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How To Use Tiling Windows In Gnome Shell

Tiling windows aren’t a new thing on Linux. In fact, it’s one of the more popular ways to display windows on the platform. The reason people (especially developers) love the tiling setup is because it allows them to have many different things on the screen at once. Unfortunately, those looking to enjoy tiling window managers in the past have had to deal with clunky, aging keyboard-shortcut driven desktop environments like i3. As a result, those using modern desktop environments have had to miss out — until now, thanks to a Gnome extension that can enable tiling windows in Gnome shell.

This extension is known as gTile, and it allows users to bring the beloved tiling functionality found on a lot of lightweight window managers to the modern Gnome Shell desktop environment. Here’s how to set it up.

Installing gTile

Since the gTile tool is a Gnome Shell extension, users should install it from the Gnome extensions store. Click here to get to the gTile extension page. From there, find the slider and select “on” to bring up the extension installation prompt. When the prompt appears, press “install”. gTile should install right away.

Understand that the easy installation will only work if you’ve got the “Gnome Chrome” integration plugin enabled for your browser. To get the plugin working, follow our guide here.

Don’t want to install the plugin? Consider installing the extension via download.

To install the extension without the browser plugin, open up “Gnome Tweak Tool” and click “Extensions”. Open up the gTile extension page on the website, and click the drop-down menu next to “Shell Version”. Select the version of Gnome Shell you use to start the download.

When the download is complete, go back to the Gnome Tweak Tool and click “open”. Clicking the “open” button will bring up a file-browser dialog window. This window asks the user to browse for an extension to install.

Find gTile in “Downloads” and select it. From there, it should install to the system. Activate the extension by scrolling down and clicking “on” in the Tweak Tool next to “gTile”.

Using gTile

Now that the gTile extension has been installed, you can use it to get tiling windows in Gnome Shell. To start tiling windows, select the icon graphical tool icon in the Gnome panel. This icon allows the user to tell gTile how to scale windows on a grid.

There are three different sizes of grids to scale windows on that users can choose from. These grids are 8×6, 6×4, and 4×4. To switch between grids, click the gTile icon, look for one of the three grid options and select it. The scaling tool will automatically start using the new size.

Note: gTile works best with multiple windows open at the same time.

Manual Tiling

One of the most powerful features in gTile is its ability to let the user manually tile. It achieves this by using the Gnome window manager, rather than weird hacks and tricks. To manually scale a program, switch to it. From there, use the grid to draw the tile.

The gTile extension looks at the grid drawing and scales the program accordingly. Repeat this process for every program to create a custom tiled layout.

4×4 split screen tiling

Along with manual tiling, the gTile extension can do things automatically. One of the automatic functions is a “4×4” tile (aka scaling 4 windows in equal 25% portions of a screen). Users should know that 4×4 doesn’t require 4 programs. It scales up. Clicking this option with 8 programs open turns into 8×8, and etc.

To auto scale programs in this mode, click the gTile icon in the panel and click the icon that shows 4 windows in equal size.

1×2 Screen Tiling

Another good tiling mode for gTile is the 1×2 mode. With this mode, users can have one program on the left take up 50% of the screen, while 2 others share 25% of the right. Like the other automatic mode, 1×3 scales up (1×2 can become 1×4, etc).

To tile programs in the 1×2 mode, click the gTile icon on the panel and select the icon next to 4×4. It should automatically scale programs into the 1×2 layout.

Uninstall gTile

Don’t want to use gTile anymore? Uninstall it by opening up Gnome Tweak Tool, and clicking on the “extensions” button. Inside extensions, scroll down and find “gTile”. Look for the “remove” button and click it. Alternatively, go back to the gTile extension page and click the slider to “off” to temporarily disable it.

Other Tiling Extensions

Along with gTile, there are a lot of other great extensions that bring this functionality to the Gnome desktop. One of the best alternatives to gTile is Tilingnome. It’s a solid alternative that focuses primarily on keyboard shortcuts, rather than the mouse. Currently, Tilingnome has support for all versions of Gnome Shell up to version 3.28.

To install it, head over to the Gnome Shell extension store, click the “on” slider and install it. Be sure to also check out the official Github page to learn more about the Tilingnome keyboard shortcuts.

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