Using GNOME 3 (GNOME shell) with a VNC client

Sometimes I have a need to access a running GNOME 3 desktop from another client running GNOME 3, using VNC. This can be tricky since GNOME 3 is heavily dependent on the use of the “Super” (Windows) key and even when you are using the remote machine’s desktop, pressing the Super key results in the local GNOME overview being brought up. Similarly for Alt-Tab, you end up switching local applications rather than applications on the remote desktop.

After a bit of searching I found a question about remapping the Super key on ask.fedoraproject.org. The question is what to remap it to (I didn’t want to disable it altogether).

Sharing the best solution I found, I found the following sufficient to get a usable remote desktop:

  • Remap the “Super” key on the remote desktop to the “Menu” key (if the local client has that key) – gsettings set org.gnome.mutter overlay-key “Menu”
  • Using the GNOME 3 keyboard settings, in Shortcuts -> Mapping -> Navigation, change “Switch Windows” from Alt+Tab to Ctrl+Tab.

This doesn’t solve everything, perhaps due to the way keyboard combinations are handled with VNC e.g. the menu bar can’t be brought up by <Menu>+M, but it’s good enough.

In this case the local machine was running Fedora 20 and the remote machine RHEL7.

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