Monday, April 11, 2011

Gnome3 from a XFCE user's perspective.

"Just tried GNOME 3 for 30 seconds. Prefer the old version. Will say bad things about GNOME 3 whenever it is mentioned for the next 5 years." - @1990sLinuxUser

I love this quote because it makes me think of many blog posts I read about Gnome3. I also really like who ever runs that twitter account because its quite entertaining.

I would like to take a moment to state this before we go any farther just so that people know my stance before we get anywhere:

Gnome3 is good, Gnome3 is damn good.

There's a large amount of people who dislike it and don't prefer it and I respect their right to their opinion but I honestly get a little annoyed by people who piss on the hard work of innovators.

Ok, now that's out of the way lets move on....

First, Gnome3 is pretty:

Gnome3 is good. Right out of the gate I have a lot of respect for the well thought out design with its clean and uncluttered desktop. I personally completely respect the lack of panel plugins, the lack of desktop icons, and the decision on the overview layout design for interacting with the desktop in a very intuitive fashion. Gnome3/Gnome-Shell set out to accomplish something and that was to make the Free Desktop easier to use, more productive, and to have a seamless user experience. I think these things have been accomplished with great milestones being etched into the landscape along the way. Many design decisions were made with the idea of current day work flow and user interaction in mind and I can't do anything but respect that. The new integrations with power management, NetworkManager, messenger, and notifications are nothing short of impressive and make for a solid user experience. The additions to the file manager are also highly welcomed and I think make for a far more user friendly file navigating experience. Not to mention the over all innovations in general human computer interaction: Of course we should use our computer peripherals simultaneously! It's wasteful not to. Gestures for window management? Yes, why not? is it faster to zero in on that tiny little box in order to maximize, unmaximize, or close a window or is it faster to click anywhere on that top bar and throw it into a side of the screen and let go? Go ahead and test it a few times with a stop watch, don't worry ... I'll wait ....

Good, you try it? Awesome. See how much faster that was?

The backlash from the community about things like this astound me. This isn't new, innovation in the Linux space isn't new by any means and the funny thing is that each great stride forward is always met with the same response: "Blasphemy!!! How dare you change $x" Think I'm crazy? Ask a KDE dev sometime how much heat they took over the rewrite. Ask Lennart how much crap he's taking over SystemD. Ask Matt Domsch how much crap he's taking over biosdevname. Go ahead, ask them and you'll get a similar response from each of them as you will from a Gnome3 developer and what amazes me is that they are so willing to take the punches and defend their stance. You know why they do? Because they believe in the tech and they know that in a year, the haters will be on to complaining about the next thing and everyone will simply be happier with the changes that they are driving which are being made for the better.

(Yes there were great strides before these I listed and there will be more tomorrow and they day after that .... these topics are relatively current and apply to the topic at hand so if I left out your innovation then I apologize for doing so and for the crap you put up with during the initial development and release of it.)

Alright, lets round this back to me being a XFCE user.... I've been a XFCE user since 2004 (no I'm not the most veteran user out there, if you've been using XFCE for longer, awesome ... good for you). I also really respect other desktop environments in their own right such as KDE3.x and KDE4.x, GNOME 2.x and 3.x, LXDE, as well as the vast amount of window managers turned quasi desktop environment but at the end of the day I always come back to XFCE because its my comfort zone and I like the way things are done in XFCE land. I like the strict standards compliance, the fact that I can rip and replace any one or many aspects of my desktop and replace it with another standards compliant piece of software that I thought was interesting, I love how light weight and simple it is and above all I love that it offers me the feature richness I desire while being discrete enough to not get in my way. Would I be upset if they completely dropped the current implementation and went with something wildly different like Gnome3? Maybe at first, but I wouldn't trash them for their efforts to innovate and I would certainly happily either adopt the new solution or find an alternative because there are a *LOT* of them out there and they are all waiting for a larger user base.

Moral of the story: Gnome3 is awesome but not my personal cup of tea and I'll be staying with XFCE for the foreseeable future.

Also, XFCE is pretty too :)

Congratulations to all those involved with the Gnome3 release!

Happy hacking to all and for anyone interested in Xfce 4.8 ... feel free to pop over to the Fedora 15 Nightly Compose page and grab yourself a bit bucket full of the Fedora Xfce Spin! :)



abos said...

I have always bounced back and forth between XFCE and Gnome myself. Your post was good reading. You did not bash Gnome, rather only mentioned that it was not your current cup of tea. Good attitude and that just examplifies the choice we all have with open source.

Lapo said...

Very nice reading, thanks.

aidan said...

if I left out your innovation then I apologize for doing so

One innovation the Gnome 3 devs left out in the cold, and in quite a high-handed way, was Compiz. This is simply failing to build on progress.

As for xfce, well, to me it's simply a stripped down Gnome 2 and I miss simple things like being able to create a folder on the desktop without having to open a file browser.

Emmanuele said...

thanks for the nice words.

and I'm sorry that now you xfce folks will have to deal with all the crazies that have decided to switch after gnome3. :-)

@aidan: we innovated an existing code base (metacity) with an advanced scene graph and animation framework (clutter). compiz has never been a gnome project. might as well said that kde didn't "innovate" by using kwin.

Viale Fabrice said...

I can not completely agree. Some choices have been decided that constraint user behaviours without clear benefice. It is not surprising that users complaint.
The old desktop allow concurrent approach to work simultaneously (e.g. menu & dock & icon on desktop & search & launcher). This is just stupid to restrict to one approach and claiming that that is the overall one. I'd like to switch over the method that feet my current needs, not to build my behaviours in respect to strong constrained paths.
There are mother major drawbacks but this one just motives me to leave Gnome.

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