Configuring Gnome with gsettings and dconf

Radu Zaharia
5 min readJul 16, 2022
Photo by Антон Воробьев on Unsplash

When I first started using Fedora and Gnome, I usually went through the Settings app taking each section and fine tuning my install. It’s a good way to setup your experience while also discovering what’s new in the latest version of Gnome. But Gnome offers another way of managing settings using the command line and today we will see just how easy it works.

Managing settings from the command line is especially useful if you already went through the steps of configuring your system many times and you just want your setup quickly without fiddling with the Settings app. The main use case is a new Linux install: you just want to be back to your usual desktop as soon as possible and you don’t care much about what new settings are there. Or at least you want a good baseline configuration to start with. The tools we will visit today are gsettings and dconf. Let’s see how they work.

How settings look in Gnome

Photo by Rima Kruciene on Unsplash

Gnome has a sort of registry that holds all settings and each setting has a path, a key and a value. An example of a path is org/gtk/settings/file-chooser which holds settings for the file picker you get when browsing for files in a File Open dialog of a GTK application. One setting for the file-chooser path is for example sort-directories-first. That would be the key. The value for that key could be true or false.

Some keys allow you to write any string for them, others are true or false, others are numbers and others are predefined values like ascending and descending for sort-order. You can configure pretty much all of your Gnome experience using these settings and once you understand how they look, it becomes easy to find your way around.

Configuring Gnome one setting at a time

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

The first tool we will talk about is gsettings. This tool allows you to pick one path and one setting and get or set its value. The basic syntax is this:

Radu Zaharia

Still planning that trip to the Moon.