Fedora 16 And GNOME Shell: Tested And Reviewed

GNOME Shell Desktop, Panel, And Notifications

The empty GNOME 3 Shell contains three main elements: the panel, desktop, and notifications. In GNOME-speak, that's the Panel, Windowing Area, and Messaging Tray. 

GNOME Shell MapGNOME Shell Map

The Desktop, Or Windowing Area

Although you see wallpaper, it's simply a backdrop. No files, folders, shortcuts, or widgets appear on the GNOME 3 desktop. No file management functions or organization can occur on the GNOME 3 desktop. It is nothing more than wallpaper and an area for windows to populate.

While GNOME 3 is not the first GUI to do away with the conventional desktop, it may be the most strict in its implementation. KDE 4 made this move earlier. However, KDE 4 has the Folder View Plasmoid, which shows the contents of the Desktop folder within a widget. GNOME 3 has no comparable feature.

Panel

GNOME 3's panel resides along the upper edge of the screen. While it may look similar, the GNOME 3 panel significantly differs from the upper panel in GNOME 2. The GNOME 3 panel consists of five major parts: the Activities button, focused application icon/name, clock, system status indicators, and the user menu. Let's go over the changes from left to right.

Activities Button

First up, on the far-left edge of the panel, is the Activities button. This replaces the Applications/Places/System menu in GNOME 2. Pressing the Activities button or moving the pointer to the upper-left corner of the screen activates the Overview, both of which are explained in detail on the next page.

GNOME Shell Activities OverviewGNOME Shell Activities Overview

Focused Application

The empty space directly to the right of the Activities button is reserved for the icon and name of the foreground application. In the future, this icon will double as the application's menu bar, presumably in drop-down form.

Foreground Application MenuForeground Application Menu

Clock

In GNOME 2, the clock was on the right side of the upper panel with the rest of the indicators. In GNOME 3, the clock shifts to the middle of the Panel. Click the clock to reveal a pop-out calendar. Integration with the Evolution personal information manager displays any upcoming appointments in the calendar.

Clock/CalendarClock/Calendar

System Status Indicators

There is new differentiation between system status indicators and application-specific indicators/notifications in GNOME 3. Only system-level indicators appear in the panel, while application-specific indicators and notifications are now housed in an auto-hide bar at the bottom of the screen called the Messaging Tray (explained later). The system status indicators remain on the right side of the GNOME 3 panel, and just like we saw in Ubuntu, left- and right-clicking yields the exact same menu. The ability to reorganize or add additional applets is gone, too. System status indicators include: Universal Access, Volume, Bluetooth, Network, Wi-Fi, and Battery Life indicators.

User Menu

User Menu Before And After Pressing The Alt KeyUser Menu Before And After Pressing The Alt Key

The user menu at the far right end of the panel hosts messaging status, a switch to enable/disable notification, Online Accounts, System Settings, Lock Screen, Switch User, Log Out, and Suspend functions. Upon first inspection, it appears that in order to restart or shut down the system, you must first log out to the log-in screen and shut down or restart from there. However, a more convenient (yet totally not obvious) method also exists. Holding down one of the Alt keys while the user menu is open changes the Suspend option to Power Off.

Selecting Power Off brings up the choice to Restart or Power Off (shut down).

Also located in the user menu is a unified categorical listing of system tools, much like what you'd find in Windows, Mac OS X, KDE, and Unity. The System Settings menu replaces the alphabetically-listed System drop-down in GNOME 2's Applications/Places/System menu.

System SettingsSystem Settings

Notifications Area, Or Messaging Tray

Application-level indicators and notifications are now found at the bottom of the screen. Moving the cursor to the lower right-hand corner brings up the new Notification Area/Messaging Tray. Notification area icons for messaging applications like Skype and Pidgin are now found here. If you are using Empathy, the default chat client, messaging is even accessible within pop-ups from the tray. There's no need to switch to the actual application window.

Non-messaging applications also use the messaging tray for notifications. For example, Rhythmbox play controls, Firefox downloads, and device status now appear in the Messaging Tray.

Messaging Tray - Firefox Download NotificationMessaging Tray - Firefox Download Notification

Messaging Tray - Removable Device NotificationMessaging Tray - Removable Device Notification

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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