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Thursday, June 20 2013

Gnome3 Sucks

Hoping you'll pardon me for going off on a bit of a rant here...

I was recently compelled to upgrade my workstation from Debian GNU/Linux 6 to 7 ("Wheezy"). I'd gone along happily for years with Gnome2 and Compiz. Compiz was removed from Debian Wheezy for what may or may not be perfectly valid reasons, and Gnome3 replaces Gnome2. I was unhappy about both of these things, but I've got Gnome3 on my netbook and haven't yet thrown it out the window so it seemed worthy of an open minded trial.

The trial lasted all of one evening. Gnome3 sucks. I could not get past the feeling that Gnome3 is just about what Windows For Workgroups 3.11 would have become if the interface paradigm were not abandoned. Please allow me to explain:

First, here's a screenshot of Gnome3 on my netbook with nothing happening, and the user interface looking very large because the display area itself is relatively small (not Gnome3's fault):

Gnome 3, Nothing Happening

Nice enough, and clutter free. That's important to me, as I really don't want anything on my desktop that doesn't convey useful information. Desktop icons have always annoyed me. The parallel, in Windows For Workgroups 3.11:

WFW 3.11, Nothing Happening

What's not evident in the above Gnome3 image is that to get from nothing happening to something happening you must either bump the mouse pointer against the upper left-hand corner of the desktop or depress the left Windows key. The right Windows key, which is often used to bring up a menu in other window managers, does nothing. So, let's bump the corner:

Gnome 3, Initiating Action

Oh, look. A "Favorites" dock widget. I'm glad it's there, but only because getting at anything else in Gnome3 is annoyingly inefficient. To the right is a desktop pager. Nice. Except that I can't, for example, put my web browser on the fourth desktop (as is my habit) unless the first three are already populated with application windows. I'll let that go, though, as it's just my preferences going unsupported. Maybe there's a way to do it, but it's unknown to me because I have no desire to earn a Ph.D. in Gnome3. It might enable me to do cool things, but it would become obsolete as soon as Gnome4 is released.

In Windows For Workgroups 3.11, double clicking the Program Manager icon on the otherwise empty desktop results in this:

WFW 3.11, Initiating Action

So there are my most-used applications in Main, as an analog to the "Favorites" dock in Gnome3.

Let's poke that "Applications" tab-like thing and see what happens:

Gnome 3, Something Happening

Application icons filling the main area of the desktop, and application function categories to the right. If the application I want carries a name that's not near the top of the alphabet I'm stuck going for the scrollbar, or selecting the category in which it's found if it's something I know or care to guess at.

This is a highly suboptimal state of affairs. To get here I had to bump the top left corner of the desktop, then click the "Applications" tab, also in the top left quadrant of the desktop, and now I have to move the mouse pointer to the right side of the display to continue. I'm moving the darn pointer all over the screen to get just this far. If the application I want is low in the list, I'll be scrolling to the bottom of the screen to find it.

Let's take another look at the WFW 3.11 Program Manager:

WFW 3.11, Initiating Action

The application groups in WFW are functionally equivalent to those in Gnome3. Isn't Gnome3 looking very much like nothing more than a graphical update of Win 3.11?

Let's suppose I happen to want Tomboy Notes, and I know it's going to appear very near the bottom so I just grab the slider and run it all the way to the bottom:

Gnome 3 Sucking My Will To Live

Oops. Now I'm going from the bottom right back into the top left quadrant again. That's a lot of motion and clicking just to start an application. That's something that Microsoft did away with when they released Windows95 and introduced the cascading menu (invoked by that infamous Start button) that those of us using most Linux (and BSD, and Unix) window managers had had all along. Now Gnome3 takes us back twenty years by eliminating it.

Having gone through all of that, let's suppose I've left a terminal emulator open on another desktop and want to go play with that now. Back to the top left corner again, then all the way to the desktop pager on the right... And after selecting the desktop of interest, this:

Gnome3, Annoying Hell Out Of Me

In order to use the terminal emulator I must click on it. But it's the only application on this desktop! I can understand, almost, making me click the desired application representation if there are many things running on the desktop, but there's only one. It's beginning to look a lot like Windows everywhere we go. The Windows of two decades back. The one Microsoft did away with because the user interface sucked.

WFW 3.11, The Best Part

I could go on, but I won't. I've been using Gnome off and on since it was known as Ximian. In those early days it was a very cool departure from fvwm2 which I'd used up until then. It's a pity that they've put so much work into going so far backward.

With all of that said, I've other things to do and will be doing them in my very nice Xfce4 window manager. It's nice to have my cascading menu back, appearing when beckoned by a right click on any unoccupied space of the desktop.

→ committed: 6/20/2013 17:54:56

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