Gnome Shell: Three years on

The big battle of GNOME Shell has beeen pretty much fought out by now. I think the general consensus is that GNOME Shell lost but that there’s no clear winner, since Canonical’s Unity hasn’t won anybody over but themselves (even if that does represent a sizeable chunk of linux desktop users).

So when this piece showed up in my feed reader, I could empathize. I also liked the idea of Gnome Shell, I also liked the look of Gnome Shell. But since the reality of Gnome Shell was above all buggy, uncustomizable and marked by the developers’ we-know-best attitude, I also left in search of pastures new. And also came up short.

And like the author I have returned to Gnome Shell, mostly for lack of a nice, easy, mainstream, allround desktop alternative. Where we part ways is in the attitude we bring to that return meeting. “How I fell back in love with Gnome Shell” is not the way I would describe our reunoin.

Gnome Shell still routinely crashes on me. And then to add insult to injury tells me that it has disabled all extensions, thus implying that the extensions are to blame. Only thing is: I have no extensions enabled. The only tweak I have to insist on is static workspaces but that is a toggle option, not an extension. I know by bitter experience that Gnome Shell can’t cope with extensions so I have learned to live without them, relying on old desktop tricks (see: wmctrl, devilspie, xbindkeys) to add a bit of extra functionality.

Gnome Shell has improved over the course of the past three years. It looks nicer and has a tiny increment more options. But it’s still buggy and it’s still not cutomization friendly and you still need to see things the developers’ way. And I would still leave it in a heartbeat if something better came along.

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