In The Armchair

Gnome Frustrations

Posted in Computers by Armchair Guy on November 18, 2007

The Gnome desktop environment, as packaged with Ubuntu 7.10 “Gutsy Gibbon”, is a queer mix of liberating and frustrating. While it’s got some great features and applets, and Compiz is pretty cool, it really falls flat on its face in some areas. While I understand that the Gnome people want to be minimalist, the extremes to which they go are counter-productive. Here are some of my gripes:

  1. Their File Open dialogs don’t have a place where you can type in a file location; you are forced to navigate to it using mouse clicks. This becomes really frustrating if you want to hide folders starting with a period (“.”). I like to hide them because there are way too many and I access them only rarely. But when I do want to access them, Gnome makes it so difficult.
  2. Having the option to see more information about what’s going on during various operations can save a lot of frustration. I guess giving people access to information doesn’t necessarily go against Gnome’s philosophy; there could be an option to turn on extra information. One applet which frustrates me in this regard is the nm-applet which provides wireless access. The applet sometimes cannot connect to wireless networks, for example if I had to restart a wireless router. The problem is it keeps working away without allowing any kind of interaction. There is no option to cancel, no output indicating what it’s doing; just the animation showing that it’s working.
  3. Gnome workspaces simply don’t implement the best aspects of workspaces. The only thing you can do with Gnome workspaces is have different applications on different workspaces. What would be vastly more useful is to allow a different set of icons on each workspace. This is more important now that Gnome shows large thumbnail views of PDF files; there simply isn’t enough space on a single workspace, and Gnome prevents users from effectively using the additional space that multiple workspaces provide. Allowing a different desktop background would nice too, but this is just eye candy.
  4. Gnome has drawers, but these are too limited. You can’t look at its contents and see what each element is. (The drawers just show identical icons for all PDF documents, for example.)
  5. You can’t select multiple applications on the taskbar (using Ctrl-click, for example) to close or minimize several windows at once! This is the worst regression I’ve seen. I once tried to open a large number of audio files with Audacity (thinking they would be queued in a playlist) and it opened up about 50 windows. I had to close them one by one.

So if you have a large number of documents that you want to organize on your desktop for quick access, there is no way to do it: you can’t use workspaces because all workspaces have the same desktop icons, and you can’t use drawers because you have no way to label a drawer or its contents.

And, this isn’t Gnome’s fault, but lack of good out-of-the-box hibernate negates all the benefits of having multiple desktops.<

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