The appDisplay.js file which could be used to set icon size and grid properties of the application overview (Super+A) in Ubuntu Gnome 14.04 is not available any more in Ubuntu 16.04 shipping with Gnome 3.18.

In most displays, having only the default six columns leave a large empty space on each side of the application grid, which could be used to avoid scrolling three or four pages down in the all-applications display and simply make better use of the available space. Where is that value defined? Is it possible to configure the number of columns to be computed according to the available space or to set it to a higher value?

  • The first steps are explained here : wiki.gnome.org/HowDoI/ExtractShell. Following these instructions I could extract and modify the appDisplay.js file. However, I still have no idea how to make the changes permanent.
    – boba
    Sep 26 '16 at 3:44
  • Got one step further through this procedure, but broke gnome-shell: 1. Extract and modify the files 2. Get the resource description file from here git.gnome.org/browse/gnome-shell/plain/js/… and check from the previous procedure that your xml file fits the content of the extraction folder. 3. Run glib-compile-resources resources.gresource.xml 4. properly rename the generated file and replace the original resource. Unfortunalety it seems that some files are missing which should be fed into the compilation process, and I have no idea which ones.
    – boba
    Sep 30 '16 at 17:39

It is possible to change without re-compiling gnome-shell, by editing libgnome-shell.so in the hex editor.

Here is the proof:


  • Make a backup of 'libgnome-shell.so' just in case something goes wrong.

  • Open 'libgnome-shell.so' with an hex editor (I use Bless) and search for 'MAX_COLUMNS = 6' as a text.

  • Replace 6 with ascii value of the number of columns that you want. (For 2 digit number of the colums replace space and 6)

  • You can do the same for the number of rows by changing 'MIN_ROWS', and for the icon size by changing "ICON_SIZE" (search for 'const ICON_SIZE').

  • Save and replace 'libgnome-shell.so'

  • Restart gnome-shell, do Alt+F2 and in the popup type 'r' or 'restart' and press enter

  • Umm...Works just fine for me, make sure not to overwrite anything that is not the actual value (if you want to use 2 digit number for the number of columns replace the space and the 6), also make sure you have the right ascii value of the number.Here Image this might help
    – VoOoLoX
    May 24 '17 at 11:28
  • Thanks, that did the job. Wonderful. Could you please edit your answer to add the 2-digit trick since it is not obvious at all for someone not into hex editors. Thank you very much!
    – boba
    May 25 '17 at 15:11
  • Glad it worked for you.
    – VoOoLoX
    May 25 '17 at 17:34
  • works in 18.4 as well
    – Kid101
    Aug 23 '18 at 18:56

FWIW, there seems be an shell extensions nowadays - More columns in applications view, to be found here: https://extensions.gnome.org/extension/1305/more-columns-in-applications-view/ that seems to do exactly whats is being asked.

Note however, that you may need to tweak the grid icon and item sizes too, if you really want to have more columns displayed, as the default sizes are likely too large to fit more columns. So tweak /usr/share/gnome-shell/theme/ubuntu.css or whichever of its siblings is actually in use. Tweak the section /* App Vault/Grid */ and then restart the shell - alt-F2-r-<enter>


The appDisplay.js file is now wrapped into the libgnome-shell.so file, as are all the other JavaScript resource files (.js) of the user interface.

Unfortunately, there is no middle way to permanently implement modifications made on these files and it is necessary to build the whole gnome-shell package again, as explained in this thread:

Gnome-shell list 2016 October

Or wait for an extension to make tweaking of the application overview easy.


change "libgnome-shell.so" works on gnome 3.34.2. as well

cat /usr/share/gnome/gnome-version.xml
<?xml version="1.0"?>
 <distributor>Arch Linux®</distributor>


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