Fedora 16 And GNOME Shell: Tested And Reviewed

GNOME 3: Conclusion

Despite the colossal blunder that is GNOME Shell, there is a good deal of merit in this new version of GNOME. 

A Diamond In The Rough

Bizarre default configuration aside, the GNOME Tweak Tool and user-created shell extensions prove there is a platform to work with in GNOME Shell. Try to think of the current iteration of GNOME 3 as a foundation to build upon. An empty canvas. And truly, it doesn't get much emptier than this:

Clean Slate or Empty Shell?Clean Slate or Empty Shell?

With a load of tweaks, GNOME 3 can be a modern, functional, efficient, and even beautiful computing environment. One of the things we don't like about Linux distributions in general is the lack of originality. Sure, different distros use different icons and themes. But the majority of them retain the stock GNOME or KDE layout.

The extension system allows for significant customization of GNOME Shell. It's now possible for one GNOME 3 distribution to look and function differently from another. There are multiple routes to take with UI layout once you throw extensions, and the possibility of distro-developed extensions, into the mix. 

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Unity, the new user interface for Ubuntu, also received its share of harsh criticism. Which new GNOME-based GUI is winning? If you caught our review of Ubuntu 11.10, you know that most of the problems we had with Unity were in the defaults, whereas our biggest issues with GNOME Shell are in the fundamentals.

It really is too bad that Canonical and the GNOME Project decided to go their separate ways. Both user interfaces feel like products of a bitter divorce. Not the kind where I get the car and you get the living room furniture. The kind where we bring out the chainsaw and literally cut everything in half.

GNOME 3 and Unity both suffer from a handful of usability issues that could easily be rectified by combining the two projects. GNOME is in great need of the Unity Launcher, and Unity could benefit from using the GNOME 3 Activities overview as opposed to Dash.

The screen shot below is a side-by-side of the empty GNOME 3 shell and the Unity desktop, followed by another side-by-side of the GNOME 3 Activities overview and the Unity Dash. 

The GNOME Shell WorkspaceThe GNOME Shell WorkspaceThe Unity DesktopThe Unity Desktop

The GNOME Shell Activities OverviewThe GNOME Shell Activities OverviewThe Unity DashThe Unity Dash

What's missing? Here are a few mock-ups depicting what could have been:

'Unity Shell' Desktop Mockup'Unity Shell' Desktop Mockup

'Unity Shell' Overview Mockup'Unity Shell' Overview Mockup

Take GNOME Shell, add the Launcher, functional desktop, and static configurable workspaces of Unity and you have something that's familiar enough, capable enough, and slick enough to appeal to both current users and potential converts.

While the GNOME Project is unlikely to utilize anything from Unity in the near future, Canonical is slowly integrating GNOME 3 into Ubuntu. So, we'll get to see which GNOME 3 features get implemented in upcoming versions.

While the practicality and efficiency of Unity over GNOME Shell is highly debatable, Canonical seems to have the advantage. But so far, the real winners in this GNOME 3/Unity split are XFCE and KDE.

The Takeaway

Using GNOME Shell is an exercise in supreme frustration. After spending the first month with this interface, I wanted to crawl into a corner and die. That's right. Month. Coming from someone who changes OSes with the same frequency that most people change clothes, the learning curve associated with GNOME 3 is steep.

The second month we discovered shell extensions. GNOME 3 not only became something we could use, but it became something that we wanted to use. The power of the extensions system got us excited about this desktop. With a heavy amount of customization, GNOME 3 can be tailored to suit the needs of nearly any user. But the bottom line is that it shouldn't require this much effort to get the basic functionality provided by other desktops immediately upon installation. Regardless of the potential, if you “upgrade” to GNOME 3 you will almost certainly lose any semblance of work flow.

Normal folks should definitely skip this one. Don't even bother with the rental. Linux nerds reading this article are encouraged to give GNOME 3 another spin, and distributors shouldn't give up on GNOME 3 simply because of GNOME Shell's default configuration.

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    Top Comments
  • amdfangirl
    One of these days, developers of GUIs will realise going "forward" doesn't equate to an increase of ease of use and functionality.

    Unity, Metro, GNOME 3, Etc.

    Alas, I must suffer each day for the Wacom preferences panel in GNOME settings. Ties me to GNOME 3 (or a derivative). How silly.
    11
  • Other Comments
  • gz3ro
    I think the akmod graphics drivers (also found in the rpmfusion repository) would be better than simply the proprietary drivers because they also work after kernel updates.
    0
  • Verrin
    I'm really disappointed with the direction Linux has taken in its user interfaces. I was a big fan of Ubuntu until they switched to Unity, and since then I've been jumping from distro-to-distro trying to find a desktop environment that feels comfortable, isn't terribly difficult to wrap my head around, and that is still powerful. I was using GNOME3 for a while with Linux Mint, but even with the heavy extensions, there are certain functions that I can't quite replicate from the GNOME2 heyday. I wasn't able to get into KDE or XFCE either. They feel aged and aren't quite as sleek as other modern desktop environments, even if you try to fix that by adding customs skins.

    In the end, I'm downgrading to a much older distro of Ubuntu, and supplementing it with Windows 7. I'll be keeping an eye in the coming years to see how these rusty GUI releases turn out-- hopefully for the better. But for now, linux has lost a lot of its useability and it's flare. I'll miss the days when upgrading to a newer distro actually felt like an upgrade, but maybe after all these mistakes, developers will learn and make Linux exciting again. I'll be waiting to see.
    5
  • Anonymous
    Good grief. What I wouldn't have done years ago for a job that would ask me to write a review on something that would obsolete itself in six months.

    Nobody, IMHO, who actually uses a computer for anything of value wastes their time with Fedora. You can't upgrade it, so your own personal enhancements and bug fixes are lost. Features you like are abandoned for broken replacements. Fedora is a nightmare and has been since it began. I began the adventure years ago with Red Hat 5 and finally gave up and moved to more useful distros after Fedora 8. Fedora is now for the masochistic.

    On the other hand, if you like superficiality, as in wallpaper and clock positions, and enjoy the animated struggle that comes with installing something new all the time and reporting bugs then Fedora is a good thing.
    5
  • yumri
    one thing which i would have liked to see on the comparesion would be open time of a Libre Word Processing file, close time of that file, open time of a database file, close time of it, open time of Firefox, close time of Firefox, open time of a typical website like this one, close time of it, install time of the OS, how fast does it run a batch file or equivalent in the OS, and etc. like that things which we actually do a lot besides gaming.
    2
  • yumri
    It also seemed like they had a basis towards the GUI way of doing things and thought all users had forsaken CLI scripting for their installs and updates. as if you are getting Fedora you most likely know it was command line based in the start and really is still easier to do everything from command line then from any other route well Ubuntu is made with the GUI interface in mind so things are easier to do with that then with command line mainly because they hid the terminal screen in the newer versions of it.
    With that Fedora is also made for workstations and Ubuntu made for end user support 2 differnet applications so why only show benchmarks of end user things and not anything on network support, domain support, VM thin client viability, accessing files from the network, etc. like that things which Fedora is good at not just things which Ubuntu is I think this article was basised and another should be made with more benchmarks to not be as basised towards one or the other.
    -2
  • amdfangirl
    One of these days, developers of GUIs will realise going "forward" doesn't equate to an increase of ease of use and functionality.

    Unity, Metro, GNOME 3, Etc.

    Alas, I must suffer each day for the Wacom preferences panel in GNOME settings. Ties me to GNOME 3 (or a derivative). How silly.
    11
  • palladin9479
    Now I'm waiting for them to do a Solaris 10 or 11 review. Their both available on x86 so they don't even need to purchase new hardware. Come on it's a "real mans" OS.
    -1
  • Anonymous
    You've completely missed extensions.gnome.org and gnome-tweak-tool, and as a result your review is not an accurate reflection of gnome-shell. Gnome-tweak-tool gives things like "Have file manager handle the desktop" and "Trash icon visible on desktop", plus shell, window, and gtk theme selection, font configuration, and gnome-shell extension management. Extensions.gnome.org provides, well, gnome-shell extensions. Things like "Static Workspaces", which gives you a fixed number of workspaces. Or "Alternative Status Menu", which puts power, reboot, suspend, and hibernate on your status menu. Or "Applications Menu", which provides a Gnome2-like list of windows on the current workspace.

    Now, I admit that neither of these configuration options are immediately visible to a new user. Despite that, your review is bad, and you should feel bad.
    -7
  • zhihao50
    graph for POV-Ray is wrong, you said both of linux finished 4min before windows yet the graph show the other way around.
    0
  • adamovera
    Cowardly AnonYou've completely missed extensions.gnome.org and gnome-tweak-tool, and as a result your review is not an accurate reflection of gnome-shell. Gnome-tweak-tool gives things like "Have file manager handle the desktop" and "Trash icon visible on desktop", plus shell, window, and gtk theme selection, font configuration, and gnome-shell extension management. Extensions.gnome.org provides, well, gnome-shell extensions. Things like "Static Workspaces", which gives you a fixed number of workspaces. Or "Alternative Status Menu", which puts power, reboot, suspend, and hibernate on your status menu. Or "Applications Menu", which provides a Gnome2-like list of windows on the current workspace.Now, I admit that neither of these configuration options are immediately visible to a new user. Despite that, your review is bad, and you should feel bad.

    See pages 12 through 16.
    1
  • adamovera
    zhihao50graph for POV-Ray is wrong, you said both of linux finished 4min before windows yet the graph show the other way around.

    Thanks, good catch. The words are wrong, not the chart. Fixed it.
    2
  • rex86
    I really really hate "Window snap". It's OK if you're working with one or two windows, but when you have more than three windows "Window snap" makes a mess of everything.
    2
  • adamovera
    rex86I really really hate "Window snap". It's OK if you're working with one or two windows, but when you have more than three windows "Window snap" makes a mess of everything.

    KDE has quad-snap, which rocks on a large monitor ;)
    1
  • Anonymous
    Fedora is just an upstream testing ground for RHEL, not a real distro meant for people to use. That's why Linus says:

    "I use Fedora, but recommend Ubuntu".
    0
  • Anonymous
    I think xfce is far better than Gnome and kDE since both are resource hungry. In low end systems, xfce is atleast usable.
    0
  • jeffunit
    I wonder why fedora uses RPM.
    I wonder what RPM stands for.

    It isn't explained in the article, but it happens to stand for Red Hat Package Manager.
    Perhaps that is why fedora uses it.

    The is no special reason why 'parent distributions' are 100% free software, it is simply red hat's corporate policy.

    You might want to fix the typo on page 2, in the header which says 'whats new in fedora 15'.

    I happen to use fedora 15 and recently upgraded to fedora 16.
    0
  • Anonymous
    I use Ubuntu and I installed Gnome Shell form the repos just to try it. I liked Unity OK and I did not feel an undying love for Gnome2. After reading reviews and recalling KDE4, I was prepared to dislike Gnome Shell. To my surprise, I found that I prefer it to other desktops I have used. I will admit that the ability to add extensions and tweak the ui to your preferences is a big plus, but now that I have become used to it, Gnome 2 and Unity feels clunky to me!
    2
  • nevertell
    I've been using gnome3 (mint 12) on my X200s and it is wonderful.
    It is buggy at the moment, it crashes but never have I lost any work due to the shell crashing, you can kill it and it will relaunch itself without any problems. At first I thought that the interface is stupid, and I still use gnome2 on my 10.04 ubuntu desktop. BUT, I have to say, I am almost used to dragging my mouse to the top left corner of the screen when I want to switch workspaces/apps on my desktop as well :) Yes, the end-user apps and GUI configs are not there yet, but the user experience is actually great. Because of the small screen real estate on my laptop, shell helps me save space and organize stuff more neatly, dynamic workspaces are really great, helped a lot during many serious presentations. The problem I have with it is that it is slower and it is really oriented for a window per application experience, I usually spend a minute managing windows before I get cracking on an image if I work with GIMP.
    0
  • puddleglum
    VerrinI'm really disappointed with the direction Linux has taken in its user interfaces.
    Linux isn't the only one going to this DBI (Ditz Blond Interface). I understand Win8 will force it on the rest of the world as well, and we all know this came from Apple (Thanx for nothing). At least with Linux we have other choices, even if they aren't as appealing as what we had in Gnome2.
    4
  • Anonymous
    I tried Gnome3 for a while and while I found some features to be quite nice, I gave up on it eventually, as I felt it to be too awkward for daily use. Interestingly I had the same problems with it as the author - lack of convenient task switching, cumbersome handling due to being forced into the activities tab, lack of customizability.

    I'm now using Unity, while far from perfect provides me with a better usability than Gnome3 and the features I really don't like (global menu, overlay scroll bars, placement of window buttons) can be uninstalled or tweaked away with Unity.

    Gnome3 made me feel as if I'm forced to use the desktop in the very specific way the devs feel is right for me, not the way I feel is right - this problem exists to a certain degree with Unity, too, but for now I still prefer the direction Unity is taking and I feel I still have much more freedom for adjusting it.
    Eventually I might look into Mint and Cinnamon, which looks very interesting.
    0