Frustration over GNOME Desktop revisions

6 Mar 2011 - 9:52pm
5 years ago
2 replies
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interactive fiction

Some of you may know of the GNOME Desktop Environment. It's one of several projects to create a desktop experience for Unix-based systems like Linux, BSD, and so forth.

GNOME v3 is due to come out later this month, and it's arousing a certain amount of controversy. The designers behind the project have decided to remove the maximize and minimize buttons from application windows, and leave the resulting space blank. In order to maximize and minimize, you have to use the mouse or keyboard.

I found out about when I read these series of comments on the website Apparently, this decision is not being taken well. I thought it would be interesting to pass along to the IxDA group as a case study in how seemingly minor changes can lead to major discomfort.

For myself, I use keyboard shortcuts a great deal, but sometimes clicking that minimize button is just easier. Depends on the situation.

Screen grab of Gnome3.png


6 Mar 2011 - 10:29pm

"Windows like" minimize/maximize behaviour has always annoyed me. The notion that an app should take the entire screen obscuring all else, even if it doesn't need it, is problematic. Particularly as monitors have gotten larger and pixel density has increased, the utility of having a single app occupy a screen has been reduced. (Exceptions for certain kinds of apps such as Photoshop, Final Cut Pro etc.)

Having said that, Mac like behaviour has always made sense to me. Maximize means opens the window to be large enough to show all of its content.

It's been so long since I used Gnome I'm not sure which style it used. I'd rather see its utility increased than see it eliminated.

27 Mar 2011 - 5:13pm
Calum Benson

As always, Slashdot's inherently negatively-biased comments should be taken with a pinch of salt. There are a few key points to note about the removal of the minimize and maximize buttons in GNOME:

1) Given how easily flame wars can kick off over the smallest of design changes in any open source project, it's worth noting that this change has been received *incredibly* well within the existing GNOME user base and developer community, with few dissenting voices at all. Whether migrating users will take to it remains to be seen, of course.

2)  ...and 1) is partly because this isn't a decision that's been made in isolation, by any means. The whole design of GNOME 3 is very much intended to reduce the amount of micro-management of windows you have to do. Without getting to deep into the design (you can read plenty about that here, if you like), it essentially puts virtual desktops at the centre of the desktop universe, and encourages you to manage your activities in such a way that you're mostly managing and switching between virtual desktops rather than windows. (In some ways it has similar goals to OS X Lion's approach of "tabletizing" the desktop, which are also aimed at reducing state and window management, but the two solutions certainly aren't identical.)

3) Although GNOME 3 has a dot zero release soon, I'd consider that to be a beta release at best -- the redesigned user experience won't really hit its stride until the 3.2 or even the 3.4 release, so it's kind of premature to heavily criticize design issues at this stage. In particular, it's unlikely that "minimize" will disappear as completely as maximize has done; the design team are still evaluating various options on that front.

As you say yourself, "In order to maximize and minimize, you have to use the mouse or keyboard". When you put it like that, it becomes evident that in some ways, this is a bit of a storm in a teacup -- after all, in order to maximize and minimize on any desktop, you have to use the mouse or the keyboard :)

(Full disclosure: I've worked in the GNOME community for a decade or so on usability and design issues, but I've had little or no direct input into most of the major GNOME 3 design decisions, including this one.)

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