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Desktop in action

First Impressions of Gnome 3

In what now seems like the dark ages, I was a Gnome 2 fan. I tried other desktop environments, but never quite seemed to get the hang of them. Eventually, however, Gnome 2 came to an end, and it was time to make some decisions. My travels in Linux-Land since then took me through Unity and KDE, where I found my home for quite a while.

In the last few weeks however, I have decided to finally give Gnome 3 a fair shot. I had tested it for a short while when it was in beta, and had fundamentally liked it, despite the difficulties of a beta product, so I was eager to see what the experience today would be like.

In particular, I was curious how it would differ from Unity, which follows a very similar paradigm.

My overall impressions so far have been very solid. It took a bit of adapting my work flow: In KDE, I use Krunner almost exclusively, very rarely using the main menu to launch items, so having to hit the “windows” key to bring up the side bar is taking a little to get used to. The sidebar itself is nice and simple. You can add items to it without any trouble, and it seems to adjust icon sizes as you do so, without any problem.

Launching a program will also add it to the icon list temporarily, for quick access.

Figuring out how work spaces functioned took a bit longer. Rather than having them listed in the menu bar, they are essentially created dynamically, as you need them. When you access the menu, the right hand side of the screen will indicate your work spaces, and you can drag and rearrange windows smoothly and easily. I can’t quite put my fingers on it yet, but it feels easier and more natural than arranging them in KDE somehow.

You can of course still right click on the top of a window and move it this way, but dragging it seems quicker in many cases.

Less pleasing however, was my impression of the settings. It’s become a stereotype that KDE has settings for everything. In fact, there is probably a way to configure the settings themselves, somewhere in the big mess of menus. Gnome however is often stereotyped as being “the way the developers intended”, and while there are tweak tools and extensions you can add, it’s not nearly as evident or easy as it is in KDE. People who like to do heavy customization of their desktop may find themselves uncomfortable here.

Another thing that stood out to me is that KDE applications tend to be highly uniform in the way menu’s are arranged, and their internal logic. In Gnome-land, things tend to feel a little more erratic and chaotic. This may not be a significant issue, as most people tend to use a small set of applications, but it is worth mentioning.

To end this first view on a positive however, I am endlessly pleased that when using Empathy, the messages will pop up in a notifier window at the bottom of the screen, and you can respond to messages through the same window, rather than having to navigate to the chat window. This seems like such a simple thing, and yet if you use instant messaging heavily, it will make you wonder how you ever lived without it.

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In the future, I hope to provide further details as I delve more into the Gnome desktop.

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Ivan Sorensen

I'm a 34 year old Dane, transplanted to the west coast of the United States. I've been living the Linux dream for 10 years. I like gaming, heavy metal and cats. Maybe the cats like heavy metal too.

4 Comments

  1. KDE feels like it was designed by programmers. Basically all the focus seems to be in making things a bit rounder or shinier. Gnome feels like it was designed by designers. It is doing some really innovative things, not just a re-hash of a Windows Start-button, and I appreciate that.

    • KDE is best for ex- Windows ‘power users’. Programmers dont honor GUI very much.

    • Not everything that has a bar at the bottom and a button on the left of it (by default) is a Windows rip-off. KDE is a lot more than that.

  2. I’ve been using Gnome since the days of 2.X and I happen to love the “new” Gnome, although a lot of people bad-mouth ti and say it’s kludgy or unintuitive, I find I can do just about everything I need to with it. And while there isn’t much in the way of customization, I still love the way it “stays out of the way”, and lets me work with no limitations. I guess if more people decide to dedicate to coding for it, it could easily become something that anyone can use, plus there could be a whole new generation of people working towards providing themes, add-ons, widgets etc. But for now…I simply like it the way it is….

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