April 19, 2002
GNOME: I’ve noticed a couple of diary entries recently have said that there is less fun in GNOME than there used to be, and that we aren’t as productive as we used to be. I can’t speak for others, but I personally am thrilled at how well GNOME is currently progressing. The kind of problems we’re having nowadays are so much better than the ones we had even a year ago. Last year, at this time, we were still reeling from the loss of Eazel. Nautilus was basically unusable, and GTK 2.0 wasn’t close to out yet. Three years ago, we were trying to get GNOME 1.x stable and vaguely usable.
I have distinct memories of using the session manager to change directories in gmc at Linux World Expo with GNOME 0.93. I’d double click on a directory, it would update its restart command in the session manager, crash, and then start up in the correct directory. We had a similar experience adding launchers to the panel. The coolest ‘power’ feature in GNOME was the ability to drag colors to the terminal. One of the better dialogs in GNOME (and the one we were so proud of) was E-conf: http://people.redhat.com/jrb/files/e-conf.png
Compare that to Louie’s top ten list of gruesome bugs left for GNOME 2.0: http://mail.gnome.org/archives/desktop-devel-list/2002-April/msg00308.html They don’t even compare. Sure, there are plenty of bugs to fix, and room for improvement, but we’re really making great forward process.
If it seems like it’s less fun, it’s because we’re a lot better at doing the small stuff and we’re no longer making the huge, visible changes we once did. We now check error conditions regularly, and raise (mostly) useful error dialogs. We have the maturity to remove features and code, instead of always adding them. Higher standards leads to less tolerance for the bad hacks we used to do.
There are so many cool things on the desktop that are left to be done, that we now have the infrastructure to deal with. GTK 2.0 is a joy to work with, and has made a lot of problems we used to have just go away. GConf is plain cool. Adding things to make the users life easier is so simple now.
One of the great gifts of Eazel to GNOME was that it raised our awareness of usability issues, and taught us that we could make a beautiful desktop. I just step back and look at how the GNOME 2.0 desktop looks today, and am awed.