sure that gconf-editor is installed (check with 'yum info gconf-editor', and install it with 'yum install gconf-editor' if needed.).

Start gconf-editor. In the left navigation pane navigate to /apps/metacity/general/button_layout. The default value for button_layout is 'menu:minimize,maximize,close'. For my use I changed it to 'close,spacer,menu:minimize,maximize'. This puts the close button on the upper left corner, and adds space between the close button and the window's menu button. After the change it was a little odd to go to the left rather than the right, but I'd rather accidentally maximize a window rather than accidentally close a window. But the overall usability has gone up a notch, at least for me.

This also illustrates that Gnome is configurable, albeit a little opaquely. Most of the opaqueness comes from personal ignorance. The rest comes from the design of gconf-editor. Two features that would be nice-to-have would be a search box and a bookmarks panel to remember where certain special configurations are located instead of having to navigate down every time.

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