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Why I Switched to GNOME

GNOME isn’t the desktop for everyone, yet it has clear advantages over competitors.
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Also see: GNOME or KDE? The Old Question Is New Today

I've had a love/hate relationship with GNOME since its early days, from its fledgling beginnings up to its current state as the GNOME 3 desktop we all know today.

As a long time XFCE fan, I tinkered off and on with GNOME 3 in hopes of making the switch a permanent one. After finally settling on running GNOME full-time, it turns out the switch was much easier than I had anticipated.

Putting aside comparative expectations

I think the best thing I did when I decided to make the switch a permanent one, is to stop comparing it to other desktop environments. This allowed me to fully experience the GNOME 3 desktop without comparing it with KDE, XFCE and so on. With this new mindset, I found that the integration and work-flow were actually quite refreshing.

So, what do I mean by comparing it to other desktop environments? Allow me to break this down a bit.

XFCE: When I was considering GNOME 3 as a replacement for XFCE, I was looking at GNOME as it used to be – designed for absolute simplicity. Easy access to Applications, Places and System were the first on my list. Second up was expecting a non-flashy desktop experience. XFCE lacks the cool compositing effects found under GNOME, so once I realized that on a modern computer these effects weren't actually "hurting" my ability to run programs or play games, I was then able to better enjoy what GNOME had to offer.

KDE:Without question, KDE is a powerful and very customizable desktop. But KDE is not going to appeal to those who prefer to avoid an over abundance of GUI options within the various menus.

While this has improved over the years, I still prefer to handle most of my configuration via a configuration file or from the terminal. Obviously this is not a good match for everyone, but it's something I happen to prefer myself. To be clear, I'm not saying one can't do this in KDE, rather the flow of the desktop prompts one to use tools I prefer to avoid myself.

Like GNOME 3, KDE also has neat compositing effects that provide a very modern feel to the desktop. But after spending time with both desktops, I've found that GNOME is better at matching my vision of what I want to use in my desktop environment. At this time, KDE simply isn't a match for me personally.

Breaking the legacy mindset

When I first switched to GNOME 3, I found myself using a tweak tool to provide the functionality I had become accustomed to in XFCE. One of those tools gave me the ability to minimize applications. Sometime later, I decided to fully embrace the desktop and try using the GNOME desktop features to switch between various applications. For me, it turned out the left corner "hotspot" area, was a useful alternative to minimizing applications.

After trying this approach a few times, I was shocked at how easily I was able to re-train my brain to accept this approach to application switching. Even more recently, I've been revisiting Alt-Tab, which with the coverflow Alt-Tab extension looks like it may be an even bigger hit with me personally.

The GNOME 3 experience

Like the KDE desktop, GNOME 3 is full of functionality if you're willing to invest a little time configuring it the way you like it. Where I think GNOME really shines, however, is that even without additional extensions installed, it's still a great experience in its overall flow and layout. Less clicks to gain menu access, easily locate needed applications, for me GNOME has it all.


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Tags: Linux, Gnome, KDE, desktop


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