Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gnome 3 Video Review

The video is currently being re-worked and being conducted on a non-bugged copy of Gnome 3. Until then it is marked as Private.  Thanks for visiting, hope you come back soon!  :D

So Gnome 3 has arrived.

My first impression: not a fan.

Let me explain...

With every major release of GNOME, the UI changes. GNOME 3 not only has a different UI than previous version of GNOME, it's UI is completely different from anything I've used. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Things in life change, and desktop UIs are certainly one of those things.

You can read about the details of the new interface here: http://live.gnome.org/GnomeShell/Design/

I used it. Then I read the design docs.

So why don't I like it?

Let's look at the "Goals and Advantages" listed in the above link.
Makes it easy for users to focus on their current task and reduces distraction and interruption.
So hiding the window list makes me more productive and focused? This seems to be walking the fine line between treating your users like idiots, and not.
Provides the GNOME desktop with a consistent and recognisable visual identity.
Um, GNOME's UI has changed significantly in each of it's major releases. How does that help give a "consistent and recognizable visual identity"?
Is beautiful: it has been crafted in order to be visually elegant and aesthetically pleasing.
I don't want to take away from GNOME 3's visuals, because I DO think it looks nice. But, this point is an opinion. I'm not sure how this can be listed as a factual advantage.
Overcomes several usability and user experience limitations found in the GNOME 2 desktop.
I used GNOME 2 quite a bit. And most of my "usability and user experience limitations" were due to stability issues, not anything visual.
Incorporates additional features which are relevant to contemporary computer usage, such as integrated messaging and search.
I have no issues with this point...
Effectively works on contemporary hardware: the Shell will provide an excellent experience on touch-based devices and will scale down to small screen sizes. It has also been designed with wide-screen in mind.
Ok, but... touchscreen device != desktop display (usually). I think GNOME 3 would work quite nicely on a touchscreen device. But those features that make it nice for touchscreen don't necessarily translate to mouse and keyboard usage. This leads me into my next point...

Window minimizing and maximizing...

There are no longer buttons on a window's title bar for minimize and maximize.

To maximize a window, you can either a) grab the title bar and pull it to the top of the screen, or b) right-click on the title bar and select "maximize". Option (a) would work fine on a touch screen device. But in a desktop/laptop environment, that's either a) more mouse mileage or b) 2 mouse clicks. I don't see how that makes things easier.

You can minimize a window by right-clicking on the title bar and selecting "minimize", or by using one of a couple different alt-key combinations.

This post on the GNOME mailing list talks about why people don't minimize windows, or something.

Finally, 2 usability hypotheses that were tested were:
If desktop workspaces are not persistently visible, users who are not familiar with using them will be less likely to accidentally enter them and lose windows in them.
Users are much less likely to lose or forget windows placed on workspaces that are not in view on the desktop when they are visually represented in the applications overview.
Again with the "users are idiots" assumption.

After reading more about GNOME 3, I think I see what is trying to be accomplished. I just don't like the execution.

But YMMV. If you like it, more power to you.


  1. Hi,

    It seems that the version you tested was buggy... because the top bar is always visible.

    Anyway, you can install gnome-tweak-tool to customize some stuff that seems really important for you, putting back the min/max buttons for instance :)


  2. Yea, your test installation is pretty broken. Not sure I see the value of posting a review of a broken installation.

  3. First off, thank you for taking the time to read my blog!

    After some further testing my reviewer did find and fix the bug, a new video review will be coming sometime soon. But after talking with him last night he stated that most of the review still stands on its own...bugs or not.

  4. Unable to view the video as it is marked as private.

  5. Odd...it shouldn't be as I can still view it. I did change the URL of the vid so it is HTTPS instead of HTTP (so I can view it from work :D) Maybe that is causing the trouble? I should have a new vid to replace this one tomorrow anyway (with an update review too!).

  6. Also the ui changes from release to release is a function of the distro not the project itself. For instance, I know that Ubuntu tends change the look of GNOME from release to release with new themes and so forth.. The project itself doesn't really do that.

    One change in gnome-shell is keeping that visual identity consistent. So there is only minimum ability to change the theme of the shell. I don't think that will stop distros from putting their own brand on it, but such as it is.

  7. Ubuntu sure does...look at the new Unity gui...can you say total gnome 3 reskin? Oh well I don't agree with all things gnome or ubuntu, but I respect the inroads both have made into the "casual" linux market. :D