Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Abomination known as Gnome 3 (Software Sadness)

    Linus Torvalds, the man behind Linux, called Gnome 3 an unholy mess. I completely agree with him. To me, Gnome 3 is the epitome of bad in open source software. Gnome 2 wasn't great, but it was usable and I didn't hate it. Using Gnome 3 makes me want to bash my own head in. Let's look at some of the reasons why. They aren't in any particular order because they're all horrible. I have many more reasons, but didn't want this posting to get too long.

Typical Desktop
    Issue #1 Task Management: Take a look at the image of a typical Gnome 3 desktop. Notice that the bar at the top only lists Firefox. Gnome 3 did away with any type of taskbar. You might also have noticed that your windows don't have "maximize" and "minimize" buttons. Gnome developers just decided you don't need those.

Activity Center
    Issue #2 Activity Center: Instead of a task bar, there is now an Activity Center. It's sort of like a horrible combination of the Mac Dock and the Windows Start menu. Open it up and you see a Dock on the left, with your open programs kind of highlighted. This screenshot shows how you would launch any programs, but there is a tab there where you could see your open windows.
    This is how you change between applications and start new ones. So what is so bad about it? Well, it really kills your flow when you're working. Rather than clicking on a shortcut to start a new application (you can't put icons on the desktop in Gnome 3), you have to bring up this activity center and find what you want. It really interrupts your work flow to do this. It takes over the whole screen and pulls you out of what you're working in.

    Issue #3 Customizability: Gnome 3 is a lot more difficult, by design, to customize to your liking. I mentioned no desktop icons. But it's also fairly difficult to change the color themes. You can't customize the top menu at all. If you want to hide the battery icon or accessibility icon because you don't need them, that's just too bad. I searched in vain for a way to hide those icons and came across this gem of a page which describes how little you can customize Gnome 3. Fonts also look horrible and aren't easy to change.

Gnome 3 menu
    Issue #4 Not caring about user feedback. I like to call this the Fundamental Open Source Error. It might be more appropriate to call it the Fundamental Gnome Error because I've really only seen it happen with Gnome projects. Basically, it means that the developers think they're smarter than their users. They get user feedback and promptly tell the users why they are stupid and then keep going as if nothing happened. Check the above link again for an example of this.
    For another example, the original Gnome 3 user menu didn't include a 'Shut down' option. You had to log out to the main screen to shutdown your computer. Really? I have to log out, wait for the login screen to come up, and then shut down? Based on user complaints, the developers added an option where you can hold alt to change the 'Suspend' option in your menu to 'Shut down.' Who's going to know that exists?
Gnome 3.2 menu
   In Gnome's defense, they did change this in Gnome 3.2, there is actually a 'Power Off' option. I'm not sure if that suspends the computer or shuts it down, but I think the change is a step in the right direction. Hopefully they did this based on user feedback.

    I gave Gnome 3 a good try. I wanted to like it, but it's just all wrong. I think this is one reason why Linux doesn't have a better following than it does. You get a lot of projects like this where the default is just ugly and unusable. It's not worth the time to put into customizing it to where you can stand to work with it. That's where Mac OSX and Windows excel. They're decent to look at and are actually usable by default. Being commercial applications, I'm guessing they took user feedback into account and have avoided the Fundamental Gnome Error.

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