9 Features To Make You Reconsider GNOME: Page 2

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


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Posted September 10, 2013

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4. Header Bars Replacing Title Bars

In many desktop environments, replacing title bars with something simpler wouldn't work. However, GNOME eliminates the need for each window to have a menu for repositioning windows on virtual work spaces, and minimizes by keystroke and resizes by clicking -- leaving very little reason left for a title bar. Instead, the default is only a button to close the window.

Admittedly, the change is disconcerting until you learn the alternative ways to minimize and resize. However, once you do, you may not miss the title bar as much as you imagine -- especially if you used GNOME Tweak Tool to add minimize and maximize buttons to the far right corner.

3. Toggle Switches

Like a light switch, a toggle turns a feature on or off depending on its position. It does nothing that a check-box or a drop-down selection list doesn't, but it conveys very clearly that customization is simply a matter of an either-or choice. Moreover, a toggle gives this impression using a metaphor that anyone using a computer is likely to recognize. Just by using a toggle switch, the designers can greatly reduce the amount of dialog and help needed in a window.

2. Application-Specific Notifications

Most free desktop environments have been struggling in the last couple of years to develop notification systems that are useful without distracting readers, and GNOME is no exception.

One of GNOME's most useful efforts to control notifications is the ability to turn off the display of notifications for specific GNOME utilities, such as Empathy, Evolution, Archive Manager or Brasero. In theory, this feature might seem chancy, but in practice it helps to reduce the amount of unnecessary information thrown out to users.

After all, do you really need a notification to tell you that Rhythm Box isn't working? You can tell by the fact that you aren't hearing music. In many cases, the chances are that the notification won't help you when you settle down to trouble-shoot anyway, so any risk seems minimal.

1. GNOME Shell Extensions

Shell Extensions are by far the single most important reason for reconsidering GNOME 3. GNOME may have started supporting them because they were easier to maintain than the separate code for fallback mode, but, whatever the reason for the decision, the practical effect was to open a tsunami of customization choices.

Now, whether you want to recreate the GNOME 2 environment, reduce or eliminate your need for the overview mode, or simply to have more choices, extensions make GNOME one of the most versatile desktop environments available. Best of all, the web-based interface for installing and disabling extensions couldn't be easier to use.

Officially, GNOME only supports a handful of extensions -- which is sensible, because you can never tell how one extension may conflict with another. But conflicts are surprisingly few, and generally you can experiment with different combinations without difficulty. All in all, the choice to encourage extensions may be the smartest decision in the whole third release series.

Time for a Second Look

Some design choices in GNOME continue to irk, particularly the use of two screens when a single one is all that a workstation or laptop requires. But, unlike in the early days of the release series, users are no longer restricted to the choices that designers have made for them.

Now, you can customize as much -- or perhaps even more -- than you could in GNOME 2. This freedom can allow you to appreciate how well and how often GNOME's minimalist design philosophy works in other ways.

In fact, once you get over the mere fact that features have changed, you might even appreciate the elegance of some of GNOME's innovations.

Even at the height of the user revolt, GNOME's technology remained popular, underlying such popular alternatives as Cinnamon and Unity. But now that GNOME has given users the customization that was so obviously missing from GNOME 3.0, most of us are overdue to re-evaluate the GNOME Shell as well. You might be surprised by what you find.

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Tags: open source, Linux, Gnome, GNOME desktop

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