What’s Wrong With Gnome 3?

Just read and commented on Ars Technica’s review of Gnome 3, the latest release of the Gnome desktop environment for Linux. It was a long enough comment that I wanted to republish it here:

The worst thing I see, because the available screen typeface discussion is off-topic, is by the active application’s name in the top-left. That presentation of the application’s icon by the name is distracting and not helpful. The top bar is supposed to recede, but including the app icon there breaks with that goal. It would have looked much cleaner to replace “Activities” with the Gnome icon (or ubuntu logo or take your pic) and simply present the name of the application.

I prefer Unity’s approach in that regard except for the idiotic window-close-minimize-buttons being squashed into the main menu bar. That is awkward and I think they’ll find a lot of people, trying to click on the Ubuntu icon in the top-left, accidentally closing their application window. But we’ll see.

My other big gripe is the prominence and amount of work that has gone into workspaces/multiple desktops. Gnome claims that this system is focused on simplicity, but most users I know struggle to get their mind around using ONE desktop/workspace. The multiple workspace feature is purely for advanced users. It’s way too abstract of a concept for the basic user. I consider myself a VERY advanced user and workspaces are the first thing I turn off on a new Linux install. I am much better at organizing my workflow in terms of applications. Trying to break those applications up over workspaces is redundant and I don’t care where the window is if I can summon it when I need it and hide/minimize it when I’m working on something else.

They should be working harder to make workflow/task management even MORE organic. It should be so organic that I don’t have to be thinking about how to organize it. Right now I get along great with a basic Ubuntu install, simple keybinding to summon the Scale function (Expose) to switch between documents, Alt+Tab to quickly switch apps and Docky to open/switch apps. I think the problem is that Linux developers think in terms of Window management when they should be thinking about Application and Workflow management.

Supposedly these new desktop interface designs have been run by test groups, but I’m a little skeptical. With that said, there are a LOT of good and cool ideas in both Gnome 3 and Unity. When in doubt, try many things. And seeing these ideas being developed is refreshing. Neither Microsoft or Apple is attempting to make such dramatic changes to the way their desktop interfaces work.

One More Thought

After publishing the above comment it also occurred to me that the new Gnome desktop defines a specific functionality to the “Windows” key on most keyboards. I have been using my Windows key to summon a third-level (and fourth) keyboard to make it easy to enter larger group and “special characters”. [I wrote about this in detail here] It baffles me that making third and fourth levels of keyboard characters is not a bigger priority. This is a MAJOR advantage that Apple has over Microsoft in the world of desktop publishing. Every graphic designer knows it. And people like me that find Linux to be a good and soon to be great graphics platform would like to see some focus on these details.

I need to make time to get involved with the Gnome development community. I need to get in there and push for better keyboard functionality and, more importantly, better integration of color management. Granted, both of these area DO get a lot of love. It’s just that they have to be implemented manually. Neither of these two features are addressed by default installs of the major Linux distributions.

Do take a moment to check out the Gnome 3 features: http://www.gnome.org/gnome-3/ There’s still a lot of cool stuff coming to a Linux desktop near you.

One thought on “What’s Wrong With Gnome 3?”

  1. I don’tthink anything you said here is really a bad thing. As computer users go, I guess I’m pretty inexperienced but willing to explore, and I just plain love workspaces. They’re my favorite way to keep everything organized. I’m running Fedora 18 with Gnome, and I really like the feel of Gnome 3. After some slight tweaking with extensions, to get rid of that annoying Activities button and hot corner (so my way to access the overview is always the super key) I found it a really convenient DE, with everything right where I need it when I need it, and at all other times staying right the hell out of my way.

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