New GNOME Shell Mockup Looks Good – But Is It Better?

Yesterday it was announced that  GNOME 3.0 is delayed till next year. The extra time has given the Shell Developers some more time to play around with new concepts and they have come up a new mockup. Here are the new mockups:

This new mockup, no doubt, looks a lot better than the current Shell interface. Currently Shell is very clunky and very unusable in my opinion.

However, the new mockup still looks like it will be workflow nightmare. In the second picture, it looks like you have to click on the Windows tab to see the open windows. (Someone correct me If I am wrong.) This step unnecessarily requires two or possibly more clicks for something that can be done with just one right now.

And is it just me or does anyone else notice a strong resemblance to the Jolicloud user interface?

Another thing that I cannot understand is the huge application icons. In devices with small screen, the kind which Jolicloud and Ubuntu Netbook Edition are intended for, large icons can be useful. But GNOME Shell is not intended only for devices with small screen. I think that using this interface on a large monitor will be a real pain.

I tested GNOME Shell way back when it was very new and was not impressed by it then. I tested it again last month and still did not like it. This mockup looks good, no doubt, but it still feels unusable to me and it seems they have not resolved the workflow issue which many have been pointing out since Shell became available.

What do you think? Let us know.

[image credit: WebUpd8]

Published by

Ricky Laishram

Ricky Laishram is a Linux and FOSS enthusiast. He is passionate about open source technologies and likes to keep abreast with the latest developments in KDE and Ubuntu. He also loves listening to music and is a huge Tegan snd Sara fan. You can follow him on twitter @ricky_lais.

  • user

    It would be nice if you posted bigger screenshots so we could see what they actually looked like.

    • I, too, would have loved a larger image but I cannot find them. You can probably go to WebUpd8, from where I got the images. Maybe they have it. Link at the end of the post.

  • Mark Amber

    I would like to come back at this article and say that gnome shell is an extremely useful workflow, for instance Have you ever tried alt-tab, it is amazing, you can see all the apps you are working on for a task (one desktop) Gnome shell is not as useful as a "normal" desktop if you are thinking in terms of a normal desktop.

    I see that you could be confusing it with jolicloud because it looks good, but in my honest opinion it looks nothing like it, and I mean that as a user of the jolicloud 1.0 interface, and there is nothing wrong with copying other open source projects, it is the core of open source projects, so if it did look like jolicloud that would be a start because jolicloud has a great ui (for a netbook)

    I am a Linux user, but I would love to have a few of windows 7 features in a Linux desktop, like the task section of the taskbar (I use mine so it shows all the windows instead of having you search through small mipmaps and hover to find the right window) it provides a nice view of what is in the same process, and has a neat feature where if you lift up the icon it shows some surprisingly useful options, like going to favorites or most viewed pages on the web browser or certain locations in the file browser. I know that the way windows is set up is completely different from the way that gnome shell is going, but the ability to choose what I want to do based on what application I am opening is something I like.

    I guess the end result of this rant insightful thought is if you want something right, or right for you, code it yourself, and if you do not have the experience, then you will just have to use what you have, or pay (lobby gnome development or buy commercial software, or heir someone to make your own desktop)

    • Right now, I can see all the open windows by moving my cursor to an edge using Compiz.
      Yes there is nothing wrong with copying a good UI. But Jolicloud is meant for small screens and I am not sure if that kind of interface will be useful in a larger screen.
      I have never used Windows 7 so I cannot comment on the Windows features you are talking about, but they do seem useful.
      And, the normal GNOME interface works just fine for me. I heard that I can choose not to use Shell and stick to the panel if I want.

  • okthen

    I like the new GNOME Shell. I hope it gets rid of Metacity to make GNOME less bloating.

    • Denis

      Mutter is even more bloated then metacity.
      Gnome Shell ≡ Mutter + JS and bloats even harder, epic fail )

  • Wil W

    I have been a big fan of Gnome Shell for a while now. I was not sure about it either, but forced myself to use it for at least a week first. I came to love the concept of it. Task bars or docks all feel antiquated to me now.

    Regarding the "workflow nightmare," I would guess that it defaults to the windows when you hit the Activities corner. That would be in line with the current versions.

    I guess a few other things:

    It was a mistake in mock up to not leave the applications and windows tabs visible during search.

    There would likely be more tabs like Documents, and perhaps Places… Maybe even a full file manager that would be used just for opening files?

    I would also guess/suggest that the tabbed concept show here looks like it could be a big improvement over the current left hand system. Perhaps even allowing you to add custom tabs with groups of applications and documents etc… (Somewhere I heard someone talking about Shell ideas and he mentioned the idea of session folders where a workspace could be saved and reloaded later, but I am unable to locate it currently.)

    Anyway I am sad that it is delayed, but Shell is a nice departure from everyone else in a few conceptual ideas about desktops, so taking a little more time to try things out will likely help in the end.

  • I fully agree. GNOME is falling inline with all the bells and whistles of Apple, instead of focusing directly on productivity.

    What grabs my attention in these mockups isn't the windows/applications, but the tiny "activities" menu-item which isn't fleshed out at all. I think there's too much going on here: tabs, buttons, workspaces, windows, activities.. where do I go? what do I want?

    GNOME would do well to either (a) amp up some features of grouped-window managers, or to (b) slim down these same elements from KDE4 (yes, i just said GNOME needs to be like the GNOME-ish elements in KDE!) Seriously, the 2 features in KDE4 I love: Grouped/Tabbed windows & automagically half-screen resized windows.

    • Alex

      I am wondering if Gnome developers are interested in users' opinions… I look at screenshots and think – they aren't. :-(

  • Greg Zeng

    Found today's news: this "mockup" is released in OpenSuse 11.3.

    Downloading it as I type.

    Greg Zeng, Australian Capital Territory

  • Niko

    Gnome Shell is why I finally gave up on Linux. I like the current Gnome, its clean and doesn't really get in your way. This new stuff seems more about Bling Bling than actually doing anything I need.

    • okthen

      Use LXDE or XFCE instead. Cleaner than the current GNOME.

  • Based on order, I believe that the “Windows” tab on the left would be the default, so switching windows wouldn’t require an extra click relative to (say) Expose or my N900. You have click to shell then click to window, compared to click to Expose then click to window. Of course, with a task bar, it’s simply click to window – but only if the window is in your current desktop and not “stacked”.

    Launching a *new* application would apparently require a second click, though – click to shell, click to app tab, click group, then click a new app, instead of Applications -> group -> app from the top menu.

    If the entire screen is available, then shouldn’t spacial organization be used to help locate apps or windows at a glance? Arrange the app icons in visual groups on the display (rather than by filters listed on the right), with a different background color engulfing each group. And allow windows to be grouped as well, initially by app or app group (perhaps), but switchable by the user.

    Oh, and allow these groups to be saved as a context, and relaunched en masse later, to help the user with context switching and project management.

    Then, when the user’s mouse moved within a group, it should visually zoom gently to make it easier to select the desired app or window from that group.

    App groups should be set up by default via the current Applications menu categories, of course, but again, adjusted by the user.

    Given this use of screen real-estate, I think I’d find the new shell to be significantly better than Gnome 2.

    Just random thoughts in a location the developers are unlikely to ever see… :-)

  • srikanth

    there is no show desktop button currently on the panel which makes it much painful to use key board shortcut or closing all windows to view my desktop screen. Notification system has a long way to go …

  • ToddM

    I've never really been crazy about the gnome-shell from the beginning. I will say that this mockup does seem a whole lot more useful than the current implementation. The one problem that I ran into with the shell that MUST be addressed is this. Say you want to load several applications into a given window. I would click on activities then click on the first app and then I'd be back to the desktop. I would have to repeat the process for additional apps. Once activating the activities menu you should be able to click on as many apps as you need and when you are done, click on activities again to go back to the desktop.

    I'm still not crazy about this design, BUT if they fix THAT problem, that would be huge.

  • Sam

    Ugh. First I used KDE. Then the devs decided to radically change it without user input. So I fled to Gnome. Now it looks like history's going to repeat itself. XFCE here I come I guess.

    • Dave

      I'll give LXDE a try soon :)

  • Dave

    I always liked the GNOME Application menus and panels as they are now. All the programs can be reached with ONE click and you put the icons of frequently used programs in the panel. Period. All other methods of selecting rograms are shame. Note that this apply also on KDE. Kde 3.x applications menu is way better than 4.x one, (there you can revert to the old menu and I always do it if I have to use KDE). And also Vista / Win7 menus are way less usable than XP one. Specially when hou have a lot of applications on your computer, having them grouped into submenus you can navigate simply hovering the mouse is essential. All other menu’s styles are pretty unusable for me…

  • I think what we have here is a technology demonstration and playpen philosophy (or theology for some of us) that communicates based on what they say they are doing. To be straight: they are living in the moment.

    To be a wee more complicated, let me put it this way:

    The GNOME desktop isn’t really a desktop. They’ve put a bunch of cool things together, formed a vision, and deployed it to each other for playing with. This playground we call “programming” is filled with a lot of cool things, but a clean cut vision is not one of them.

    Like building a castle with Lego, they have to toy with new ideas. Their building blocks are solid, that’s what the whole point of GNOME 1.x and 2.x was. A solid foundation of free software that was tested and true. Themes and backgrounds, toys and tools.

    …and KIND OF organized for the 1.x releases. It was a technology demo with some engineer pretending to be an artist. Gnome 2.x was the refining of those technologies, making it more usable…as we refine oil for it’s various uses (like plastic). Now we have a branch of solid, usable software. Now what?

    Play with it, shape it a bit…but think about usability…do we want this on a tablet? If so, we should think about a single input oriented way of doing things…replacing Alt+Tab with an even simpler way of going through windows (but still available on the PC version, you can do that with open source software, duh). Of course, from the looks of it, I feel they have turned their heads toward tablets. If open source has any place to be safe on, it’s the tablet market. Obviously Microsoft doesn’t know what they’re doing, and Apple just blew up a phone.

    Google has proved that open source DOES have a place in the consumer world, and ONLY because the technology is free to work with did we have people like Google who saw the future and used a rock solid base to build an OS on.

    GNOME will survive on multiple platforms. Of course a feature that would be really cool would be the ability to theme your PC’s GNOME 3 and then have it sync somehow to the tablet (perhaps Ubuntu can pull this off with their Ubuntu One service?). In this manner you can probably even set up your tablet’s Nautilus to use the 3G/4G connection to sync with your Ubuntu PC and you can browse and open/edit/stream files over the cloud leaving your tablet as simply a virtual window to not just the internet but to your home computer as well. Possible? Yes, from what I’ve seen in the open source world, yes. They also say “well program it if you think it should be done” but I’m sure it WILL be done because that’s too cool an idea to not implement. (I’m free to talk more about it, visit my facebook and drop me a line if any software engineer is listening).

    Point is, let them play because (as I said) Apple is working with a giant phone, Microsoft is imploding in on itself, and Google (our anti-hero in this drama) has it’s own thing going…but tablets are going to be (mostly because of popular demand) more like PCs so why NOT offer the option of installing other systems that we already know have a wealth of software? No reason at all not to.

  • DjznBR

    Something tells me that when this is released, half of the GNOME users will stay with GNOME legacy and other half will switch to KDE 4.5

    This is complete fiasco. Why can't they just improve GNOME legacy. At least keep the old layout available for use.

    • DBobb

      Though many would disagree with me. I think it's time to think about adopting a new desktop paradigm and ways of improving workflow. Look at compiz-fusion for example, many folks won't give it a chance — not knowing how well plugins like scale and expo can actually improve workflow. Heck, even KDE4 is superficially not an improvement upon KDE3, but once you enable compositing and its own special composited features, you might realize how important they become for multi-tasking. I believe that the desktop can be improved further. Heck we've stuck with the old school ways for decades because they were based on the discovered methods in use at the time, but look at the way that things are continually being reinvented (like Tab Candy for Firefox). I know many will probably hate to learn a new way of doing things because the old way served them well enough, but I think that once people go through that uncomfortable period of adjustement from the old ways, that they will see improvement. I don't think that the GNOME3 developers are going to completely ignore user input either.

      • Blackiwid

        I totaly agree. I thought before I tested the old gnome-shell, at first what the fuck. But then I got it, I am a programmer, and what they did is ported the Ideas behind Git and other Stuff to the Desktop, made it more dynamik.

        No more, static stuff, like desktop symbols also clean desktop space, dynamic window placement. More space for work (no second panel) they did the right thing. The menu isn´t perfekt yet, but it´s way more better then the old style Menu with tausend starters in 30 submenus. Then you have minimal static interaction possibles like favorite a programm to get a menu of the most used progs.

        The Menu feels not 100% ready yet, at the moment I don´t like this new Mockup, but I guess it´s for people who want a big Menu like in gnome2 and complain about the dynamic small Menu what was there before. But it´s a good start, let´s wait till it´s final and there come 1000 css files (aka themes for it) some nice looking small animations etc some mokups and what I see here is also great:

        The old Desktops get messed up nearly automaticly, give It a change, much people have problems to use git over svn also first but it´s worth it.

  • Denis

    I have no doubt Gnome Shell’s look and feel inspired by iPhone. I wonder why gnome devs decided to implement ideas designed for tiny ≤ 4 inch screens for large monitors?
    And don’t tell me about netbooks — they don’t have any future and actively being replaced by tablets like iPad/etc. On the other hand, GS needs keyboard too much to be an efficient tablet shell. So, what the purpose of this stuff? Being the irritant?

  • nq6

    The influence of Unity on the Gnome Shell

    The Gnome developers know that 14 million to 16 million will be using the Unity.Eles will not want your users lost in Unity. Then copied the layout. Below is a screen that shows this.

    Today we can see the force of the decisions of the developers of Ubuntu. What we have with the new Gnome Shell, a replica of the Unity. It seems Unity with a new theme.