Yet, that said, GNOME's System menu could use a major reorganization. What falls under Preferences or Administration is next to impossible to remember, or even reason out. Even worse, the menus contain separate entries for such items as Keyboard Configuration and Keyboard Shortcuts, or Network and Network Tools.
Most irritating of all, some functions are split over a number of different menu items. Probably the most dispersed ones are the preference settings for preferred applications. Default choices for some commonly used programs are set in Preferred Applications. However, to set the programs to use with cameras, scanners, or tablets, you go to Removable Drives and Devices. Choices for accessibility and for general look and feel are similarly scattered. Perhaps the solution is for the System menu to abandon the alphabetical order of other menus and group related items together.
More choices in Preferred Applications: Right now, Preferred Applications set only the web browser, mail reader, terminal, and music player. These are some of the most commonly used categories of programs, but why stop there? Developers might welcome a setting for text editors, and office users one for word processor or office suite. Nautilus's settings for various MIME types could also go in the same dialog window.
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Better access to Gconf: Gconf is the master GNOME configuration file. It is sometimes referred to as the GNOME Registry in an echo of Windows usage, and also because, like the Windows' registry, Gconf is lengthy and complicated to read.
Some programs, like Ubuntu Tweak, give you control of some of Gconf's arcana through a graphical interface. However, intermediate and advanced users might appreciate an editing tool that allows them to access and navigate Gconf itself.
The removal of Epiphany: In theory, Epiphany is supposed to be the default GNOME browser. But, while some users might prefer Epiphany to its fellow Mozilla-based browser FireFox, they're a minority.
Some distributions remove Epiphany as a matter of course, but a surprising number don't, including Debian. Instead, it lingers, showing a surprising tendency to spring into action, no matter what the Preferred Application settings for a web browser happen to be.
Eliminate Mono: I don't start automatically at the mention of Mono simply because it is an implementation of Microsoft's .NET. Nor am I made more than cautious by unproven suggestions that Mono might be vulnerable to claims of patent infringement. However, I do question GNOME's insistence on a feature that so many people object to, especially when so many other programming languages are available.
I also wonder about the long-term effects of writing add-ons in another language instead of using C like the core of GNOME. Could speed and efficiency be compromised? If so, then giving developers a choice of languages could come at the cost of a major cleanup down the road.
However you look at Mono, it just doesn't seem necessary. The default Debian installation of GNOME does quite nicely without it, and so could other distributions.
None of these lacks, irritations, or disagreements is enough to make me abandon GNOME permanently -- although KDE 4 is looking very appealing, I must admit. Many can be remedied with customization or installation of a few additional pieces of software, and I've done enough installs that I can quickly set up to do things my way.
Still, every once in a while, one of the deficiencies I've mentioned is enough to send me roaming after alternatives, especially when I think of how long I've waited in some cases for improvements. Yet, in almost every case, a list of problems that is equally long sends me back to GNOME in a preference for the problems I know rather than new ones.
Probably, the only way to be completely satisfied would be to write my own desktop, something that I lack both the skill and time to do. Failing that, though, I'll settle on GNOME.