How to Show Desktop in GNOME

How do you show desktop in GNOME 3? GNOME is a wonderful desktop environment but it focuses more on switching between the applications. What if you want to close all the running windows and display just the desktop?

In Windows, you can do this by pressing Windows + D. You can use the same keyboard shortcuts in Ubuntu as well. But for some reason, vanilla GNOME has disabled the shortcut key to show desktop for some reasons.

When you press Super+D or Ctrl+Super+D, nothing happens. If you want to see the desktop, you’ll have to minimize all running windows one by one. It is not convenient specially if you have several application windows open.

In this quick tutorial, I am going to show you how to add keyboard shortcut to show desktop in GNOME 3.

How to show desktop in GNOME 3

Add shortcut key to show desktop in GNOME 3

I am using Antergos Linux with GNOME 3.18 in this tutorial, but the steps are applicable to any Linux distribution using any version of GNOME 3. Also, Antergos has Numix theme applied by default. So, you might not see your usual GNOME icons. But I believe the steps are straight forward and you can easily follow it.

FYI, Super key in Linux term is the Windows key.

Step 1

Go to System Settings. Click on the top right corner, from the drop down, click on the system settings icon.

System Settings in GNOME Antergos Linux

Step 2

When you are in System Settings, look for Keyboard settings.

Keyboard settings in GNOME 3

Step 3

In here, Go to Shortcuts tab and select Navigation from the left side pane. Scroll down a bit and look for Hide all normal windows. You’ll see that it has been disabled.

Shortcut keys in GNOME 3

Step 4

Click once on the key you want to edit, in this case, Hide all normal windows. You’ll see that it has been changed to New accelerator… Now whichever keys you will press, it will be assigned for showing the desktop.

If you accidently press wrong key combination, just press backspace key and it will be disabled again. Click on it again and use the desired key combination.

Shortcut key edit in GNOME 3

Step 5

Once you have used the desired key combination, just close the system settings. There is no option for saving the changes because changes are saved instantly. In my case, I used Ctrl+Super+D to align it with the behavior in Ubuntu Unity.

Keyboard shortcut edit in GNOME

That’s it folks. Enjoy the shortcut to show desktop in GNOME. I hope you found this quick tutorial helpful. Any questions, suggestions or a word of thanks is always welcomed :)

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  • I appreciate the effort you put in this post – but it is not quite the complete solution. It hides only ‘normal’ windows. Not all windows are ‘normal’. Quite a few aren’t. Notably – in pop os, if you use their pop shell for tiling like I do – AND you activate tabbing, so you can combine multiple windows into same area (tabs; it’s awesome). These windows get a different type and are not normal. Activating ‘hide normal windows’ has no effect on these windows. I presume same will go for pop up and all dialog windows.

    Basically, this is not “show desktop”. Personally I find gnome annoying. They have dumbed down so much…so many customizations and shortcuts have been removed or utterly hidden. Coming from Xfce and KDE, I find this a real pain in the ass. I am constantly hunting down solutions for something that honestly ought to be just there.

    Of course each DE has its pros and cons. I love KDE for so much….but they have quite a few bugs too. And they do not have good tiling managers. All I tried are incredibly buggy. I wanted to go the route of awesomeWM and tried it too; but you quickly get into issues of so many dependencies being out of sync for all the widgets and panels you have to compile in order to get something functional. It’s all tradeoffs. Of course the true tiling manager has incredible tiling support. So in the end, despite not wanting to go back to gnome, I cast my vote with pop-os as being the least annoying. System 76 is on the right track with pop-shell, but it needs more streamlining on their choice/lack of keystrokes and iron out some bugs which happen to me daily. But it is the right step.