How to Access Hidden GNOME Settings With Dconf Editor

As the default desktop environment for many distros, GNOME is popular in the Linux desktop space. Its consistent design principles and large app ecosystem make it attractive to many Linux users. But GNOME also has a reputation for lacking custom settings.

To streamline the desktop experience, the GNOME team has had to make compromises on user customization. These compromises do not mean the end of GNOME customization. A lot of GNOME settings are actually present, though hidden out of the box. Users can access these hidden settings with a powerful app called Dconf Editor.

How Does Dconf Editor Work?

Image Credit: Jean-Baptiste Delon/Wikimedia Commons

To allow Linux apps to interact with one another, GNOME uses a messaging system called D-Bus. Developed by Red Hat, D-Bus acts as a middleman for apps that need to message each other. GNOME also built application programming interfaces (APIs) like Dconf and GSettings, which make sure that apps can communicate without any settings conflicts.

Built on D-Bus, Dconf and GSettings allow each app within GNOME to configure its settings. Apps on GNOME write their settings on both APIs, which are then read back to the apps when necessary. Dconf also works as the backend for GSettings. Many GNOME apps today use GSettings to store, edit, and use their settings.

GNOME Files Preferences window

All app interactions like settings take place within D-Bus. Since it is built to work in the background, GNOME hides some settings away from us end-users.

GNOME still offers users basic levels of customization within the Settings app. Most GNOME-based apps also have settings of their own. But when compared to KDE, GNOME can feel lacking in options for tailoring the desktop to our needs.

Flathub webpage of Dconf Editor

The default settings on GNOME don’t have to be only options for Linux users, especially when you have Dconf Editor. Built by GNOME, Dconf Editor lets users view and edit all the GSettings and Dconf app settings that are normally hidden.

With this app, GNOME’s settings databases are accessible through an easy-to-use graphical user interface. It also features a search function that you can use to find particular settings in an instant.

Download: Dconf Editor (Free)

Be Careful When Using Dconf Editor!

Dconf-Editor pop-up window prompting user to be careful when using the app

Bear in mind that Dconf Editor is a powerful tool. If you use it well, you can fine-tune your GNOME desktop to your exact liking. But if used without care, you could break your apps. You can even break GNOME itself if you misuse the Dconf Editor too much. You can change all sorts of hidden settings through the app, including those that are vital to your desktop.

When using Dconf Editor, make sure to read through each setting’s schema so you know what changes you might be making. If you see a setting that has no schema, you can look it up online to know what it does. Do not change any settings outside the Dconf database’s /org/gnome folder unless you know what you are doing.

Dconf Editor window showing color-scheme setting

If something has gone wrong when using Dconf Editor, don’t fret. You may be able to reverse your changes through the app. If that doesn’t work, then you can reset all GNOME desktop settings to the defaults through your terminal:

dconf reset -f /

Note that using this command will undo all the changes made to the desktop’s settings.

Some Useful Dconf Editor Settings

Dconf Editor main window

The /org/gnome folder is where users can find the most useful Dconf Editor settings. Here, you’ll find a treasure trove of custom options for your own GNOME experience.

Dconf Editor privacy settings window

The GNOME Settings app has basic privacy settings like application access to your microphone, camera, and location. With Dconf Editor, you get even more settings like toggling app access to sound output and USB protection.

You can even hide personal details and your full username on your screen. These settings are useful if you want to protect your identity when sharing screenshots online. To find these and more privacy settings, head to /org/gnome/desktop/privacy in the app.

Dconf Editor interface settings window

Most of the settings on /org/gnome/desktop/interface are available through the GNOME Tweaks app. But there are still some interface settings users can only access through Dconf Editor. This folder has all the settings found on GNOME Tweaks. It also has extra settings like animations, cursor size, and the typing bar’s behavior. You can also make scroll bars permanently visible on every window.

Dconf Editor shell extensions window

You can also access the settings of GNOME shell extensions from /org/gnome/shell/extensions. Users can also change the settings of GNOME extensions through the Extension Manager app. Still, having Dconf Editor can come in handy if you’re trying to tweak a lot of extensions at once.

If you look around, you may even find extra settings that extension developers left out of their extension preferences.

Dconf-Editor calculator settings window

When browsing through /org/gnome, you can also find and change the settings of GNOME’s default apps. For example, you can find Calculator settings in /org/gnome/calculator and GNOME Files settings in /org/gnome/nautilus.

Most of these apps also have default window size settings. These settings are useful if you want your app windows to stick to a certain size or be maximized on startup.

Dconf-Editor background settings

You can also use Dconf Editor to customize and make your own desktop backgrounds. On /org/gnome/desktop/, you can set wallpapers images to be scaled, zoomed, stretched, and more. You can also reduce wallpaper image opacity and put them on custom solid color or gradient backgrounds.

Setting custom light and dark mode wallpapers is also possible through Dconf Editor. Combine this with Night Theme Switcher if you want your wallpapers and theme modes to change throughout the day.

Dconf Editor power settings window
Image Credit: The Linux Experiment/YouTube

If you’re using Linux on a laptop, power-saving options can give your notebook better battery life. The /org/gnome/settings-daemon/plugins/power folder has power settings that can get you more time out of your laptop’s battery. Here, you can change your laptop’s brightness level on idle, its power mode on low battery, and the idle time before your computer goes to sleep.

Fine-Tune Your GNOME Experience With Dconf Editor

The GNOME desktop environment has a surprising amount of settings under the hood. Linux users can make a GNOME desktop their own with apps like the Extension Manager, Tweaks, and Dconf Editor. These are just some of GNOME’s large selection of apps.

Users can even fine-tune important GNOME apps like the file manager. You can take GNOME customization to a whole new level—but only if you know where to look.

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