GNOME 3: Seven Pros and Cons

The GNOME Linux desktop has major pluses and drawbacks, making the decision to adopt it a tough one.
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Switching to GNOME 3 is both an opportunity and a distraction. On the one hand, it is the opportunity to put aside some annoying behaviors in earlier GNOME releases. On the other hand, GNOME 3 is a distraction because its changes can get in the way of long-established work methods.

As a result, you need to weigh GNOME 3's pros and cons carefully before deciding to make the new desktop part of your everyday computing -- unless, of course, you are the sort who automatically rejects or embraces change simply because it is new.

GNOME 3 contains many changes that average users are unlikely to notice unless they are pointed out. For example, not many are likely to notice that improved hardware interaction means that GNOME 3 offers a Suspend option only on a machine that supports that option. Nor are many going to care much that typing completion in the Activities screen's Search field allows you to launch an application by pressing the Enter key. Such enhancements are easy to overlook, and -- despite their convenience -- too minor to create a large part of anybody's reaction to GNOME 3.

So what factors are likely to influence your decision whether to use GNOME 3? Here are seven pros and several cons of the new desktop that might be important to you:


The GNOME 3 site lists one of the advantages of the new release as "distraction-free computing." Presumably, this term is a reference to the stripping down of workspaces to the bare essentials. However, one person's distraction is another person's necessity. Instead, I suspect that other considerations are more likely to impress potential users (although opinions might vary about these features, too):

1) A common interface: Earlier GNOME releases were designed with the workstation and perhaps the laptop in mind. In this age of netbooks, tablets, and mobile devices, that is no longer realistic. For that reason, GNOME 3 is designed for all these interfaces. For users, that means that, in the future, aside from customizations, few adjustments will be needed when you change between devices.

2) Reorganized System Settings: In the GNOME 2 series of releases, system settings were a menu of alphabetized items, divided into Personal and Administration sub-menus. Too often, you could scan down one sub-menu only to discover that what you were looking for was arbitrarily placed in the other. GNOME 3 reduces this inefficiency with a window of settings organized by category that is much easier and quicker to scan.

3) The End of the Classic Menu: GNOME 3 replaces the main menu with a list of applications on the Activities overview screen. This change not only allows larger icons, but eliminates the problem of editing the menu to keep it short at the risk of effectively hiding items from users who don't know enough to search for them. Just as importantly, it means that sub-menus no longer flap across the desktop like a broken window blind, obscuring open applications.

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4) Messaging without changing window focus: In recognition of the growing importance of messaging, GNOME 3 allows you to move to a messaging window without switching the focus to it. Because of this feature, you can answer a message and return to what you were doing more easily.

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Tags: open source, Linux, Linux downloads, Gnome, KDE

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