Saturday, April 30, 2011

First impression of Gnome3

Just like Unity, Gnome3 is on a trip to reinvent the wheel. So here a few quick first impressions. Note that Gnome3 doesn't come with Ubuntu 11.04, but it can be installed via packages from the PPA.
  • no UI elements that pop in and out of existence, good
  • no minimize button and no minimize functionality, so the desktops clutter up fast
  • no maximize button either, but functionality is still there by dragging the window to the top of the screen
  • dragging a window to the left/right edge makes it fill half the screen, looks useful, but only really helps you with two windows, can't handle three
  • concepts used don't seem to work well together with multi-monitor setups, as it makes a lot of use of screen corners
  • the application "menu" got turned into a fullscreen thing, provides a desktop switcher, the application menu, along with search and a dock, when in the application screen all windows are visible as thumbnails
  • application menu can be activated via moving the mouse into the corner, no clicking required
  • the dock is only in the application screen
  • dock behaves like MacOSX, allowing only a single program instance to be started
  • moving windows between desktops is quite easy, when all desktops are used, Gnome automatically adds a new one
  • the application list is straight forward, not split up into installed, frequently used, etc. like Unity, makes it much easier to browse
  • no panel applet support
  • only a fixed top panel that can't be configured
  • the Gnome3 panel has a unique look that differs from regular Gtk, makes it look inconsistent
  • current Gnome3 PPA packages are incompatible with Unity and Gnome2, installing them will render both of the other unusable
  • no global menubar
  • seems to be incompatible with Gimp, as Gnome3 ignores Gimps additional windows, thus making it impossible to use Gimp on another workspace
  • gconf got replaced with dconf, which looks pretty much the same as before from a users point of view, except that you now have to search for your configuration options in two different registry editors
Overall my first impression of Gnome3 is much more positive then that of Unity, idiotic things like the overlay scrollbar are missing, the dock doesn't fold its icon and the whole user experience seems much more well thought out. The way it handles moving windows around to different workspaces is quite nice.

However it still feels like a toy interface with little reconfigurability, missing minimize/maximize buttons, no applets, bad compatibility, etc. It is also very application driven, making the file manager feel like an afterthought. I wouldn't want to use it, but in a few years when some of the missing features are added back in, it could turn out to be a usable system. That said, it is sad that they as well go the "invent the wheel" route instead of simply improving the Gnome that we already have, none of the changes are so fundamental that they couldn't be handled with a few small improvements and a new applet here and there.

Also whats with the requirement of OpenGL that both Unity and Gnome3 have? Did all OpenGL driver issues magically got solved when I wasn't looking? I don't think so. On basically every single dist-upgrade over the last few years I ran into either Nvidia or ATI drivers going nuts on me and it taking multiple weeks to get it fixed. And of course we still get complains about SuperTux going OpenGL.

No comments: