A Day With Gnome 3

At UDS in Oakland I was asked me what I thought of Gnome 3. I answered honestly that there were parts I liked and parts that I did not. I also expressed that I thought that it would have been better if Gnome and Ubuntu had been able to work together so that efforts were not split on the ‘next generation’ Gnome experience. It had been a while since I had used Gnome 3 so I made a mental note that I should give it another try when I had the chance.

I have been amazingly busy since UDS, but today I found the time to run Fedora 17 and Gnome 3 for the entire day. There was one overall impression I had; I was far less productive. This held true even after I added several Gnome extensions. The dash was missed and as was the ability to minimize apps to a panel or dock. While I liked the dynamic creation of workspaces I found it frustrating to access them by having to go to the left side of the screen and then back to the right side; it was so frustrating I feel like there must be another way that I just missed.

At the end of the day it was with a sigh of relief that I booted back in to Ubuntu (gotta love spare hard drives) and was back in Unity. The experience was a positive one though; it is always good to realize just how good the things you have are in comparison to other options. In my case Unity has made more progress and fits my work style much better than Gnome 3.

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24 Responses to A Day With Gnome 3

  1. Pingback: Ubuntu developers: Charles Profitt: A Day With Gnome 3 | Linux-Support.com

  2. fabio says:

    you can add minimize to panel and expand button, and you can access with “shell” without go to left side of screen by pressing “windwos button” anyway I agree with you aboyut gnome-ubuntu collaboration and the sensation of limitations that gnome give.

  3. My experience exactly. And after initial scepticism, I am simply amazed by how much I use the HUD, particularly in complex applications such as GIMP.

  4. Stephen C says:

    On the basis of comparing apples with apples, shouldn’t you have tried the Gnome 3 desktop on Ubuntu and not on the Fedora 17 platform? It isn’t as though Gnome 3 won’t work with Ubuntu 12.04. Surely some of you “less productive” can be attributed to the new platform and not to the desktop.
    “UDS”? Isn’t that Ubuntu Developer Summit? If so, wouldn’t it be more relevant to have tested Gnome 3 on Ubuntu 12.04?
    Personally, I wouldn’t expect to be able to install a new OS on a computer and be fully productive on the first day (unless I was doing very basic stuff like just browsing). For example, there are websites that require one to “login” if you change your browser, which is guaranteed to happen if you use a new OS, and your instant messenger application isn’t already set up, which is also guaranteed to be the case when you use a new OS.
    I use Gnome-Classic as my desktop, and it is the main reason I have stuck with Ubuntu. For me, there is little doubt that Unity is “less productive” than Gnome-Classic. For example, I can see what programs are concurrently running … right now I have Firefox and Pidgin. Also “Alt-Tab” is a very bad keyboard habit and can lead to RSI … I know this from personal experience … and can take years to heal, and this shouldn’t be encouraged.

    • Charles Profitt says:

      I actually use Fedora as my second choice Linux distro so I am familiar with most of the differences. The tasks I was trying to accomplish were after I had installed my productivity applications. I chose Fedora 17 because that is the latest Fedora release and their Gnome desktop choice and focus is Gnome 3. My hope was that Fedora would pay attention to the extra-fine details of integrating Gnome 3 with their desktop and apps.

  5. Michael Hall says:

    One day isn’t enough time to give Gnome Shell a fair shot. Like I tell people who are trying out Unity, you need at least a week just to stop treating it like what you’re used to, and another week after that to learn how to use the new one.

    • Charles Profitt says:

      I agree with that… I will likely give it a longer shot over the next 30-45 days.

      • Some further notes that may help:

        You can switch between workspaces with ctrl+alt+up and ctrl+alt+down. Remember alt+key-above-tab (` on a US keyboard) to cycle through windows of a given app (alt-tab cycles through apps). Read https://live.gnome.org/GnomeShell/CheatSheet . In general, if you want to be efficient with the Shell, you want to be using the keyboard for a lot of stuff.

      • As I mentioned in an earlier reply to someone else: You need efficient handling with keyboard AND mouse. This is a core need of a modern desktop environment in my opinion.

        That said, desktop switching with mouse in Unity is 3 clicks which is too far away (in some usability paper I read that everything that is more than 2 clicks away is too much for often needed features). I tweaked compiz to have desktop wall switching desktop clicking mouse button left or right on the bottom edge (having 3 desktops in 1 row).

      • Martin: the obvious mouse/touch counterpart to keyboard shortcuts would be gestures. I don’t know if anyone’s looked at wiring some ‘obvious’ shortcut gestures into Shell yet, but it seems like a clear way to go.

      • One thing: I did not investigate how well Gnome3 shell plays with compiz. Unity does. Anybody tried tweaking Gnome3 with compizconfigsettingsmanager (ccsm) ?
        That’s where I configured my mouse features.

  6. Raphael says:

    Also the way I feel it, Gnome 3 starts getting really comfy when you start using the available hotkeys like Ctrl-Alt+Up/Down to change workspaces… but then you might argue only a poweruser would do so. But then I guess you are one🙂

    • Same available on Unity: Ctrl+Alt+Left/Right for desktop switch. Mouse-Desktop switch is 3 clicks which is definitely too much – but you can change this in ccsm – I do now switch desktops with left and right mouse button on the bottom edge (I have the desktops organized in a single row).

  7. I could not say, that I have tried Gnome 3 for a week but after the 3rd round of DE testing during the last year, I got to the same result as you. There are several annoyances under Unity but your are still fare more productive than on different desktop environments. So I have similar experiences using Unity over Xubuntu, Lubuntu and even Gnome3 – so my experience corresponds with yours.

    BUT… …under the following circumstances:
    a) You usually keep many windows open and need the taskbar stay organized (keep the same order for example).
    b) You switch a lot between applications (and maybe desktops also).
    c) You don’t use basically just one app with a several application windows.
    d) You sit in front of the computer a lot of time.

    If the above situations are not given (or most of them) then it is pretty the same experience whatever desktop environment you are using. The difference in productivity is then smaller or even non-existent.

  8. nekohayo says:

    Press the Win/logo/super key to toggle the activities overview mode, then access your workspaces on the right. No need to move the mouse back and forth between the upper left corner and the workspace area.

    Also use alt+tab in combination with the mouse to switch between windows, or type the app name to switch to it, etc.

    Minimizing apps doesn’t make much sense in a desktop where there is no desktop, where there is no ”window list” by default and where the application overview + workspaces + alt-tab is the primary way to interact. But still, you can do pretty much everything with extensions.gnome.org.

    I can guess your pain about the sluggishness of the shell’s overview search though.

    Conversely, whenever I’m out of gnome shell and have to use Unity, I feel far less productive. I feel like I have to use an alien interface that behaves counterintuitively and breaks pretty much every design/usability rule I’ve known over the years. My point is: anyone getting out of a comfort zone for one day will not feel at home, and reporting on such a short trial period means nothing.

  9. Klaas says:

    “One Day With GNOME 3” <- Here I stop reading …

    • I don’t need longer than a day to get a quite signifficant impression. If I can’t get familiar with a GUI in one day then be sure, that a normal user can’t get familiar with it in a month!

      • jeff says:

        I’m sorry, that argument is false. Normal users taking longer to adapt than power users? Yeah right. The people I’ve seen who are the most reluctant to change are the power users, especially in IT, ironically (where you would expect people to actually embrace change).

        Conversely, I’ve seen “Joe plumber” users adapt very quickly to GNOME Shell, without fuss. I’ve actually had much less trouble supporting “normal people” with that interface than with GNOME 2 or Windows.

        • You mix three things:
          a) Understanding the GUI, find it quite efficient, change most important settings to fit the needs.
          b) Power user requirements are usually a lot more complex and there are a lot of habits evolved during time. For a power user it takes longer to get new ways of working and to implement all the needs.
          c) I am not what you may see in IT – I am not reluctant to change. But I can understand your IT people to some extent. Switching desktop environment or distribution (especially when package system changes) can be a lot of work if you have a lot of apps you need. There might be some packages not available.

          For Joe Plumber it is basically completely indifferent, which desktop environment is used for email and web surfing. Anyway sometimes a joe plumber gets a more interested and wants to get optimum efficiency (what anyway does not make a lot of difference).

  10. Pingback: A Crazy little Gnome to Brighten your Day | Naimeless

  11. You can use gnome-tweak-tool to add minimize and maximize buttons. Doing that in combination with the dash to dock extension (https://extensions.gnome.org/extension/307/dash-to-dock/) make gnome-shell much more productive for me, I suggest you give those a try!

    This way you get your traditional window management with minimizing and all with the (albeit simple) intellihiding dock. Whats also really nice about that extension is it makes it FAR easier to open multiple apps in quick succession, with vanilla gnome-shell you gotta open the overlay everytime which is a HUGE damper on workflow, with this I can just middle clean each icon in succession and they all open in their own workspaces🙂

    To further avoid needing the overlay you can rely on alt tab, alt `, and ctrl up/down for app/window/and workspace switching respectively, and you can reserve using the overlay for the expose feature and searching.

    Gnome-shell takes a bit to get used to, but with some good extensions and using keyboard shortcuts it can be pretty nice. I do still prefer unity overall to be honest, but compiz’s slowness and instability on my systems in comparison to gnome-shell/mutter keep me with gnome-shell.

  12. Finally – I agree completely. The problem I have with Unity is the stability. Compiz, although very cool is buggy. Mutter is much more stable in my experience and I run both desktops. I run gnome-shell on my Desktop and Unity on my laptops andI am in both environments daily and I can with confidence that gnome is much more stable. Unity in my opinion tries to be the middle ground between Gnome3’s wholesale change.

    The biggest complaint about the customizability of the two platforms will rectify itself over time as gnome2 did over the last decade.

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