9 Features To Make You Reconsider GNOME

Two and a half years after GNOME 3 appeared, it's overdue for a second look.


You Can't Detect What You Can't See: Illuminating the Entire Kill Chain

Posted September 10, 2013

Bruce Byfield

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If you've moved away from GNOME because of the third release series, you might want to celebrate the upcoming 3.10 release by having another look.

The default setup is still the same as it was in 3.0 with a main screen and an overview. But in the last thirty months, GNOME has regained many of the customization options the third release series initially lacked.

Similarly, while GNOME still inclines towards minimalism, extensive design efforts and usability testing are starting to make that minimalism efficient rather than lacking. Now, anyone with an open mind and a willingness to tweak has a better chance of being satisfied with GNOME than in any previous time in the last two and a half years.

The quickest way to see for yourself is to install Ubuntu GNOME, then:

  1. Use sudo add-apt-repository to add ppa:ricotz/testing, ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3, and ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3-staging to the repositories. Each source must added with a separate command
  2. Run the command sudo apt-get update.
  3. Install the beta with sudo apt-get install gnome-shell gnome-shell-extensions.
  4. Update your entire system with sudo apt-get dist-upgrade.

Meanwhile, here some of the features, both large and small and new and old, that show the care that has gone into recent versions of GNOME. Once you get over the fact that some choices are new or different, you might be surprised how well some of GNOME's alterations actually work:

9. GNOME Tweak Tool

Almost from the start of the third release series, GNOME Tweak Tool has been included in most distributions to give users the choices they want. Basically, it is the next step when you have exhausted the choices in the Settings dialog.

Themes, title bar icons, font choices, widgets on the desktop, typing options -- all these are more become customizable thanks to GNOME Tweak Tool, making it one of the first applications you want to run immediately after installation. The half hour or so it will take you to go through the options can make all the difference to how satisfied you are with GNOME.

8. Consistent System Settings

Free desktops are traditionally more concerned with functionality than appearance. Consequently, even in the same desktop environment, setting dialogs rarely have any consistency, a tendency that makes them harder than necessary to use.

However, the upcoming 3.10 release includes efforts to redesign windows, making them both simple and similar to each other. Some settings, such as Device Color Profiles and Sounds still remain less than intuitive (and may not be capable of being simplified much). But gradually the setting dialogs are all starting to resemble each other and to become quicker to user.

7. The Revised System Status Menu

Located on the far right of the panel, until now the System Status menu has always been a list of features in no particular order. However, in GNOME 3.10, the features have been organized and given a button or illustration where useful. The result is a menu much easier to use.

6. Refining Scroll Bars

For decades, the scroll bars on windows have had arrows at each end for moving through the window -- and for decades, users have been ignoring them in favor of dragging the sliders directly.

GNOME has chosen to eliminate the arrows, and to minimize the width of the track for the sliders. At the same time, sliders change colors to indicate that they are active. The result is a small increase efficiency that can loom large when you are sorting through long documents.

5. A Search Field Replacing the Menu

Instead of a classic menu, GNOME opts for a search field in the overview that uses the entire screen to display results. However, the results do not include just applications. By default, they also display sub-dialogs, contacts and documents in the results, which helps users to learn the locations of settings.

Just as importantly, unlike Ubuntu's Unity, GNOME avoids mixing online results with local ones, thereby eliminating what is a distraction at best and a major privacy concern at worst.

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Tags: open source, Linux, Gnome, GNOME desktop

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