I'm trying to use instant messaging with Gnome Shell with the current Ubuntu 11.10 but up to now this is a total disaster. I have these problems:

  1. When I want to write someone a message I have to manually start empathy with a right click and selecting "New window" because otherwise it only focuses an already open chat window instead of opening the roster. Alternative is searching for the name in the just-type search, clicking the found user and then clicking the chat button. This is all to complicated. In previous gnome versions I could simply click the IM icon in the tray to open the roster. What is the supposed way to do this now in gnome shell?

  2. When someone writes me a message then this message is shortly displayed at the bottom of the screen. That's nice when I'm in front of the screen and notice it. But when I don't notice this notification then it is minimized into this notification area which isn't visible by default. So I have to check manually if a new message has arrived. In previous gnome versions I had a blinking IM icon in the tray which CONSTANTLY notified me about a new message. How is that supposed to work in gnome shell now?

Unity has a message indicator which displays a colored icon when a unread message is waiting. This isn't ideal but better than nothing. It also allows me to open the roster window in the context menu. How can I achieve something similar with Gnome shell?

2 Answers 2


For your first question, you have a few options. First, you can open a new instance of any application by middle clicking. It will open in a new workspace, and once you close it you'll land back where you were.

If you install the application called gnome-contacts, you can search for your contacts from the overview. (Unfortunately, gnome-contacts doesn't sort by status at the moment, so that isn't ideal).

For your second question, you can get Empathy to always open chats in new windows. Open Empathy, go to Edit›Preferences in the menu and uncheck “Display incoming events in the notification area.” It's a little counter-intuitive, but what that does is your new messages will still appear in the message tray but their corresponding windows will open immediately.


You can find the "short popup messages" for chat and apps requests at the bottom of right corner (tray).

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