Starting with the very decision of discontinuing Gnome 2 and writing Gnome 3 from scratch, the Gnome developers have had a strange way of innovating. The early versions of Gnome 3 were barely customizable, with a lot of features that had matured and stabilized in previous versions being completely gone. Since that moment on, the developers have continued in the same manner, by radically changing or completely removing features, without any way of reverting to the old behaviour. They started making choices for their users, instead of letting the users choose by themselves. And they have been constantly insisting on this policy.

Luckily, users still have the choice of completely switching to a different desktop environment. Just like I did. As I had been using Gnome for a long time (and considered Gnome 2 a mature and robust desktop environment), the natural choice for me was MATE Desktop Environment, which I have been consistently using ever since.

However, the GTK3 library suffers from the same obtuse policy of limiting users' freedom, and recently many important desktop applications (such as Firefox and LibreOffice) have switched to GTK3. For users like me who don't want their desktop to start behaving differently over the night, perhaps one of the most annoying things in recent GTK3 versions is the default behaviour of the file chooser. This article mentions some popular GTK3 problems and the solutions to fix them.

Overlay Scroll Bars

By default, scrollbars are now hidden and appear on-demand, when you hover the mouse over the scrollable area edge. The problem is that they are rendered over the scrollable area content, hiding some of it. If you prefer traditional scrollbars, you can switch back to the old behaviour by adding this to your .bash_profile file:



Show Directories First in File Chooser

By default, the GTK3 file chooser mixes directories and files in the list. If you're looking for a particular directory in the list, this makes it harder to find it. This can be easily changed by a configuration option:

gsettings set org.gtk.Settings.FileChooser sort-directories-first true

If you prefer a GUI, there's dconf-editor, which allows you to browse to /org/gtk/Settings/FileChooser, see a list of available settings and their allowed values and change them as you like.


File Chooser Typeahead Search

In previous GTK versions, you used to be able to focus on any file/directory in the list, start typing, and this would jump to the matching file/directory in the already loaded list. In newer GTK3 versions this is no longer possible. Starting to type switches the list to recursive search results matching what you typed. If you have a large directory structure, this is not only very slow and resource consuming, but also completely useless - because you end up with a dozen of search results from not only the current directory but also subdirectories at any level, all mixed together in a flat list.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing this there is no setting for changing this behaviour and the only way to fix it is to patch GTK3 and recompile. The patch is available in a custom ArchLinux package. I also built some custom GTK 3.20.6 packages for Fedora (see below).


File Chooser Single Click Selection

In previous GTK versions, you used to have to double click on a file or directory in order to choose it. By "choose" I mean pick that file for open/save and close the file chooser. This is not to be confused with "select", which means just moving the focus on that file in the list.

In newer GTK3 versions this is no longer the case. The new behaviour is to use single click, but even that is not consistent:

  • If the file/directory is already selected, then a single click will choose it as expected (or recurse into it, if it's a directory). If you double click on it (because you're used to the old behaviour), it will not be handled as a double click event. It will be handled as two single click events. The first one will choose the file/directory. And, mostly annoying, if the first click recursed into a directory, the second click will choose whatever is there (at that mouse pointer position) in the previously chosen directory.
  • If the file/directory is not already selected, then the first click will not choose it, it will just select it. The second click will choose it. Again, if you double click, it will handle two single clicks (not a double click), but the behaviour will be similar to the old double click.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing this there is no setting for changing this behaviour and the only way to fix it is to patch GTK3 and recompile. The change was introduced by a single commit, which can be reverted. The reverse commit does not no longer apply cleanly on GTK 3.20.6, but can be easily applied manually. I also built some custom GTK 3.20.6 packages for Fedora (see below) and you can take the patch from there.


Custom Fedora Packages

Custom Fedora GTK3 packages that contain both the typeahead and the single click fix are available in my copr repository.