Ubuntu LogoWe all know that Gnome 3 will introduce a new interface. Currently that interface is dubbed gnome-shell, and you can install and run it in Ubuntu right now, if you want. I’ll tell you how later in the week. Right now let us explore some of the minor and major issues that I have picked up with Gnome-Shell, just as a kick off to me running it for a week and seeing how I like it.

Also Screenshots. Yep Gnome-Shell Screenshots.

Seven Days With Gnome Shell

When Windows 7 came out I spent seven days with it and closed source software. If you want to read about that adventure, you can start at day one here.

I decided that a change of the kind of magnitude that Gnome 3 will bring warrants some exploration. Now before you think that I will bore you with seven days of Gnome-Shell stories, be assured that I will bore you with other posts as well. Gnome-Shell and its haps and mishaps will be an extra post a day, as opposed to Going Closed Source which was a series unto itself. If you are interested in following my week with Gnome-Shell, check day one out here.


Gnome-Shell interface, including the terminal I run it in. Click to enlarge

So What Did I find So Far?

Let me cross this hurdle first: You probably won’t like Gnome Shell. Think of the magnitude of change that KDE4 introduced, and you will begin to imagine what Gnome-Shell is – a complete change. One thing that it seems to have going for it, is that it seems more stable than KDE4 was at first.

Workflow wise it is a bit of a step back. I found gnome very user friendly. Its menus made sense, Applications, Places and System led you to where you expected them to be. There was a top AND bottom panel that gave you places to pin stuff, and view open windows, and there was added functionality on the top right where you had your various applications like Empathy, Evolution and others living for your convenience.

With Gnome-Shell all of that is gone. You now only have a top bar. The Activities menu is where all your applications live top left. Top middle is a clock, and if you click there you will get your Calendar. On the top right is your menu where you log out or shut down, and where Gwibber status, Account Information (your personal information) and system information can be accessed.

Lets deal with these one by one…

Top Bar.

Besides the stuff I mentioned, the top bar now also displays an Icon for the current open app. If you click on that icon, you will get an option to close that app. That is true for right and left-click. It is a pain in the ass to switch between multiple open apps. I hope there is a change to come.

Activities Menu

Accessed either by clicking on the Activities menu, or by moving your mouse to the top left of the screen, you get the Activities Menu. While pretty, you get a layer added between you and the applications you are working with that was not there before. To me an extra layer is a step backwards, but I can see how it will benefit new computer users once they get used to it.

Activities Menu

Activities Menu with Open Applications. Click to Enlarge

Once you have activated this layer, you will have your open applications displayed, neatly arranged to the right, and a menu to the left where you can access programs and applications.

One of the great things of the activities menu is the search bar at the top. You can find anything by searching. If I type in PCLOS there, it gives me a list of the pictures I saved and edited for my various PCLOS reviews. Type in “software” and software centre, files with the word software in them and so on are displayed. While the search function is definitely the best I’ve seen, it assumes the user knows what he is looking for, or at least the name of what he is looking for. That is a definite minus.

Below the search area is an applications menu. If you click here an area is opened that displays all your applications. While the icons for the applications are nice and big, they are not arranged nicely.


Applications are accessable, but not grouped. Click To Enlarge


Not much to note here. The Calendar does not give Evolution integration like with regular Gnome, at least not what a cursory glance has shown. Right-click gives you access to preferences – 12h format, 24h format and show date and seconds. Simple, for now.

Top Right

No battery status indicator. A downer for Laptop users, like me. When my laptop battery ran low a notification did pop up at the bottom, it just did again, and at least you have some information regarding it. Clicking on your username gives you access to the SYSTEM INFORMATION menu. It is basically a control center, like PCLOS, Mandriva and Mint have. I am wary of control centers, they need to be done really well to work. This one still needs some work. I think that note should be taken of the PCLOS and Mint control centers for examples of working control centers.


The Right-Hand Menu. Click to Enlarge

You might have heard that Ubuntu will possibly be getting a Mandriva like control center, I will do an entry on that during the week.


Gnome-Shell requires compositing. I am unsure what that will mean for users with older laptops. What will that mean for Gnome on older laptops? KDE4 is not good on older laptops, Gnome-Shell will not work on older laptops. Will users of older machines need to go to XCFE? XFCE is great for REALLY old machines, but there is a group of machines that fall between new and really old that would run the current Gnome or KDE4 sans compositing just fine.

Will Gnome-Shell be the new Ubuntu interface come 10.10? I don’t think a final decision has been made regarding this yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t. Remember that Ubuntu Unity is also in development – would it be surprising if Ubuntu went their own way and used Unity instead of Gnome altogether?

Another question that is yet to be answered is what the possible adoption of Gnome3 will mean for distros based on Ubuntu. Mint, Mepis and others are Ubuntu based. Will they follow suit or roll their own interface on top of the Ubuntu base?

Right now there are lots of unanswered questions. Tomorrow, when Gnome-Shell starts off my week as my default working interface I will begin answering some of them, including the one of multiple virtual desktops, you can have them with Gnome-Shell of course.

Related posts:

  1. Using Gnome Shell – Day 7
  2. Using Gnome-Shell – Day 1
  3. Comparative Test Problems – Hardware, Windows7 and Linux