GNOME 3 tends to cop a lot of flak from the Linux community, and it’s no surprise since GNOME 3 is perhaps the most ambitious desktop project to ever surface in the Linux realm. If you read on here from time to time, you’ll notice that I am not the happiest user of GNOME 3, but I do keep up with their latest innovations. The most important thing is, GNOME is getting better.
GNOME 3.0 - it was a .0 release
Let me remind everyone of the wonderful development that was KDE 4.0 - I hope you picked up on my sarcasm there. Being totally new and rethought from the KDE 3.5 branch, this copped immense amounts of hate and backlash. Even the father of Linux, who had praised KDE and shunned GNOME in the past, moved to GNOME 2 after KDE 4.0 was released.
Now let’s look at where we are today; KDE, whether you like using it or not, is now very stable and feature-set. All of the issues from the 4.0 release are gone, and these days the most you’ll hear is a faint cry in the distance for KDE 3.5 from a guy who hops between 17 million distributions every day by never leaving his computer screen, and calls plasmoids ‘spasmoids’.
Now let’s look at GNOME 3. GNOME 3.0 was an even bigger departure from GNOME 2 than KDE 4 was from KDE 3.5, because it totally rethought the desktop paradigm. To put it plainly, it was quite disastrous, and beta quality at best. Features were missing, common habits were now destroyed to make way for newer computing styles; even the Run dialog was gone!
It was extremely bare-bones; customisation was not even an option. Linus Torvalds himself hated it. But then came GNOME 3.2; a step in the right direction, supposedly.
GNOME 3.2 fixed a lot of the issues in the GNOME 3.0 release, as well as adding the ability to use GNOME Shell extensions. This vastly improved customisability, where even Linus Torvalds claimed he found GNOME 3.2 to be ‘almost usable’. Together with gnome-tweak-tool, extensions provide greater flexibility to the user, the flexibility we once journeyed to Linux for.
I am positive that all future GNOME iterations can only get better; either the developers continue to improve GNOME or the users will stop using it. It’s that simple.
Sometimes, we confuse ‘different’ for ‘crap’
Let’s be honest here: when I first used GNOME 3.0 I absolutely could not stand using it. A week later, out of frustration, I reinstalled my then-distro-of-choice with its KDE spin and found myself constantly pressing the Meta key to quickly search for an application, or swinging my mouse pointer to the top-left hand corner to find the dock.
I cannot deny that while GNOME 3 is different, it is not ‘crap’. When we are used to something and that gets taken away from us in place of a newer, different product, we as humans tend to get narky. Let me tell you, I went back to using GNOME 2 for a while, and I didn’t have an immediate feeling of revival or freedom; it actually felt quite old and bland. And disappointing. It made me wonder, ‘what am I doing here?’
GNOME 3 is a new way of thinking; we as users cannot simply use it for 5 minutes and call the entire desktop environment, which developers have worked extremely hard on for many years, total and utter crap. It is not a fair go on the software, and it is an insult to the developers. That’s not to say you have to like GNOME 3, but we tend to get very judgemental about what is different to what we’re used to, without even giving things a proper chance. Let GNOME prove itself. You might not like it at first, but once you get into the flow of things and you stop noticing it, you know the product is a success.
GNOME 3 needs time to mature
GNOME is extremely new to the desktop; it will take quite a while for people to see the new GNOME as the status quo, but it will happen. It always happens. It happened by the end of GNOME 2.x, it happened by KDE 4.5, and it will happen for GNOME 3.
Even Gentoo - let’s remember Gentoo is about as far as you can get from a newbie distribution - suggests trying out GNOME 3 for a few days in their GNOME documentation; they claim that ‘those who take the time to get used to GNOME Shell’s behavior usually grow to love it and don’t want to go back to a GNOME 2-like desktop environment.’
We have to give it time to mature and improve, and if we want something fixed or enhanced in GNOME, complaining is no way to go about it. File a bug; tell the developers directly. Let them know what you want to see in GNOME. Granted, it can’t always get implemented; asking them to trash GNOME Shell and bring back GNOME 2.x just isn’t going to happen. But if you have an idea that could improve GNOME 3 in the direction it is going, I’m sure the developers would love to hear from you. Don’t be shy! Let them know, you might just fix a lot of people’s issues with GNOME.
Personally, I’m waiting on GNOME 3 to be stabilised in the Portage tree. Once that happens, I’ll be seriously considering switching my primary workstation over to GNOME. I like the direction; it is new, I have hated previous iterations, but with extensions and future developments GNOME is becoming an extremely viable choice on the GNU/Linux desktop.