I tried GNOME fans I really did. But sadly the GNOME 3 experiment for me is over. I wanted to support GNOME 3, I really did, but in terms of functionality I am afraid that Ubuntu’s Unity is better for me. I tried to ignore the discomfort I felt with GNOME 3 but sadly the environment that is GNOME 3 just does not work as well. On the desktop it was bearable but the dock simply replicated the Unity dash and the frippery bottom bar extension was like a broken task bar from GNOME 2.x, it simply offered limited functionality. On my netbook the damn network applet took ages to reconnect after waking the machine up, it was so bloody frustrating. Unity reconnects within 10 seconds.
The notifications on the bottom right corner is not the correct place, sort of shadowed it never seems to operate quite right. Whereas Unity has the top righ corner, things seem more obvious and the unity bar on the left seems more functional.
Yes I miss the Super Button reveal and especially the ability to close programs there. But sadly I cannot be on the GNOME bus any more. Time to ride the Unity train and see where that goes.
There can be no doubt that when I updated to Ubuntu 11.10 there was some consternation by my partner and son. They did not like the Unity layout at all, but it was workable but they didn’t like it. Yet no matter how much I tried Unity left me feeling cold, I don’t know why. The integrated menus and top bar is good for screen space but on a 23 inch monitor this is less of an issue than it is on my netbook. But the maximised windows having buttons on the left is annoying and the operation of the launcher was, I don’t know, underwhelming.
So after installing GNOME Shell I was happier but GNOME Shell demands a lot of the new convert, the typical paradigm of using a desktop is fundamentally altered, and to my partner and son keyboard short cuts weren’t a winner.
GNOME Shell with the Dock Extension on the right
But with GNOME 3′s extension site with a simple click you can install all the extensions you want (except frustratingly the Dock Extension). For them the Frippery bottom bar is the duck’s guts, now they have their window chooser where it should be. I still use the Activities window but to them they can easily select running apps. Happily the house is firmly back in the GNOME Shell camp.
I’m sorry GNOME 3 I tried, I really did but the family has voted and they don’t like GNOME Shell, I have argued for you but my wife and son want Unity back. On our desktop running Ubuntu 11.10 the family were shocked when I gave them Unity as the default install but with a bit of time they came around to the Unity launcher lurking on the left.
But when I decided the family should try GNOME shell I had high hopes. I want GNOME Shell to work, I like supporting GNOME. With Unity it appears Ubuntu is going it alone, I’m not sure that’s a good thing so I want to support the more mainstream GNOME interface, hence GNOME Shell for me. But to my wife and son the lack of of an obvious window bar/dock call it what you want was a deal breaker.
I think GNOME Shell is quite cool but it reminds me a bit of a phone OS like Android with no obvious switcher for multitasking. Sure the apps are there but at first glance it isn’t obvious what is running. Click Activities and there they are – that cool animation reveals them. But that is a long journey each time with the mouse, almost seems like double handling. But just use the Super L (Windows) key I hear you say. Great for me, nightmare for the rest of the family, they don’t use the keyboard for navigation. So to them GNOME Shell is an epic failure. To me it is a clean and innovate re-imagining of a desktop environment. To them it is poorly designed.
I tried to show them Alt-Tab and Super Key for Activities but they think that is silly. I even tried to point out it’s quicker using the keyboard, but to no avail. And maybe this is the problem with GNOME Shell, it is great for a power user or a tinkerer, but to the average user it’s a revolutionary step too far. Now this is a concern because I’m all for wide Linux adoption, but it makes it hard to recommend GNOME Shell to anyone who just wants their computer to work like it used to. By their very nature computing environments change rapidly, I’m cool with that. But to some GNOME Shell is a too much change at once. I would like to see them make the Favourites (yes GNOME that is spelled incorrectly in the Shell) bar able to be made permanently visible, like the Unity launcher. Then at least the newcomer could be eased off their reliance on a panel showing running apps.
I’m still your fan GNOME Shell, I like you, but the family are going to make me wait a while before we can be friends again.