GNOME 3 pre-release opinions

It was announced on the GNOME developer list that GNOME 3 won’t have minimize or maximize buttons:

http://mail.gnome.org/archives/gnome-shell-list/2011-February/msg00192.html

That’s a huge change. My initial reaction was “Whaaa?”, but then I started thinking about how I use my window manager (currently FluxBox). I almost never use the minimize and maximize buttons, and certainly wouldn’t miss them if they were gone.

The mailing list message talks about helping users learn a new work flow. This reminded me of when I started using Haiku. Haiku has a powerful file manager called Tracker. Tracker is a spatial file manager, which means every folder opens in its own window. The first thing I wanted to do was change it to a navigational file manager. So, I went to the Haiku documentation.

I found the information I was looking for, which included this comment:

Before you switch Tracker to Single Window Navigation mode, because that may feel more familiar to you, we recommend giving the menu based browsing a try first, as that may actually work much faster for you after getting used to.

So, I decided to continue trying Tracker as a spatial file manager, and now I really like it.

Now, in regards to GNOME 3, it’s hard for me to express how I feel about it. Let’s see if I can summarize it:

  • There are too many things that move around the screen. Things go from the window view, which shows almost nothing but the window you’re actively using, to the activities view, which shows everything at once. And I mean everything, every workspace, every window, every running application, every recently used document, directories, and search. And those things were all designed to move and live and grow as you use your computer, which means things are shifting around a lot.
  • It forces a new workflow on users that doesn’t appear to be better than another workflow. This may not be a bad thing. Haiku kind of enforces a new workflow, but I quickly learned to like it. With GNOME 3, I have no idea how the new workflow is supposed to benefit me. Which leads to:
  • How will they train people? When GNOME 3 is released, the new design may be great for many many people, but they need to learn how to use it before they can benefit from it.
  • It requires accelerated graphics.

GNOME 3 hasn’t been released yet, and my opinion will probably change. I hope the GNOME developers know what they’re doing, because I sure don’t know what they’re doing.

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