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Ok, after a day with GNOME 3, I'm finding that I am really not the person that the GNOME developers are trying to satisfy, and that's fine, I don't blame them, I know my needs are different from "normal" users.

On my laptop, GNOME 3 works great, I have no problems, but my workstation, that's a different story.

So, here's my needs for my workstation, time to find an environment that I can live with:
- like +Tejun Heo stated, one of most important things is the ability to have keybinds to switch between windows on the active workspace, and then, keybindings to switch between workspaces. Ideally ones that can be changed to the ones that my fingers already know. GNOME 3 is horrible for this, I really can't live without this, sorry.
- good multi-monitor support (GNOME 3 falls down hard here, even after digging and fixing some default config options, it really wants to put everything on the main monitor, which I don't like. And yes, monitors of different sizes should not be a problem (why does openbox not like this?)
- good multi-workspace support. GNOME 3 doesn't like this all that much (i.e. I want to log in after rebooting and have windows be automatically created on different workspaces properly without me having to restart them all again, or at the worse case, have to recreate the workspaces themselves again.) Note, I reboot a lot (2-3 times a day), sorry, that's my job, and not one that "normal" Linux users have, I know.
- actively being developed, without relying on libraries that upstream doesn't support anymore (yes, awesome, this rules you out, sorry.)
- work with almost out-of-the-box options, minor tweaks acceptable (kind of rules out openbox, although I found an old config file and that almost worked just fine, but volume control and lack of a built-in tray turned me off.) I used to like to spend hours tweaking my window environment, but these days I'm a grumpy old man and have better things to do with my time (like handle the huge backlog of kernel patches in my inboxes...)
- sane new window placement rules, xfce can't seem to do this properly, I really don't want to adjust every new terminal window I create to not overlap others if I have a ton of free monitor space sitting there doing nothing.
- pretty looking. Yes, I like the way that GNOME 3 looks, and GTK-3, using xfce isn't as nice, it reminds me of GNOME 2 and earlier, and that's not good.

Oh crap, in re-reading all of this, I think I need to go try KDE4, I didn't really want that...
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86 comments
 
KDE has improved a lot. Give it a shot. (unintentional rhyming - sorry.. ;-) )
 
Yeah, but it brought me back to SUSE after a 2 release fling with Ubuntu :)
 
I stalled out at Ubuntu 11.04 on my laptop, and Gnome 2 on my Gentoo workstation for the same reasons...
 
KDE 4.7.3 is a very good release, kde as come a long way since the initial clumsy 4.0. give it another go, you might be pleasantly surprised :)
 
+Greg Kroah-Hartman, I disagree with your statement to some degree.

We need t-shirts with "I am a user too!"

Frankly, and GNOME is by far not the only one suffering from this, a project like this SHOULD have "open source contributor" as one of their prime audiences (note that I say "contributor" not "developer").

These contributors, like you and me, are the folks that will write bugreports in diff -u form. Heck we're the folks that conquer your bugzilla and FILE the bug in the first place. We're the folks that give you the translations you want. We're the folks who very vocally tell you what is wrong (and sometimes we even tell you what is right) with your software. We're the folks who advocate your software to our tech-noob friends. We're the folks that look at your code sometimes, to find security issues and tell you nicely about it before we go public. We're the folks who form the pool out of which you're going to be fishing your next developer set.
We are the 99%^Wone percent, I will grant you that. But we are the one percent you as project NEED to get better in the long term, we are the one percent that your project needs to survive.

I can already hear the screams "but aunt Tilly is not like you". Guess what, to keep us both happy, you need to sometimes be a little creative. I'm not going to say "tradeoff", I'm going to say "creative". Many things can be solved in ways that keeps both audiences happy, it sometimes just takes a little more effort and smarts. But since we're the ones who will let you know where this went wrong, maybe just maybe we're worth listening to.

I can also hear "but Apple doesn't do this". Guess what! THEY DO. And guess again. In open source, we have some strengths and weaknesses as a result of our principles. We all believe that those strengths make up for the weaknesses (such as not shipping patented codecs, etc etc) by far. But realize what those strengths are: one key element of those strengths lie in the army of "open source contributors" that help you make your project better. By declaring war on us "open source contributors" by saying that we do not matter for your project, you're going into the world with one arm bound behind your back.



[the "you" in my rant above is clearly not +Greg Kroah-Hartman but the projects that think that "open source contributor" is not their target]
 
I also went back to KDE, and found it quite configurable, and, dare I say it, better than KDE3.
 
Howdy Greg. Long time no see! I believe KDE is a perfect fit for ya.
 
+Arjan van de Ven ok, fine, I will consider myself a "normal" user then :)

I'll go complain that GNOME 3 doesn't meet my needs, very good points you raise.
 
Using tint2 in combination with GNOME3 makes the experience less annoying for me.
 
KDE doesn't play that well with multi monitor setups. +Greg Kroah-Hartman should try Xfce (again) with Devils Pie [1].
Multi monitor plus multi taskbars work ideally in Xfce. Applications on Monitor 1, display in the taskbar on Monitor 1. If it's on monitor 3, it's only on taskbar 3. Save session will recreate windows on desired virtual desktops.

[1] Xfce does all of the above by default. Devils Pie will match an application to open with desired options (placement, desktop, minimized ----)
http://burtonini.com/blog/computers/devilspie
 
I switched to OpenSUSE but the Gnome flavor as I wanted to try 3.2.
My plan is to try KDE once I'm back home with more reliable fast internet. Gnome 3.2 is progress, but it's not there, yet. I think Greg covered many of my main issues, but I do have a few more based on /my/ odd ways of interacting with computers...
 
I am using Kde4 on OpenSuSE 11.4 with two Monitors without any issues. Both with the propietary Nvidia driver and with noveau.
 
with kde you can set keybinds (and notifications) for nearly everything. also. kwin now does an awesome job managing windows - it gives you sane defaults and very fine, rule based control if you want something special :)

if you dont need it, you can disable akonadi / nepomuk and then kde will have a very small memory/cpu footprint :)
 
+Keith Richie i beg to disagree, im using kde 4.7.3 with dual monitors, and without a problem. It plays very nicely with nvidia proprietary drivers and i believe the same is true for AMD/ATI. i cant say if the same is true with intel drivers though.
 
I've been a KDE user for the last 10 years, but with every release since 4.3, I'm getting more annoyed at how they mess up the kdepim suite in Kubuntu. Apparently kdepim 1.x is no longer supported and suffers from bitrot, but kdepim 2.x doesn't do what I need. I can manage by running kmail and kaddressbook in a ubuntu-9.10 chroot, but plan to migrate to some other desktop (probably xfce, but I'll give gnome3 and unity a fair chance) once I find a replacement mail client.
 
+Arnd Bergmann hum, i agree that kdepim is still a work in progress (although the last versions are much better), but you are kinda throwing the baby with the bath water... if you dont want to use kdepim, thats fine, its a separate package from kde desktop environment. I fail to see the logic, why dont you use thunderbird, gmail/gsuite or whatever instead and keep kde. its not like this are exclusive choices... what you are saying it that you are quitting using internal combustion engine vehicles because you dont like your fiat :P
 
I still use vtwm. My fingers got used to it on the sun3/60 25 years ago. I too am too grumpy to create a new configuration, and I've yet to find anything as flexible. Alas, vtwm is very far behind on the freedesktop.org specifications.. Very.
 
+Jakub Steiner is there any plans to re-address Alt-tab in G3 lifetime?, it would be nice if there was some hint from the all-holy designers that alt-tab is broken and could do with a design review, or does the design team consider it the best they can produce?
 
Have a look at dwm: http://dwm.suckless.org/

It should serve all your needs, though its concept (tiling wm and configuring in source code) might be a bit uncommon at first. I use it for 5 years or so now, and it's a very productive environment.
 
First they broke focus follows mouse, screensavers, and now alt-tab? The gnome developers are nuts.
 
+Paulo Dias - I was extremely happy with kmail+kaddressbook+akregator+kopete until about KDE 4.3, it was the killer feature that made me use the platform, and none of the alternatives seem to be able to do the things I could do back then. When I move away from those, I might just as well switch to something more lightweight as my desktop.
 
I've switched to kde4; I'm also a heavy (3x3) workspace user and gnome3's dynamic 1d workspace just don't do it for me.

Kde still misses some features I like in gnome 2 - in particular the shortcut on the window menu for sending windows to a neighbouring workspace, and the workspace overview isn't as nice; still I regard it as the current least worst as long as your machine has the grunt for it.
 
+Greg Kroah-Hartman Maybe you should use a tiling window manager to make use of your monitor space. I'm sure if you post your requirements on G+, someone will be able to spend some of their time to hack together a sane config that meets your needs.
 
If you try KDE 4.7.x don't forget the Meta-q shortcut for the list of activities and Meta-tab to change between activities. Also Alt-F3 to open the window menu and move applications to specific activities or make them available in all activities. Of course those shortcuts can be customized. The nice thing about activities is that you can keep completely different desktop configurations for different activities you do (net browsing, development, etc.) even with different workspaces contents and make KDE start/stop applications automatically for you when you start/stop an activity.
 
+Stephen Cameron focus-follows-mouse works right, the screensaver works (i.e. I can turn it off), so I have no problems there, just the alt-tab wierdness with the workspaces.

+Chester Moy I already did that, see my other post earlier today.
 
+Chester Moy oops, it's this very post, what's wrong with those requirements? Or do you mean specific key bindings and the like?
 
+Greg Kroah-Hartman Yup, that's what I mean. You can describe your desired desktop and someone familiar with that particular WM or DE may hack together a config according to your spec.
 
+Greg Kroah-Hartman LOL. Exactly the same here. GNOME3 on my laptop (very efficient) but not on the workstation.

I have an average of 12 terminal windows open, spread out over 2 extra workspaces. I use kate to open entire folders in a session. The things I miss at the moment are the top dock and some other extensions. Even got used to throwing my cursor in the top left corner. About the same sensation when I moved from using a mouse to a touchpad.
 
FWIW, I've mostly managed to come to terms with GNOME 3. I've long bound F1-F6 to "move to workspace N", and that still works, so I can bounce around quickly without having to run the GNOME shell workspace marathon. The initial creation and population of the workspaces does remain a pain; on the rare occasion when I log in, I just go quickly drop a terminal into each one so that they all at least exist.

Multiple monitors work fine for me once I found the right registration incantations.

For the most part I can live with it; gnome-shell-frippery helps a bit too. I do still stumble into the explosive upper-left corner a few times a day and that irritates me. For the rest, I've managed to cope.
 
have you tried awesome ? It's quite small and highly configurable. Been using it for a few years already.
 
+Felipe Balbi see above for why I can't run awesome (i.e. unsupported libraries the distros don't have and upstream is not developing anymore.)
 
+Greg Kroah-Hartman Give i3 WM a try, it has sane defaults, is easy to configure and IMO very powerful. Granted, it might not come with all the bells and whistles, but I find it quite good looking for a window-manager.
edit: and it works great with my multi-monitor setup.
edit2 (sorry): for the lazy: http://i3wm.org/
 
Thumbs up for XMonad!
Its multi-head support is really awesome!
 
I personally am a fan of Fluxbox. However, it did take a fair bit of tweaking to get it to where I wanted it, but it now functions exactly the way I want it to and it looks pretty.
 
Which libraries does Awesome require that aren't available? I thought they already fixed any dependencies on deprecated parts of xcb-util.

I have a certain fondness for awesome and i3 because they're XCB-based, and for xmonad because it's written in Haskell, but I'm sad to say I'm still just running GNOME 2.
 
Xfce + Compiz. In particular with the Compiz Grid plugin, which lets you arrange your windows in a tiling style with keyboard shortcuts. Definitely fails your out-of-the-box test though.
 
+Mladen Mijatov sure, I'll take the config, I'm building the latest i3 in the openSUSE build service at the moment and will try it out tomorrow.
 
+Greg Kroah-Hartman here it is. I prefer using conky for status bar but you can switch back to i3status if you wish. :)
http://www.sendspace.com/file/tcbge7

Ofc you could edit .i3/config and set your own prefered applications. My default i3 hotkey is Super key. Also, you'll find a lot of shortcuts in config. I like them sane, and am use to ALT+F4 for closing windows and stuff like that.

Here's the dual monitor stuff. I still didn't use i3 on my desktop machine but if you want I can get a hold of guy who's site is that and hack something up for you.
http://www.fastlinux.eu/linux/downloads/i3/.i3/scripts/dual_monitor.sh

Have fun! :)
 
No, cairo-xcb is maintained upstream at least as well as the cairo Xlib backend. It just hasn't been officially declared not-experimental yet. I'm not sure what's blocking that now; for a while, the XCB backend hadn't reached test-suite parity with the Xlib backend, but I think that's more or less taken care of these days. My guess is just that cairo development overall has slowed a lot compared to a few years ago. But development has been proceeding toward replacing the Xlib backend with a thin wrapper that mostly just delegates to the XCB backend.
 
+Mladen Mijatov ah, conky, that takes me back, I used to use that years ago...

Thanks for the config file, I'll mess with it tomorrow, and the shell script wasn't needed, arandr can handle setting up the monitors easily enough.
 
+Jamey Sharp ah, well, for some reason Red Hat and SUSE disabled it in their cairo builds, which makes running awesome a bit difficult at the moment.
 
+Greg Kroah-Hartman Okay. :) Didn't know that so I thought I should provide the whole package. Have fun with it. :) Maybe upload a screen shot when you are satisfied? :D
 
Why not just use the default build of OSX 10.6.8? it does everything you ask, and it's a real Unix...

/ducks and runs
 
My current Gnome3 problem is that the video drivers really aren't stable in 3D mode. I know Keith and David have worked hard on it for years. Emacs becomes unsable when the driver decides that green=black after dimming the screen and restoring. Don't get me started on Suspend.
 
+Greg Kroah-Hartman I think there is some changes in the work spaces, which i know annoys some people because it's hard to arrange around things. I'll have to dig around for what I saw on planet GNOME.

As for the alt-tab, I thought someone wrote an extension that goes back to the other behavior. GNOME 3's flaw for open source contributors who rely heavily on terminals is that it doesn't quite know how to deal with terminals. Terminals is an anomaly in a "task focused design". My two cents.

GNOME 3 will continue to evolve. I suspect there will be 20 million extensions reverting everything to GNOME 2. (eg bottom and top panels, etc etc) :-)

+Stephen Hemminger wow really? I don't think I've ever seen that.. I got other issues when it comes to graphic drivers. I'm hoping that my bug in F16 will be addressed.

+Jonathan Corbet I'm glad that the grumpy editor is a little less grumpy. :-) Thank you for sticking with it.

+Arjan van de Ven it is true that you 1 percenters are going to be filing the technical bugs that Aunt Miagi (sorry I hate Tilly) is not going to do when her laptop doesn't work because gnome-shell refused to die. I would say that it's going to be unstable for people like us until we've refined everything. And really, it's not like we don't have some way to change behavior programmatically.. GNOME shell extensions can probably fix alt-tab behavior or add some other feature that might be useful. I will submit to you that it will be the 1% that can also fix the behavior, the tools exist and evolve the desktop.
 
So nobody has mentioned the Mint GNOME3 extensions. I can't speak to the multi-monitor support, but it seems to address a number of the concerns folks have with GNOME3. Personally I'm just using GNOME3 from F15. The system-tray and notification wreckage is my only real complaint. If I rebooted several times a day, the desktop layout would be frustrating (I know Mint does allow for the desktops to be fixed).
 
My main quarrel with GNOME3 right now is the stability of the shell. And I happen to be one of those who love the shell for UI design that went into it. It just matches my preferred style of working very well.

However, I'm also one of those wimps who like their minimize and maximize buttons in the top-right corner of a window, an option to hibernate from the status menu, and the ability to use the Hamster time tracker from the main UI. For all of these I presently (on Ubuntu oneiric) need either gnome-tweak-tool, or a shell extension, or both. And the fact that a faulty extension can just crash my shell -- and the shell doesn't auto-recover by, say, restarting and disabling the offending extension -- is becoming a major pain.

Am I the only one running into that kind of issue?
 
In a german magazine I read that GNOME 3 is designed for beginners. But I think that most linux users are experienced users. So GNOME 3 doesn't fit. I changed to KDE after three horribly months wirh GNOME 3. Working with KDE makes me happy :-)
 
You need +awesome +Greg Kroah-Hartman, just face it! Yeah we are not developing it actively anymore, but it's still maintained and bug fixed! And has a huge friendly community and contributors. :-)
 
+Jonathan Corbet there is an extension for gnome-shell that disable the annoying dynamic workspaces and give you proper static ones back. I keep wanting to package it up for Fedora. +Stephen Hemminger I have a great one there, the moment I connect my laptop in the docking station, the display goes green, rendering it completely unusable :(
 
+Arjan van de Ven you got it spot on there. That is exactly why GNOME 3 is so sickening :( Nobody says they cannot or should not do all the wizz-bang-pow-wow impress Aunt Tilly stuff, who is most likely going to get confused since she doesn't recognize it - in fact I have stopped upgrading my parents computer for that very reason. If I switch it to gnome-shell my phone will start ringing off the hook. It is completely reasonable to ask for choice and configurability, but GNOME 3 seems to have made it an art to deny us that. I've raised a number of issues with the GNOME 3 crowd and I constantly get 'Use it, you will like it', or 'it was designed like that, just accept it' replies.

I cannot understand why they think they have to piss on the people who actually created the platform they are building on - lets face it, the Linux desktop hasn't exactly been taking on World Domination lately, and kicking your friends isn't exactly helping :(
 
Yep, i gave up on Gnome3 and Unity, went with KDE on home machine, and XFCE at work. Unsure if i will choose one or the other, but for now I'm fine using both.
 
I just switched to i3 here at Opera (work). At home and at my hackspace I use Gnome Shell. But at work, I need to work, and be effective doing it, hence i3 ;-)
 
I gave up on Gnome about 2 years ago. I always really loved the simplicity but I too just find it lacking now. I've been using KDE since openSUSE 11.2 and the only Gnome feature I miss is the printer manager.
 
Regarding placement in XFCE: I've found that using the "Window Manager Tweaks" control panel provides a useful, if confusing, option.

Moving the slider for "Minimum size of windows to trigger smart placement" on the "Placement" tab in that panel close (but not all the way!) to the "Small" end seems to do a better job of placement on large monitors (for some values of better).

Now - if only I could figure out why the "focus stealing prevention" sometimes decides that newly-mapped windows (particularly terminal windows) should be placed under other windows, when you're using a screen that is space-constrained (i.e. a netbook).
 
+Sriram Ramkrishna not being able to handle multiple terminal windows is such a strange thing to get wrong, it's as if the developers don't think this is a valid use case, yet there are just so many people for whom this is their day-to-day life. How did this go so wrong and what is being done to resolve it, I can't seem to find anyone talking about the alt-tab or other issues involved with this anywhere.

Some things are great about gnome 3, but others, wow. I understand when you replace a major component that it takes time to get it back up to feature parity with the previous version, but didn't anyone learn from the KDE 4 mess?
 
+Jes Sorensen You have all the choice in the platform to modify GNOME 3's behavior if you want to. The extensions stuff is actually really powerful because it gives you access to any library that is gobjectized from javascript.

That said, we're finally focusing on creating a good experience with multiple terminals. It is on our TODO list. The 1% is still important to us :-)
 
Gnome has 'normal' users? Pffft! I know of no one who uses Linux that isn't a developer or sysadmin or at least does some sort of work on a computer in their job. Who are these 'normal' Gnome using folks anyway? I've never met one.

Totally sucks having my Gnome config all dumb'd down just to make room for 'normal' users who don't really exist. I kinda miss having to configure my mouse wheel after first boot.
 
+Greg Donald They are people like girlfriends of those using PCs, or family. My kids are all non-geeks, as is another friend i setup with Linux. I know many 'Partners' who get stuck with it from their sysadmin boyfriend.
My old work ran Linux exclusively, except on the designers computers, so all helpdesk staff who had no clue what Linux even was used it.
Its pretty easy to install, my brother has it installed and hes fairly clueless with anything computers.
So there are a few non-techie users out there, but i would agree that a vast majority of users are probably sysadmins/developers/etc :)
 
+Sriram Ramkrishna the extension to restore the gnome2 alt-tab behavior was quite broken in F16/Gnome 3.2 last time I tried it. The gnome3 behavior of two successive alt-tabs not always restoring focus to my original window (in the case where you originate an alt-tab from a workspace with only one window) is maddening, soon its going to drive me to learn the extensions mechanism to fix that alt-tab extension :)
 
+Dave Airlie +Jakub Steiner there's a shell extension (currently in gnome-shell-extensions git) that has two more Alt+Tab modes to pick from, one of them being the "old" way. Installed it and never went back.
 
I've got Debian Stable on my desktop and for that KDE means 4.4, which still sucks, maybe 4.7 is usable, but I've got Trinity on there now and that suits me well enough that I would need a lot of convincing to put in the effort to try 4.7. Frankly, if the .4 release was that bad, (and it was), I don't think KDE4 deserves any more chances.

On my laptop I have Linux Mint Debian Edition, which is very good, although I miss one or two of the shortcuts from KDE3. I had a look at Mint 12 from a live CD and that looks nice too.
 
Be sure to play around with XFCE. It is quite good. And yes, as some have said - I'm sure a decently set up Plasma Desktop will be fine for you. There's pretty much no feature GNOME 2 or 3 have which you can't have there - except that you'll have to configure it :D
 
+Sriram Ramkrishna sorry late getting back on this one. It may well be possible to make extensions in GNOME3's new super config language, but that is besides the point here. We had a good usability experience in GNOME2, people are used to it and comfortable with it - all that went down the toilet with G3. It might be that I could write some javascripting (shiver) to get back some of the old sane behavior, but a) I don't know javascript, b) I had something that worked - so basically all GNOME3 has done to the bulk of users is making things way worse than they were, and I have seen practically zero effort coming from the GNOME camp with regard to rectifying this :(
 
Keybinding to switch workspaces in GNOME3 is Ctrl+Alt+ Up/Down arrow keys. This is similar to GNOME2 where this was Ctrl+Alt+ Left/Right arrow keys.
 
+Jes Sorensen Thanks for your utterly helpful comment. Feel free to read the initial post again to see what I responded too ("keybindings to switch between workspaces"), and which parts I didn't ("Ideally ones that can be changed"). You're welcome.
 
+André Č. Klapper yes of the 74+ comments - you didn't reference any. I am just pointing out that on the default keybindings front GNOME 3 once again proves to be a failure.
 
+Jes Sorensen I think that I will leave the task to read the inital post and/or using the Search function of your browser as an exercise to the commenter... Good luck. :)
 
+André Č. Klapper I realize it is easy to just ignore the issues that real users raise with GNOME and just continue pretending it is all perfect and wonderful. This is exactly why so many developers have left for Xfce with the recent distro upgrades. So please keep living in the bubble and ignore your users.
 
+Jes Sorensen I just explained existing shortcuts as this hadn't been answered yet. As I never stated that everything is perfect I'd appreciate if you didn't put words in my mouth. Plus it's not "my" users either. Maybe read first before rant - Thanks. :)
 
+André Č. Klapper you're wrong - being part of the GNOME release team automatically makes them your users and makes you partly responsible for what GNOME 3 has become. Just like kernel developers have a responsibility for not breaking things for their users unless there is a good reason for doing so, like if there was a security issue. This is exactly where the GNOME team has failed miserably with GNOME 3.
 
I love the default interface for Linux Mint (Gnome with bottom bar etc). Both task-oriented and app-oriented however the multi monitor support is very poor. 1) Different resolutions mess up. 2) Can't get out of mirror screens. 3) Finally get out of mirror screens, reboot and you cant get past the login screen. 3) Impossible to configure, or lack of documentation. Reason I've fallen back to windows 7 to assess what my options are again. Any suggestions? I'm a web developer and want to use Linux for surfing the web and development. Whilst keeping windows for games. I hear good things about KDE but I don't seem to like the way it looks on screenshots, but I've yet to actually tried it out yet.
 
I am running openSUSE 12.1 with Gnome3. I just installed i3 but don't know how to run and test it. Any good docs on this. Like how can I disable Gnome 3 and enable i3?
 
I tried KDE for a while and it wasn't for me. I've settled on Awesome WM with Ubuntu.
 
+Mladen Mijatov Can you tell what's the colorscheme and font you're using with Vim on the screenshot you posted?

BTW, I've discovered i3wm a few months ago and it's the most sane and ergonomic environment I've ever tried.
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