Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Gnome - love it or hate it or both...

I am not sure if I should love Gnome or hate it, but I do probally both. Once upon a time there was Gnome1.4, the almost perfect environment for Unix, easy to use and extremly flexible and powerfull at the same time. I could replace all my hand crafted SCWM scripting with Sawfish in a day, even better I didn't even need to make use of its Lisp scripting to do that, since it provided a powerfull configuration gui. I loved it. Then there came Gnome2.0, which removed heaploads of features that I learned to love in Gnome1.4. I hated the new Gnome2.0, it provided zero benfit and only worked half as good. Even worse, thanks to the flawed package management systems you have on all Linuxs I was forced to upgrade to it. Yes, I know I could have compiled myself an own tree, but that is a lot of work, waste of CPU time and its not really that much fun anyway to run a unmaintained DE. So I stayed with Gnome2.0, thinking back of the bright times I had with Gnome1.4 and how those developers could manage to ruin it completly...

Well, that was some years ago. Today things look a bit different. Gnome gets closer to what was promised back then, a easy to use desktop. Gnome took a rought road to ease-of-use, brute-force removing a lot of features, displeasing a lot of user. However slowly that way seems to pay of. Today Gnome actually is a easy to use desktop, maybe not the most powerfull, but certainly very well organized. Even better, most of the usefull features that one needed back in the Gnome1.4 days are back, either nicely integrated into the GUI or available via GConf, Gnome registry clone. The new filemanager slowly gets usable via the keyboard (no more Ctrl-L uglyness needed), once you get used to the different button order it feels great and last not least Metacity actually provides some options to configure it. Today I managed to switch finally from Sawfish to Metacity, while my configuration couldn't be transfered 100% over to Metacity, I was able to restore like 95% of it, I can start programs via shortcuts, raise, lower and close windows with special keys and pick a nice looking theme out of the dozens that are offered.

Still not everything is perfect in Gnome, there are still a few features that I miss, but overall Gnomes is these days a very easy to use and configure desktop environment, that can even please somebody who has started with SCWM and Sawfish. It might not be 100% up to the old power, but its gets pretty close, probally close enough for almost all users. I don't like how the Gnome developers brought Gnome from 1.4 to where it is now, but I certainly like where it is now. Its good that Gnome takes the road to provide an easy to use DE, instead of a feature blown one like KDE. In this case its good to have a choice.

BTW. What I would like to have would be a standard way to go into and out of real fullscreen mode for games, a quite important, but still largly ignored issue, maybe we will see it in the future, who knows...

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