Yes, GNOME is limiting!

There’s been a lot of fallout from Linus’ latest criticism of the GNOME desktop, with which I complete agree. I feel as if I need to comment on some of the responses.

Carthik Sharma writes in Of Apples and Oranges, GNOME and KDE:

I dread having to find something, since it most definitely will be placed in some non-intuitive sub-menu.

KDE has no control over where applications decide to place themselves.

I like the way GNOME display fonts on the screen. I don’t want to have to change every little variable to get the perfect system.

GNOME pioneered use of fontconfig; in fact, lately, GNOME has been pioneering the use of many next-gen APIs and technologies (e.g. AIGLX, Beryl, etc). But Qt/KDE have also been using fontconfig for several years now—what’s different?

Interesting enough, there has been criticism about how GNOME handles fonts. Taking points from that article, GNOME’s font configuration is a mess:

  • What’s a “Terminal” font (it should be called “Monospace,” as it is in KDE, because this is how it’s also used throughout GNOME)?
  • What does “size” mean (apparently, it’s not what you think)?
  • Why do I care about the subpixel ordering of my fonts’ antialiasing?
  • Why would I need to set fonts at all (see my weblog entry The GNOME font dialog, why?)?

KDE is no different than GNOME in trying to provide “sensible” defaults, defaults that its developers have decided are intrinsic to a “perfect desktop.” But, what the developers have decided is the perfect desktop may not be your perfect desktop—and here lies the essence of Linus’ argument, and the difference with KDE and GNOME. With KDE, you may have an option to make a setup “perfect”; with GNOME, quite often the option won’t exist and you are limited to what the powers that be decided was perfect for them, not you. This is Linus’ argument: GNOME is limiting.

Like this article? Please support my writing! Flattr my blog (see my thoughts on Flattr), tip me via PayPal, or send me an item from my Amazon wish list.


landis's picture

If you like gnome, use gnome. If you like kde, use kde. For myself I like gnome and I use it. It has a terminal and firefox and that’s all I need. I can remove all the panels except for one containing those shortcuts and maybe a clock. Bam - perfect desktop.

Perhaps I’m not enough of a power-user… In any case, there aren’t enough choices for desktop managers. I admit sometimes I’m frustrated with gnome but I absolutely despise kde. Is there anything out there for me?

robsku's picture

If what you say is what you need then it's like my situation - though it's obvious that you want something more than just gnome-panel (or any panel providing shortcuts, clock and I dare to assume task list and workspace selector?) it wouldn't even be a DE problem, since most WM's provide everything needed for that, and for the extremely minimal ones (or in case you want to combine good WM with better external panel) there are programs to provide panel(s) whether you want simple & minimal or complex and "emacs-of-panels" - heck, I could even use the panels of Gnome 2 or XFCE4 (gnome-panel/xfce4-panel) with my tiling window manager(s) (I'm between two so I won't kiss&tell... but I'm looking for something better than Ion3, not least because the author abandoned it).

I know why I've been frustrated with Gnome (small amount of features XFCE lacks disproportionately hogging memory and CPU - and none of which I care the least of. Insane un-unix-like configurations, worst being registr... erm, gconf. Applications getting worse after getting to be "Gnome-approved", or if the author doesn't follow Gnome development teams requests they will make even worse "gnome-" prefixed variant that most don't care to change or even consciously notice it's lacking functionality which despite that would be beneficial - like gtop which I've tried to find debian package for since Gnome devs introduced gnome-system-monitor: now with so similar look that we're hoping you wont notice it sucks. Or gnome-screensaver - what is the deal with that?!? It does exactly what xscreensaver does, but it provides a GTK interface. Which is where most hackers would take on forking xscreensaver-demo program - it's one window with two tabs. But no, gnome team ports the whole package - but not without leaving some of the configuration options out of it and selecting dozen or two savers from the huge collection packed with xscreensaver. No biggie, it's ported right out of xscreensaver so at worst you'll copy "~/.xscreensaver" files entries to... umm, ".gnome..."l ".gnome2....", "~/.local/" - nah, couldn't be that easy, just picking one of gnomes app config sub-directory's, instead they are buried somewhere in windows regi... uh, gconf database, and to add there the options would likely require adding "folder" with separate named entries you could add to put *one* line, one saver, data there. Of course you can just ditch it (though in Gnome it had to be done via gconf - there was NO GUI option to switch screensaver. Kudos to XFCE4 on this too, as among many things it borrows from Gnome, it too defaulted to gnome-screensaver (this is on debian which would after default install have that ready as it defaults to gnome), but it could easily be replaced. However - Me-TV, which I use to watch TV, has apparently started calling itself a Gnome application, and like many others it used to have perfectly functional screensaver blocker. One would assume that such thing wouldn't be dropped, no? What one would not expect is it to *switch* to blocking only when gnome-screensaver is running instead of *addition* of gnome-screensaver to be blocked.

I could go on and on - but what frustrates you in Gnome? And really, it provides something more than you wrote (which I agree to be more than enough - but I don't do DE's anymore) - because with such low needs, with such similarity in general look&feel, XFCE4 would surely provide you the functionality and you're system would have more resources free for actual applications... surely if that's all then being frustrated, even if not that often, would be reason enough to try it?

P.S. There's no offense meant in my post, except for Gnome, but other than that I'm really just curious (and willing to provide tips) :)