GNOME 3: From an end-user’s perspective

Released just a few days ago, GNOME 3 is the latest major version of the GNOME desktop environment. If you are currently running a GNOME-based Linux or BSD distribution, you are probably using version 2.30 or 2.32, but that should change in the upcoming release cycle when many of the distributions will be shipping with GNOME 3 as the default. So while we wait, this article will attempt to give you an idea of what to expect. Rather than discuss the difference between old and new GNOME from the development angle, the article presents information from a lay user’s perspective. Can I find my away around the new desktop without consulting a manual or documentation?

If you are interested in how GNOME 3 came to be, try this link, and this.

GNOME will not run on just any computer, so if your computer does not meet the hardware and driver requirements, you will see the message below. Now we know that GNOME can run in two modes – the Standard GNOME 3 mode, and in Fallback Mode. In Fallback Mode, you get a desktop experience very close to the GNOME 2 desktop. In a sense, it is an hybrid mode, not quite GNOME 2 and certainly not Standard GNOME 3.

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Here’s is what the GNOME desktop looks like in Fallback Mode. The Top and bottom panels are still in place, and the Applications and Places menu still occupy their usual place on the top panel. You can see that the administrative tools which used to be under System > Administration, right next to the Places menu, are now accessible from Applications > System Tools. What about all the administrative tools that used to be under System > Preferences?

Well, those are now accessible from System User > System Settings. More on System Settings tools further down.
Fallback Mode

If your computer can run GNOME 3 in all its glory, your desktop will look just like the image below shows. Notice that the Applications and Places menu have been replaced by the Activities menu. The “Displays” entry right next to it is for an open application, and not a permanent entry on the top panel. Did you notice that there is no bottom panel? Did you also notice how snazzy and cool the menus look.

Clicking on Activities reveals real side of the desktop. All open windows are visible on the main part of the desktop. To the left is the favorites and open applications dock. The right “panel”, which is retracted by default, and visible on mouseover, is like the virtual workspace switcher.

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Clicking on Applications takes you to what you might call the menu. From here, you can use the search box to locate applications or just look in the applications categories. You add applications to the Dock by right-clicking on an application’s icon and selecting “Add to Favorites.”

This is just to show how to add an application to the Dock.

You can see the accessibility features enabled by clicking on the Assistive Technologies icon on the top panel. This is not available on the top panel in Fallback Mode.

While in the Windows view, you can open the controls of Rhythmbox or any other application applet in the Messaging Tray.

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