Why Gnome Shell doesn’t suck (And why it does)

So after ragequitting Unity, I am now using Fedora 15 full time. There are some really stupid issues about it, but all around I am finding the first iteration of Gnome Shell to be massively superior to Unity. What has been annoying me though, is some of the “criticisms” of Shell, that I find make no sense. So I’m going to address them now:

“Shell wastes vertical screen space”

Shell uses less vertical screen space than the old Gnome. On default Gnome 2 you have two panels on the top and bottom, plus the window you’re currently using. Shell has one panel at the top. 2 > 1. The only thing is that a window title bar for the default theme is a bit bigger, but this certainly does not completely offset the vertical space saving from having only one panel. The only way this criticism makes sense to me is if you compare to Unity. Vertical screen space is perhaps the area where Unity is actually superior to Shell, but the current crappiness of Unity is not worth it.

“No minimize button”

What do people even use the minimize button for? Unless I’m missing something, they use it to hide a window briefly while they take a look at their desktop, or maybe to quickly see another window. Then when they need the window again, they grab it from the task bar. In Shell there is NO task bar to minimize to, so that kind of behavior would just be confusing. More importantly, you can see where all your windows are and select the one you want at any time in the Shell. They’re all nicely aligned for you. If you want to stash away a window for a brief period of time, well that is what workspaces are for, and in the Shell, there is no lack of those. I wish people would think about *why* they want a minimize button. Chances are, there is a much better way to achieve the task they want in Shell.

“Too much mouse movement to do something”

So maybe moving your mouse to the top corner of the screen takes a lot of effort. But it seems to me that it is a lot less effort than going down to a task bar and selecting the window you want through precise pointing and clicking. In Shell, you make a wide gesture to the top left, and then choose the window you want with another large gesture, since the window is pretty big. So at least for task switching, I don’t think this is true. Perhaps a more legitimate argument is that choosing  a (non-favorite) application in the Shell requires far too much searching. I actually do agree here, but I don’t see how it is any worse than in Gnome 2.0 (or the start menu in Windows… lol) where you still had to search through cryptically named menus to find the application you want.

Well those are the things that really bug me about people who complain about Shell. Of course, that is not to say that Shell doesn’t do some things that piss me off.

Accordion Behavior of Notification Icons

I… really don’t want to play hide and seek with my icons. I get a notification and if I don’t click on the big notifier on the bottom, I have to check in the bottom right. The problem is, when I try to hover my mouse above an icon, the thing leaps to the side! I swear it’s mocking me!

Alt to Shut Down

What is the logic for this? I was so curious I searched it up. As far as I can tell it is so that people will use suspend more often and so are trained to suspend their computer when it is not in use instead of leaving it on. With shutdown, the idea is that people don’t want to shut down their entire system and would rather leave the computer on when they see the option. I’m probably misrepresenting the GNOME folk in some way, but that is what I found and managed to understand – ie. there is really no obvious explanation for this behavior. For me anyway, it is absolutely idiotic.

Selecting non-favorite Applications

I covered this already, and noted that it isn’t actually worse than in GNOME 2.0. On the other hand, it’s 2011, my expectations here are much higher. Granted, no DE to date has made a great interface for this, but I feel like there is definite potential to make a break through here.


Most criticisms of Gnome seem to be function oriented (no minimize button) rather than task oriented (I want to see the window I want) and are generally rather stupid. It is important to figure out what you want to achieve, as opposed to what you’re used to doing to achieve something. On the other hand, there are still some real usability problems in Gnome that can be really annoying (I’m not sure how the accordion behavior made it out to the final release). One thing I can say for sure about Gnome 3 is that unlike Unity, it is stable.

Note: People on UF and here have told me how to tweak various things for both Unity and Shell. Honestly, as the lazy person I am, I tend to stick to defaults rather than look for a multitude of extensions and tweak tools. I really shouldn’t have to tweak things to get around usability problems in the defaults.


One Comment on “Why Gnome Shell doesn’t suck (And why it does)”

  1. 23dornot23d says:

    No minimize button

    This is a option too …. and can be set using Gnome-Tweak-Tool

    Too much mouse movement

    That is not a problem in Gnome-Shell –

    but it was on UNITY using dual screen …. their fix for the moment
    is to add a duplicate UNITY dock on screen two …..
    ( to me that is just a waste of screen space as it gives no extra functionality )

    Alt Shutdown

    I too did not see the logic in this …. just and extra thing to do when shut down is needed
    and I rarely use the keyboard to shut down in any other desktop ….. less steps to me is
    better …… I always add cairo-dock ….. and use its shutdown button …. middle mouse button
    to go to log-off ……..

    Good remarks …. will keep following your blogs ….. as the things that you say ring true with
    what I believe .

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