GNOME 3: From an end-user’s perspective

The desktop search feature works like the Search and Launch feature of KDE 4 Netbook desktop interface. Start typing into the search box, and the system begins to return results from the local content. Want to search the Web instead? You may search the same string on Wikipedia or Google by clicking on the appropriate button. The search results will open in a window or tab of the default browser.

This is Nautilus, the file manager, running in Fallback Mode.

And this is Nautilus on GNOME 3. The main difference you will observe right away is the absence of the Minimize and Maximize buttons. The developers say there is no need for a Minimize button because there is nowhere to minimize to – there is no bottom panel in Standard GNOME 3. And the Maximize button? Because of the “Snapping” feature, that, too, is not needed. To snap a window, you click and hold the titlebar and drag it to the top edge of the desktop. That will maximize it. Clicking on the titlebar and dragging it away from the top edge will reduce it to its original size. For what its supposed to accomplish, I think “Snapping” is too much work. It is a cool feature, but the old Maximize button is much better. Even with Snapping, I think there is a place for a Maximize button.

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Here’s a shot of the desktop showing a useful side of Snapping. With two small windows open, click and drag one on its titlebar and snap it to the right edge of the desktop. Repeat the operation on the other window, but this type, snap it to the left edge of the desktop.

All the management applications that used to be accessible in GNOME 2 from the System > Preferences menu are now in System Settings, which looks just like KDE’s control center. Clicking on an application opens it in place, and you can return to this window by clicking on All Settings. This, I think, is better than the arrangement on GNOME 2.

Take the Time and Date management application for example. It should look very familiar. After viewing it or making any changes here, clicking on All Settings will take you back to the main System Settings window.

The Users and Groups management utility also should look very familiar. Automatic login now can be “turned” On and Off. It is On by default in this test Fedora image, but should Off when Fedora 15 is released sometime in late May or early June.

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Changing a user account password now has a password hint field, a feature not available on the same application in GNOME 2.

Overall, GNOME 3 feels and looks better than GNOME 2. The main complaint I have is that in full GNOME 3 mode, the desktop seems to get in the way; using the desktop feels more like work. In the coming months, I suspect that many users will opt to run in Fallback Mode instead of in Standard mode. Luckily the system allows you to switch modes. That, however, requires logging out and then logging back in.

Resources: Want to try GNOME 3 before your distribution makes it available? Grab a test image here. While you are doing that, take a second or two to subscribe to this website via RSS or email. Future articles will then be delivered to your feed reader or Inbox automatically.

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