How to Add a Windows-Style Application Menu to GNOME and KDE Plasma

Get a Linux applications menu

Illustration of a PC monitor with a stylized application launcher onscreen

Pixabay

The Linux desktop can be an exercise in freedom for many. But to some, the difference in the user interface can be a bit much to grasp at first. Fortunately, most Linux desktop environments allow you to easily customize how they look and work.

One such customization is in the applications menu. If you’d like to make the transition from Windows to Linux a bit easier, having a Windows 10-like menu might be just the ticket for success. Fortunately, doing this on both GNOME and KDE Plasma is quite easy.

Version Information

For the purposes of this howto, we used Ubuntu 19.04 for GNOME 3.32 and KDE Neon for KDE 5.15.3.

GNOME

Let’s start with GNOME, as it makes for the more drastic transformation. What we’re going to do is add the Frippery applications menu GNOME Shell extension. Although this isn’t a drop-in replacement for the Windows 10 menu, it’s one of the few menu extensions that currently works on the latest GNOME.

Before you install the extension, you must first install the GNOME Shell native connector, which enables you to add extensions via the web browser. To install this piece of software, do the following:

  1. Open a terminal window.

  2. Type the command

    sudo apt install chrome-gnome-shell
  3. When prompted, type your user password.

  4. Allow the installation to complete.

With the connector in place, we have to now install the Browser Extension. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Open Firefox and point it to the GNOME Shell Extension site.

  2. Select Click here to install browser extensions.

    Screenshot of the GNOME Extensions site.
  3. When prompted, press Allow.

    Screenshot of the Allow button.
  4. Press Add.

    Screenshot of the Add button.
  5. Press OK to dismiss the installation report.

    Screenshot of the OK button.
  6. When prompted, press Install.

    Screenshot of the Install prompt.

Now it’s time to install the extension. Here’s how:

  1. From the GNOME Shell Extension site, search for Frippery applications menu.

  2. Slide the On/Off slider until it’s in the On position.

    Screenshot of the extension On/Off switch.
  3. When prompted, press Install.

    Screenshot of the Install prompt.
  4. Allow the installation to complete.

After installing the first GNOME Shell extension, you will only have to click Install when adding other extensions (because you’ve already given the browser permission to install from the GNOME Shell extension site).

At this point, you should see that the Activities button has transformed into an Applications button. Click Applications to reveal the category-based menu, where you can launch any of your installed applications. This isn’t an exact replica of the Windows 10 desktop menu, but it’ll be much easier for those who aren’t a fan of GNOME Dash.

Screenshot of the new GNOME Application menu.

KDE Plasma

Now let’s take care of KDE Plasma. Although KDE already has an outstanding desktop menu, many Windows users might prefer the look and feel of the Tiled Menu. To install this menu, follow these steps:

  1. Press Options at the far right of the KDE Panel.

    Screenshot of the Options menu button.
  2. Select Add Widgets.

    Screenshot of the Add Widgets button.
  3. Select Get new Widgets.

    Screenshot of the Get New Widgets button.
  4. Choose Download New Plasma Widgets.

    Screenshot of the Download New Plasma Widgets button.
  5. In the resulting window, type Tiled in the search area, and then press Install associated with Tiled Menu.

    Screenshot of the Install button.
  6. When the installation completes, right-click the KDE menu, and select Alternatives.

    Screenshot of the KDE button right-click menu.
  7. Select Tiled Menu, and press Switch.

    Screenshot of the Tiled Menu option.

You should now have a very Windows 10-like Application menu on KDE Plasma.

Screenshot of the new KDE Windows-like menu.

And that’s all there is to changing your GNOME and KDE Plasma menus so that they look more like that found in the Windows desktop. Although these might not be perfect replacements, they will serve you well in your transition from Windows to Linux.