Gnome Shell

I’ve been running the Fedora 15 branch on my home machine. There are a few big things in Fedora 15, the most obvious of which is gnome-shell. I ran it briefly about a year ago, and wasn’t overly impressed – so I didn’t come to trying it out with huge expectations. Surprisingly, to cut a long story short, I really like the latest version.

There are huge warts and a lot of bugs running it in a dual-monitor setup. Yet it’s fundamentally quite nice to use, I like the task-oriented desktop, and launching applications is trivial. I’m finding I can stay away from the mouse a lot more, which is great.

I think the best thing is how unobtrusive it is. I’ve been rapidly coming to the conclusion that concentration is everything. The really blatant things – popups for things you don’t need to know and don’t care about – went away a long time ago. Gnome shell gives you further win, removing stuff you don’t need to have in your field of vision.

I’ve got a lot of projects to work on myself, so I’m resisting the temptation to peeek under the covers and start changing the default behaviour. These suggestions for improvement are thus unlikely to be acted upon by me, but here they are:

Alt-Tab works well. Gnome-shell has copied Mac OS’s Alt-~ functionality to shift between windows within an application. Unfortunately instead of cycling through the windows, raising each to the front in turn, it shows you a display of minified windows to choose from. This is distracting, particularly when rapidly switching between two or three windows. Perhaps this window should only appear if Alt-~ is held for a certain amount of time.

I’d like to see Alt-Tab and Alt-~ limited to the current workspace. When you start viewing workspaces as ‘task groups’, it’s jarring when you accidentally find yourself switched out to another workspace.

It’s silly that you can’t turn the computer off without holding Alt to turn the ‘Suspend’ option into a ‘Shutdown’ option. I’d also like a ‘Restart’ option in there somewhere; I can just type ‘sudo reboot’ into a terminal, but why should I? After systems updates I sometimes need to reboot, I don’t think that’s going away any time soon.

The ‘applications’ selector is astonishingly slow when you consider that there are perhaps 80 applications to choose between. On my 3GHz computer I’m sure this could be sped up. In any case, it’d be better if the selector loaded the list of applications and icons at startup rather than the current strange (and long) delay when you first view the applications menu.

When I’ve got some time I’ll see if I can make changes myself, and perhaps get the behaviour of the shell closer to what I’d like. In the meantime, I’ll just say I’m impressed!

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One Response to Gnome Shell

  1. Tristan says:

    Multi-screen has improved markedly in today’s git build; the left screen now has multiple workspaces which you can flick between in the normal Shell manner, but windows on the right screen are “stuck” and don’t move when you change workspaces. So at work, I can flick between Anjuta sessions on the left screen, and keep my e-mail and browser always open on the right. It works pretty well.

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