I took gnome-shell 3.6 for a spin and it looks pretty decent on the face value. It is doing fine for a product that I would consider a work in progress. But there are considerable number of designs that I would think are flawed by nature.
Yes, yes. Yet another rant against the poor designs of GNOME but I couldn’t help it. It’s been in my TODO for way too long. ;-)
Obfuscated unlock mechanism
The one that should be very obvious to most is having to slide using the mouse to unlock the screen and then type the password to unlock the screen. Why exactly is two different forms of authentication is required is beyond me. The idea of sliding to unlock is primarily for touch interfaces to prevent unlocking the phone by accident. On a traditional desktop environment, we shouldn’t have to do anything to unlock — the good ol’ way of entering the password should be sufficient. If the new shiny useless lock screen was designed with touch devices in mind, it should be implemented just on those devices.
No window controls for maximized windows
The next niggle is not showing the window controls for maximized windows. How exactly am I supposed to unmaximize windows once I maximize them? Oh yes, accessing the window menu using Alt+Space is always an option but do I really have to do all that just to unmaximize / minimize a window?
Or are we deprecating the feature of minimizing the window altogether? Actually, that seems plausible given there is no minimize button by default and I just had to put it back by tweaking the
button_layout in dconf. Anyway, completely hiding the window control is even worse than Unity’s way of showing the window controls over mouseover and that is not exactly a good thing.
Lack of unobstructive notifications
The default GNOME notifications are distracting. It very much interrupts the workflow as the notifications require manual interaction to be dismissed. I currently fall back to Ubuntu’s notifyOSD as it doesn’t require immediate action but it isn’t perfect either.
Quicklists and progress bars
I really dig Unity’s minor but quite useful features like quicklists and progress bars. From having to quickly launch into a task to keeping an eye on the file transfer progress, these minor features were quite handy when I am using Unity. I am hopeful that implementing such features wouldn’t jeopardize GNOME’s long-term design plans.
Not everything that the GNOME designers have been doing seems backwards. They have made some chances that I commend.
Saving the all precious vertical space
Being a Unity user, I have been pampered with more vertical space as the window controls, title bar and the menu bar all gets rolled into the top bar and that gives ample of space when browsing the Internet and other regular activities. It is good to note that the GNOME’s current designs have similar guidelines and I would be eager to see more applications getting updated to match the designs.
In the meantime, I am using HTitle, a Firefox addon that hides the title bar when maximized as a stopgap solution.
The idea of being able to highly customize gnome-shell using the extensions is also impressive. I am afraid the various Unity lenses will never be able to match the versatility offered by the extensions.
And for some unknown reasons, flash videos have a much better performance in gnome-shell than in Unity. I am thinking it has to do with the differences in mutter and Compiz.
To bring about a closure to the semi-rant, I think gnome-shell has a bright future if the designers realize that they shouldn’t disregard all the form factors. Sure, target the tablet devices assuming they are the future but don’t forget the desktops and the laptops that are still around.