With Windows 7 and Max OS X making advances in desktop design, it was inevitable that GNOME follow. Yet, instead of the typical Windows-like model most desktop environments follow, GNOME 3 resembles more closely that of OS X (as even Windows has done in some ways). The new GNOME has mixed reactions within the Linux community, but is hitting big with Windows and Mac users.
According to GNOME 3‘s website, this next generation of GNOME has great benefits:
- Access apps faster
- Easier window management
- Create workspaces
- Deeper hardware integration
- App-based window management
GNOME 3 features enhanced animations, a new font, an activities view to access windows and applications, built-in messaging, side-by-side window tiling, revamped file manager, revised workspaces, redesigned system settings, and more. It is designed for simplicity and distraction free computing. The panels display in the background instead of the foreground and everything can be accessed via keyboard shortcuts. The updated system also has changes under the hood for a faster and smoother user experience.
The plans for a new GNOME version originated in 2005, but were delayed until 2008. The team pushed forward to produce a desktop environment to rival the leaders. However, some see major flaws. Many graphics drivers are incompatible with the new version, as some have found out. In addition to this, there are many little caveats that make the experience not as good:
- Auto-hiding the top panel
- Unintelligable fonts
- Glitchy graphics
- Lack of maximize/minimize buttons (though there’s good reason for it)
In searching for reviews, one will find a much longer list than this. One very interesting take a review from 2008 had is that the new version of GNOME, and the environment in general, is in a state of decadence because it’s not taking a web-based route, “[t]he evolutionary thing to do would be to do something web-like.” The web is already a central part of the work day for most programmers and is becoming a central part of computing in general. The article makes a very valid point, however, the current era of computing is not immersed enough in cloud computing to warrant such a design, yet.
Apart from hardware issues, most cons to the new version are all matters of preference. And with regard to hardware issues, it should be made clear here that GNOME 3 wasn’t intended to be designed for all hardware. In an article posted in leading up to the release, the developers at GNOME made clear this fact:
It is our primary focus to build a modern operating environment, platform, and user experience. It doesn’t make sense to target the hardware of the past. GNOME Shell uses relatively primitive 3D capabilities that have been available from essentially all computing devices made in the last 4 or 5 years.
One review describes the general attitude around GNOME quite well by comparing two perspectives: the casual user and the veteran productivity user. The casual user is impressed with the slick and modern design with advanced graphics. The veteran productivity user is considers the computer “a serious tool” and thinks,
I can’t have my tool remodeled and reshaped every six months. I use my software for complex tasks that require stability and predictability. Taking away those renders everything meaningless.
For productivity users, as most in the Linux community are, GNOME 3 is an unfinished product, and perhaps a step backward. Yet, for the computing world at large, the new sleek and modern design will attract a larger crowd of every day users that will boost the Linux community.