A Week With GNOME As My Linux Desktop: What They Get Right & Wrong

Written by Eric Griffith in Software on 12 July 2015. Page 3 of 5. 126 Comments


This is the one area where things are basically a wash. Each environment has a few applications that are really nice, and a few that are not so great. Once again though, Gnome gets the little things right in a way that KDE completely misses. None of KDE's applications are bad or broken, that's not what I'm saying. They function. But that's about it. To use an analogy: they passed the test, but they sure didn't get any where close to 100% on it.

Gnome on left, KDE on right. Dragon performs perfectly fine, it has clearly marked buttons for playing a file, URL, or a disc, just as you can do under Gnome Videos... but Gnome takes it one extra little step further in the name of convenience and user friendliness: they show all the videos detected under your system by default, without you having to do anything. KDE has Baloo-- just as they had Nepomuk before that-- why not use them? They've got a list video files that are freely accessible... but don't make use of the feature.

Moving on... Music Players.

Both of these applications, Rhythmbox on the left and Amarok on the right were opened up and then a screenshot was immediately taken, nothing was clicked, or altered. See the difference? Rhythmbox looks like a music player. It's direct, there's obvious ways to sort the results, it knows what is trying to be and what it's job is: to play music.

Amarok feels like one of the tech demos, or library demos where someone puts every option and extension they possible can all inside one application in order to show them off-- it's never something that gets shipped as production, it's just there to show off bits and pieces. And that's exactly what Amarok feels like: its someone trying to show off every single possible cool thing they shove into a media player without ever stopping to think "Wait, what were trying to write again? An app to play music?"

Just look at the default layout. What is front and center for the user? A visualizer and Wikipedia integration-- the largest and most prominent column on the page. What's the second largest? Playlist list. Third largest, aka smallest? The actual music listing. How on earth are these sane defaults for a core application?

Software Managers! Something that has seen a lot of push in recent years and will likely only see a bigger push in the months to come. Unfortunately, it's another area where KDE was so close... and then fell on its face right at the finish line.

Gnome Software is probably my new favorite software center, minus one gripe which I will get to in a bit. Muon, I wanted to like you. I really did. But you are a design nightmare. When the VDG was drawing up plans for you (mockup below), you looked pretty slick. Good use of white space, clean design, nice category listing, your whole not-being-split-into-two-applications.

Then someone got around to coding you and doing your actual UI, and I can only guess they were drunk while they did it.

Let's look at Gnome Software. What's smack dab in the middle? The application, its screenshots, its description, etc. What's smack dab in the middle of Muon? Gigantic waste of white space. Gnome Software also includes the lovely convenience feature of putting a "Launch" button right there in case you already have an application installed. Convenience and ease of use are important, people. Honestly, JUST having things in Muon be centered aligned would probably make things look better already.

What's along the top edge of Gnome Software, like a tab listing? All Software, Installed, Updates. Clean language, direct, to the point. Muon? Well, we have "Discover", which works okay as far as language goes, and then we have Installed, and then nothing. Where's updates?

Well.. the developers decided to split updates off into its own application, thus requiring you to open two applications to handle your software-- one to install it, and one to update it-- going against every Software Center paradigm that has ever existed since the Synaptic graphical package manager.

I'm not going to show it in a screenshot just because I don't want to have to clean up my system afterwards, but if you go into Muon and start installing something the way it shows that is by adding a little tab to the bottom of your screen with the application's name. That tab doesn't go away when the application is done installing either, so if you're installing a lot of applications at a single time then you'll just slowly accumulate tabs along the bottom that you then have to go through and clean up manually, because if you don't then they grow off the screen and you have to swipe through them all to get to the most recent ones. Think: opening 50 tabs in Firefox. Major annoyance, major inconvenience.

I did say I would bash on Gnome a bit, and I meant it. Muon does get one thing very right that Gnome Software doesn't. Under the settings bar Muon has an option for "Show Technical Packages" aka: compilers, software libraries, non-graphical applications, applications without AppData, etc. Gnome doesn't. If you want to install any of those you have to drop down to the terminal. I think that's wrong. I certainly understand wanting to push AppData but I think they pushed it too soon. What made me realize Gnome didn't have this setting was when I went to install PowerTop and couldn't get Gnome to display it-- no AppData, no "Show Technical Packages" setting.

Doubly unfortunate is the fact that you can't "just use apper" if you're under KDE since...

Apper's support for installing local packages has been broken for since Fedora 19 or so, almost two years. I love the attention to detail and quality.

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