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In gnome-shell, menus on the top panel are flat -- submenu is not displayed on the side, as it used to be, but is opened in the upper level:

screenshot

Is there a way to change the behavior back? Is it hard-coded, gtk3 theme, gnome-shell theme or something else?

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You're using the Applications Menu Gnome Shell extension in the screenshot. Its homepage is here. You could get involved by contacting the developers, contributing to their code, etc. You could even make your own extension that would open menu contents to the right as opposed to a drop-down. As far as I know, the Applications Menu Gnome Shell extension doesn't offer the option of making menu content expand to the side.

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The screenshot is Global Menu extension, not Application Menu extension. Both of them have, however, exactly the same layout of the menu (expanding within, not horizontally), so I am thinking it has a common cause which is not specific to either of them. –  eudoxos Jan 1 '12 at 19:10
    
AFAIK it's the way these extensions are designed. I have no idea if Gnome Shell extensions allow developers to to trigger a menu to expand in a separate pane, but I have the impression that it would be a lot slower. –  titaniumtux Jan 2 '12 at 21:50
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