The Gnome 3 Experience

As with Firefox 4, I have decided to move to the new as it’s released. So today I’ve installed Gnome 3 on my desktop to be used as my primary computing environment for the foreseeable future.

I wasn’t really nervous, and I’m impressed so far. It wasn’t as straight of a shot as Firefox 4 was, and I was less familiar with what changed than I had been with Firefox, but on the whole it’s now a pretty usable environment.

From my notes:

The version of Gnome3 isn’t in Debian unstable yet, so I had to install from experimental.  The dependencies are still a little bit clunky, so I didn’t get everything I needed on the first shot.

The first thing that was missing was the new gnome-control-center.  Without that little doohicky… well, there were a couple of menus that I’d click and nothing would happen.  Chiefly the System Settings menu item.

So that was installed, it was time to set a background.  But the background manager in the aforementioned dialog didn’t do anything.  So I started it from terminal and observed the message that the settings doesn’t care what backend it has, and if it doesn’t have one it just uses memory.

So I installed the dconf backend and was on my way.

Next, I couldn’t tell exactly how backgrounds were added to the dialog, which I’m currently assuming (but haven’t verified) is by their presence in some directory in ~/.config? Anyway, the remedy was to just use gsettings to directly specify my background:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background picture-uri 'file:///home...'

While I was there I poked around a bit more and made some other changes:

To let me type in paths in nautilus
gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.preferences always-use-location-entry false

To show advanced permissions (duh) in the same:
gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.preferences show-advanced-permissions false

And a couple of theme tweaks:
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface cursor-theme DMZ-White
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface icon-theme elementary

Noting that before changing the cursor-theme I had a delightful mistake where the mouse cursor in the web browser differed from the rest of the system. I actually think that would be a cool feature, as bugs sometimes turn out to be inspirational.

But back to the cleanup…

I noticed that while the rest of the shell looked nice, the actual window chrome looked like Gnome 2.0. A quick search revealed another user had felt my pain before and had been nice enough to follow-up. So I installed gnome-themes-standard and got the Adwaita theme.

That’s about all I’ve done so far.

I’m very pleased with the overall behavior of Gnome 3. A few minor things were lamentable:

  1. Loss of backgrounds and emblems in nautilus
  2. The default (and currently only theme) has some accessibility issus (eg, unfocused window titles are not readable)

But the first is acceptable (the blamed states quite factually that the code for those features was unmaintained), and the second will change soon enough as themers create alternatives.

Other minor issues like the applications needing to be updated to use GTK+ 3 scrollbars will solve themselves in time and the fallback (continue to use GTK+ 2 scrollbars) is fine.

I’m enjoying the new desktop, and while I do agree with the users that say Gnome should give users more control, there aren’t actually many cases where I feel left in the cold.

Congratulations the the Gnome hackers for building a better desktop experience.