22 October 2008

My view on the new proposed Gnome shell

Vuntz and mathias, while I understand the rationale behind the static panel and why mathias doesn’t like it, I’d like to tell you why I like the new concept.

My grandmother can barely tell the difference between a launcher, the Window list and the Notification area.  She was introduced to Linux by my grandfather, who was introduced to Linux by me 2 years ago.  They have never used any other OS in their life.

Part of the issue with the notification area is that aMSN sits there constantly.  But when it is not running, she has to click on the green people on the left (the launcher).  When the window is not open, she has to click on the green people on the right (notification area).  When the window is minimized, she has to click on the green people at the bottom (Window list).

This is something MacOS X does much better.  The launcher icon transforms itself as a notification area (think of Adium).  It is also a way to bring back your windows from that application.  And it is rather easy to see which applications are running from a glimpse.

The activities concept proposed for Gnome is interesting.  I really like the idea of having a “composé” list of the currently active applications (minimized or not) and that presence (or IM) is integrated in the panel (and probably always running).  I really like the fact that there is no launcher area (although I use it constantly).  I do think the launcher area only exists because the Applications menu is just too slow to launch apps. Also in an office environment, the launch area is often used to place the sacred company applications.  Therefore, we should provide a way in the activities menu to have a set of applications that should always be on the list (before we have to click on more).  This is like the activities at the top of the Start menu in Microsoft Windows.

I do find that being unable to raise a minimized window in one click is less interesting.  But should the minimize button really exist? The minimize button is just a way to say “get out of the way, I want to see the window behind” for people always working with full screen apps.  Why not replace it with a more convenient functionality, like “swap with behind”.  More thinking needed ;)

In conclusion, the new design is nice, it should provide a less cluttered desktop for every one.  Regular users (my grand-mother) should catch how to manage their windows and apps with more ease while power users should use something like Gnome-do or Deskbar to launch applications faster.

Comments (1)

  1. 25 October 2008
    Marques said...

    I think one important thing for a desktop is the difference between an available application and a running application. With the current system, you can have Pidgin, for example, in the application menu, on the upper launcher, in the window list and in the tray.

    Two of these are shown all the time, and will lauch another instance, two are related to the currently running version but the other two will still be available and clickable.

    In my ideal desktop, I’d like a notification area shared by all applications with a simple icon to show new activity which when clicked shows something like:
    New Notifications
    [PIDGIN ICON] Josh has sent you a message: Hey buddy I was…
    [THUNDERBIRD ICON] You have a new email from ‘jenny@collabora….’
    Recent Notifications
    [EPIPHANY ICON] File ‘fedora8.iso’ has finished downloading

    The idea of the menu would need to be revised, there should be one icon for an application. Perhaps the Mac dock is a good inspiration but perhaps the current Gnome model of an Upper launcher icon could be there which could then ‘drip’ down to a lower bar showing it is now running or some other type of visualisation.

    I think the desktop should have no user icons but Home, Devices and Trash should be present on all of them.

    An area for recent documents/Timelined docuements or actions should be encorporated. These are things that would make a system usable for me without the need to redefine menus or the paradigm too much, just a natural evolution of making the user the focus, not the applications.