Tuesday, 24 May 2011

GNOME 3 - A Quick Review

I have been experimenting with the latest and greatest version of GNOME desktop for the last 4 days. I was allured by the Simply Beautiful tag line of GNOME 3, and it was not completely wrong. The new desktop is really clean, simple and elegant. But there are some usability issues which made me crazy while using the new desktop. I did an upgrade to the beta release of Fedora 15 to test GNOME 3.

I don’t want to re-iterate all the fancy features of GNOME 3 which have been discussed else where. This scribbling is basically about the issues I faced while using the desktop and I'm not sure whether it qualifies as a review. May be the issues I faced are side-effects of a better desktop architecture and it’s due to my ignorance or unfamiliarity with GNOME 3.

The notable change in the new desktop is the absence of the bottom panel, which saved some space for the opened windows, but it costs several clicks to re-open a window. In GNOME 2, I need only a single click to re-open a window from the bottom panel, but in 3 I have to click on the Activities, and then click on the Favourites icon to get the previously opened window. If you have multiple windows opened, then you have to do another click to open the window other than the last one.

I was really frustrated, whenever I need a fresh Terminal. I was able to open a new terminal only by right clicking on the Favourites icon, if there is already an open terminal.

The Activities-->Applications has a section called Other. I thought that it may be some less important applications/utilities for the desktop. But, later I discovered that it had some really important utilities such as Firewall, Network, Input Method, Date & Time, Printing, etc... I’m not sure why these are aggregated under Other.

GNOME 3 doesn’t have a easy Shut down button to power off the machine. However, if I click on the username on the top-right corner and then hold the ALT key, I can see the Power off menu item.

I cannot change the format of date & time displayed on the top panel. The main issue is that if I have to check today’s date, then I have to click and open the calendar every time. The panel displays only the weekday and hours. I still can’t figure out how the date can be displayed.

A really great application I missed in GNOME 3 is the Hamster Time tracking applet. I know that it’s not a GNOME issue, but I have to return to gnote for tracking time at work.

There are no Minimize and Maximise button for the windows, but it’s not a big issue since I rarely used them. I always preferred double-clicking on top of the window to maximise/minimise them.

The keyboard shortcut to move files to trash have changed in Nautilus. I have to press control+delete(Same as copy, paste, etc..) to move files to trash. This is useful, since it avoids accidental removal files to trash. But it's an important usability change and users should get used to it.

I’m still exploring the new features and I wish to update the list as I progress. Since I’m using the bleeding edge of Fedora, things may change in the GA release.

Update - 6/6/2011

Solved the date issue on panel by running the following command:
$ gsettings org.gnome.shell.clock show-date true

You can also install gnome-tweak-tool(available in YUM repository) to change the advanced settings in GNOME 3.