Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Adventures in GNOME3 Land

Over the past few weekends I've been trying out GNOME3 via the Fedora 15 Beta. I've already read many a blog post in opposition to various things, so I was not overly surprised when I tried it out. Fortunately, I have a pretty boring setup because I only tested on my desktop, meaning I didn't have to worry about external monitors or suspending.

In fact, with respect to working with the whole thing, it wasn't a terrible experience. Granted, I made a couple tweaks right off the bat since I knew about them. I still like my menus and buttons with icons, and the default hinting is terrible on an LCD. I didn't really care about the min/max buttons though.

Because I've been using Compiz and not Metacity, the transition to Mutter and GNOME Shell was pretty easy. One thing I miss is the "Put" plugin, which allowed moving a non-maximized window to any of 9 positions on the screen using the keypad. And the window switching is a bit boring now.

I even reported a bug or two. These are pretty minor, but everyone's reported the major problems by now, I'm sure. It's the little things that people are going to pick out anyway (like the uncanny valley in robotics/CGI.) Overall, I found the experience pleasant, except for two somewhat annoying problems.

Firstly, the default theme is, well... I was going to say terrible, but on second look, it's not that bad, but still not to my taste. To be honest, I've never been crazy about dark themes. But this theme is some weird conglomerate of dark and light that doesn't mesh well at all. The icons are either black and white (I'm not colour blind!) or sometimes washed out. Take, for example, gedit in the screenshot below. Odd transition from menubar to toolbar, the disabled icons/text are hard to see... It just doesn't look good to me.

Secondly, GNOME3 has koumpounophobia. That's a fear of buttons, for those who don't know (not that I did, and it most likely refers to clothing, really.) I don't live in crazy 1990s Mac land; all my mouse have at least two buttons. My desktop mouse identifies itself as having 12 buttons! (though half are for scrolling, technically) Yet for some unknown reason, right-clicking is totally useless on GNOME Shell. You can't right-click any of the applets on the top panel. It's more likely people will right-click it than hold down Alt as a guess, but that "Shut Down" item is hidden behind the "Suspend" item with an Alt-key. A little lower in the stack, GTK+3 decided to drop scroll-on-notebook-changes-tabs. What's even more annoying is if you have a GTK+2 app, it will scroll nicely, but the "new" apps don't. Unless you try in gnome-terminal, where they implemented it themselves. Inconsistency is never good.

So this Fedora 15 Beta is on a separate external drive. I'm not sure if I'll be upgrading straight away once F15 goes gold. I certainly need to find a real theme first, and I suspect when it's released, there'll be a lot more people with criticism that may nudge things along (as opposed to some knee-jerk reactions by a few early-adopters).

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