Gnome Desktop UX Review Steckerhalter's ƛ
I have been working with Debian GNU/Linux (yes, GNU to acknowledge what Richard Stallman has done and is still doing to free us from proprietary software) as my desktop (or laptop) OS for many years now and I’m very happy with it.
A few years ago there was the big GNOME desktop switch to v3 and a huge debate over the new “distracton-free” UX. I tried to like it but gave up after a few months. Then I switched away to XFCE for a while. But I missed GNOME and went back again. GNOME feels just much more complete as a DE. So I added extensions to make it behave mostly like GNOME 2 did.
In general GNOME 3 is a very nice Desktop Environment, but the UX experiment has failed IMO. I’m not sure who came up with the idea that it is good to have important aspects of the things I work with hidden by default. When this question was raised, the GNOME people said, that one shouldn’t be distracted by tray icons, notifications, new windows etc.
I’m sorry, but these things are not distractions but actually very important to me. So when I use the Nextcloud sync client I want to see immediately if the file I have just saved is getting synced or not. The immediate feedback via tray icon is not a distraction but an important feature.
Also not having a task bar where the running programs are visible at a glance is awkward. It is really important for me to know which programs are running. This is not a distraction as well but very helpful. It’s not like I live in a bubble and can work with just one program at a time for 2 hours.
Maybe the people who came up with these ideas are story writers that sit in their office and have nothing else to do than to write the next chapter of their new novel?
New windows are not distractions as well but they open up for reason, namely that I want to use them right now and to hide them from me by default is annoying.
Usually I have many different programs open: a web browser, an email client, a terminal, Emacs, a chat client etc. It’s all about quick context switching.
I want to know how many emails are unread at a glance. When people wrote chat messages, I would like to see how many that I missed. Tray icons, tray icons, tray icons - unread message count, sync status etc. They are so useful.
GNOME even hid notification messages in this weird invisible area on the bottom. So you had to push the pointer on the bottom border to even see messages you had missed. At least this misfeature was corrected in later versions of GNOME.
GNOME could much more appealing to many people with just a few changes:
- Bring back proper tray icon support
- Bring back some kind of task bar or list
Personally I would unify all of that into the same thing. So on the screen you wouldn’t have a tray icon and a launcher and a task entry, but one bar with one field or icon that is a launcher and tray icon and a task entry. But it needs to be visible without having to switch contexts.