A day in my life with the GNOME Shell

So I have been using the GNOME shell for quite some time now, and I guess like any desktop experience it has its ups and downs, but at least I think I reached a stage where my remaining quibbles with the GNOME Shell is related to how it works as opposed to irritations caused by me being used to something else. One thing I keep asking myself is if GNOME Shell has in any way made me more or less productive, my guess is that the change has been mostly productivity neutral once I got used to the new setup.

That said I have some smallish irritations with the GNOME Shell, the biggest being that the menu system feels slow, it feels distinctly slower than GNOME 2.x to click into Activities->Applications->Category to get to the application I am looking for, especially if I haven’t done so in a bit and the icons have to be pulled from disk. Also the fact that the categories is on the right side of the screen means a long mouse journey across the screen to get to the categories, and then a long mouse journey usually back towards the left side of the screen to click on the application I want. Ok, so this is not an operation I perform every 5 minutes, but still it feels a bit to laborious for what it is.

The other frustration I have is with the notification dock at the bottom of the screen, but I suspect this is mostly application issues. Like for instance gtimelog seems to have a different behaviour if you click on the text or the icon, and with the icon being so small I sometimes overshot, which causes the irritation of having to move a ‘long’ way back to due the neighbouring icon having expanded. Other small irritations includes the the Banshee icon saying ‘notify-sharp’ instead of Banshee and getting a ton of notification messages on the status bar as peoples IM client set them to offline/away etc.

Hmm, actually having written my irritations down I do feel they feel rather small and insignificant, yet if someone sees this I hope these items will be improved upon for future versions.

Also I do think that the system menu should offer shut down/restart by default, if I hadn’t seen someone mentioning it on IRC some Months back I am sure I to this day wouldn’t have realized I could press ‘alt’ to get shutdown/reboot to appear in the menu. I know there is an extension now, but it is such a basic operation that should require knowing ‘secret’ buttons getting an extension.


#1 Nelson on 02.13.12 at 18:29

I agree with you.. small details matter, like this one[1] I noticed right after start using the shell.

[1] http://bugs.gnome.org/664791

#2 Henri Bergius on 02.13.12 at 19:27

I use GNOME Shell almost entirely without the mouse. This way starting applications is as easy as: press Windows key -> Type first couple of characters of the app name -> Press Enter.

Which brings to mind, are there keyboard shortcuts for maximizing or half-maximizing (to left or right edge of screen) apps?

#3 Tobias on 02.13.12 at 20:33

Not sure what the default was:

org.gnome.mutter.keybindings toggle-tiled-left [‘Left’]
org.gnome.mutter.keybindings toggle-tiled-right [‘Right’]

#4 Tobias on 02.13.12 at 20:33

Err, the blog ate the modifiers. You get the idea.

#5 pinky on 02.14.12 at 17:45

I don’t know if Henri Bergius get it. But I would also love to have a shortcut for there actions and don’t get you answer right

#6 Anders Brander on 02.13.12 at 19:30

The ALT-key… Thank you!

#7 David Nielsen on 02.13.12 at 19:32

We fixed the Banshee issue last year. You may want to upgrade to Banshee 2.2.1 and it should be all better.


#8 Jack on 02.13.12 at 19:39

I find it difficult to even click on Activities since I tend to activate the hotspot anyway (much easier than aiming and clicking- I can just wack the corner). I rarely use categories to find specific applications- I usually know what I’m looking for and just type it in. For new users, this shouldn’t be too difficult if they’ve ever searched for something on the internet.

I think it could certainly be made a bit easier, but sometimes the ideal solution isn’t quite so obvious. I’m sure a few releases down the road we’ll have a well-rounded, totally polished experience from end to end. I’m just glad GNOME 3.0 had time to incubate- it would have been a disaster had it been released even 6 months earlier than it was.

#9 Thiago on 02.13.12 at 19:46

Agreed on all accounts.

Out of the bugs you mentioned, the one that annoys me the most is application icons having to be re-read from the disk every so often — which means the menu ends up taking some 5-10 seconds to load.

Why not just leave the icons in memory?

It really wouldn’t take more than a few of megabytes of RAM, and the speed benefits would be noticeable…

#10 Andreas Nilsson on 02.13.12 at 23:03

Slow menus is reported as https://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=647778 and is on the Every Details Matter list.

#11 Simon on 02.13.12 at 23:16

Regarding the notification tray, my only real annoyance is how easy it is to open accidentally. The bottom of the screen becomes an anti-Fitts area, because trying to click on things near the bottom invariably opens the tray instead. Programs like Totem or Shotwell are particularly affected.

#12 Brion Vibber on 02.14.12 at 00:43

Like Henri above I mostly launch applications by keyboard, which feels *very* fast.

On a little touchscreen PC I experiment with, though, the menu selectors are the way to go because using the on-screen keyboard is really awkward. They do need to be sped up, especially since most touch devices are probably going to be lower-specced than higher-end laptops and desktops.

#13 Nilux on 02.15.12 at 07:37

Is there an easy way to find out the keyboard shortcuts?
An overlay with a list of shortcuts would be nice when pressing the super-key for example.

#14 Mirek2 on 02.14.12 at 13:46

I have had the same problems except for the one with application categories (don’t use them).
I’m told that the message tray will lose the accordion and use large, static icons, and that having “Power off…” shown by default is “being discussed”.

#15 Alex Deucher on 02.14.12 at 15:24

I was able to get around most of my quibbles with gnome-shell with various shell extensions:

#16 Marius Gedminas on 02.14.12 at 21:34

Personally I like to map a keyboard shortcut to gtimelog –toggle to make it appear/disappear without having to go hunt for notification icons.

Having said that, If there’s anything gtimelog can do to be a better GNOME Shell citizen, I’d like to do it (especially if somebody explains it to me in terms of the Gtk+ APIs).

As an Ubuntu user I mostly use Unity, so the other notification icon paths aren’t tested as well. Is there a way to switch between Unity and GNOME Shell at runtime, without killing all running programs? That would make testing both much easier.

(Incidentally, your blog seems to be infested by Markov spammers.)

#17 uraeus on 02.15.12 at 15:00

Think I managed to kill of all the spam, but it is a continuous battle :)

#18 nate on 02.15.12 at 02:01

I like the ‘web apps’ concept with Epiphany’s integration into Gnome-shell. So that you can setup web applications to be handled like real applications.

I would like to see that idea extended to terminals so that you can setup ‘mutt’ or your favorite editor as a ‘terminal app’ that can be treated as a separate app from all your other terminals.

#19 Nilux on 02.15.12 at 07:57

Mouse travel across the screen is common fo all DE’s. When you choose “shut down” you have exactly 2 things you can do on your whole screen, and what do you get? A small window in the middle of the screen with two tiny buttons: “yes” and “no”. Why not close to the shut-down menu? Why not two enormous buttons? Maybe something to think about.

Could the “Type to search” input field be in the centre? It would get more attention and people could find its potential quicker.

The applications categories could be tabs just below the main selection: “Windows/Applications”, to make the mouse travel less.

Othewise the gnome desktop is awesome! In other DE’s like Widows I keep hitting the hot corner but nothing happens :-)

#20 Simon on 02.16.12 at 07:07

My issues with gnome 3 are the terrible behaviour when starting apps (Super, “term”, Return just focuses my current terminal, made worse by the fact that ssh doesn’t work properly in terminals opened by keyboard shortcuts, at least on Fedora).

Also, the the new tabbing behaviour is pretty weird at times.

And the notifications that never disappear are bad too.

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