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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?

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. 

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The GNOME Shell Workspace

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The Unity Desktop

Image 1 of 2

The GNOME Shell Activities Overview

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The Unity Dash

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

'Unity Shell' Desktop 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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  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • zhihao50
    graph for POV-Ray is wrong, you said both of linux finished 4min before windows yet the graph show the other way around.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply