Open Source

GNOME is simply losing its grasp

The GNOME development team shot another bullet in their foot when they removed some beloved features from the Nautilus file manager. Read Jack Wallen's take on how this serves as the final blow to GNOME's relevancy.

Of all the Linux desktops, I would have thought GNOME to be the last bastion of stability and common good. But since the release of GNOME 3, things have steadily (and drastically) gone downhill. The latest bit of crazy to come from the GNOME camp is the list of features being removed from the Nautilus file manager (as of 3.6). This short list looks like:

  • Compact View gone
  • ‘Type Ahead Find’ gone
  • ‘New file’ templates gone
  • Application Menu gone
  • ‘Go’ menu gone
  • F3 split screen gone
  • ‘Tree’ view gone
  • Bookmark menu items gone
  • Backspace shortcut to return to parent folder gone

So strong has the reaction been, that distributions like Linux Mint are developing their own file manager (Nemo) and Ubuntu froze Nautilus 3.4 for the 12.04 release (as well as the upcoming 12.10) and are considering creating their own file manager for Unity. It has also been suggested that Ubuntu adopt either the Linux Mint Nemo file manager or the Marlin file manager as the new default.

Unfortunately, what this says to me is that GNOME is not only losing ground, they are losing touch. For the longest time GNOME had the development team that honestly listened to their users. When something looked like it was about to jump the shark, the team reeled it in and took what the users said to heart. Now? Not so much. Now GNOME seems to be on a collision course with irrelevance and, in the end... a permanent spot leaning against the wall at the Linux desktop party.

You see -- the world is changing exponentially faster than it once did. And with the immediacy of connection and change, it is so easy to get left behind. With GNOME removing features from the file manager that have been favorites for many users for a long, long time, they are pulling the inevitable "shooting themselves in the foot". And with Ubuntu and Linux Mint pulling the plug on support for Nautilus, a crucial piece of the desktop puzzle will no longer have GNOME's name on it within two of the most user-friendly desktops on the planet.

What is really sad about this whole situation is that when GNOME 3 first arrived it seemed as if it could completely change the world of the PC desktop. It seemed that good of an idea. But from the beginning of GNOME 3's life, the developers refused to listen to the end users. It seemed they really only cared about their own needs and targeted a very minuscule cross section of users -- mostly developers and those that were already drinking the Kool-Aid.

Well, that Kool-Aid has gone sour and fewer and fewer people are opting for the GNOME 3 desktop. Making a file manager less usable is just another nail in an already rotting coffin.

I remember, way back in '97 and '98, using the beta versions of the GNOME desktop and thinking this is what the computer desktop is all about. No more was I locked down to the Windows way. GNOME was rough around the edges, but it offered features no other desktop had to offer. And when there was a problem or a feature request, the developers listened.

Fast forward a decade and GNOME had one of the most usable, stable desktops around. But then the metaphor changed and began to migrate to a more mobile, touch-based interface and GNOME did what it had always done best -- adapt. Only this time, in the act of adapting, their cart fell off the tracks and all of the other desktops have slipped past them and watched as GNOME continued to keep on the blinders and fall further and further into trouble.

The issues with Nautilus 3.6, quite possibly, serve as the final straw for the Linux desktop that, for so long, held the title as the King of interfaces for the open source world. Now, GNOME would have a long, hard fight to try to reclaim anything resembling that title. Personally, I'd like to see it happen. I don't believe it will.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

22 comments
Jaqui
Jaqui

and nothing will change that. bad ui from the start, made it useless for REAL work, from the start.

IsacDaavid
IsacDaavid

I've always believed that GNOME 3 is quite innovative, and the only desktop environment which develops freely regardless of other OS's paradigms. Aside from that, there is a native, community driven extensions system which lets you customize it as much as you want; even beyond of GNOME 2. Not coincidentally, GNU/Linux distros focused on [s]beginners[/s] mediocrity like Ubuntu and Mint have refused to embrace completely the new shell (although ironically they still heavily rely on GNOME's core), while the edge distros like Fedora, Arch , Debian, Gentoo and even the BSDs received it with open arms; or at least they enable you to choose the DE of your taste, 'cause their users actually know how to use a computer and do not need their mommy to improvise an interface that resembles what babies are used to know. Most of the things you say about the new Nautilus are quite [b]lame lies[/b]. First it was something that didn't occur out of the blue; it had been planned time ago. Second, most of the features you say are gone are not. The type ahead search isn't gone; actually it was improved. The "new file" option still works if you know how to use a ~/templates folder. I still see a pretty reworked app menu. Preferences, connect to server, bookmarks and "go to" are now accessed through the application menu on the panel (supposing you are using gnome-shell and not hybrid stuff such as Unity or Cinnamon WHICH AREN'T PART OF GNOME and GNOME developers aren't responsible of). Please get a bit more informed before writing a whole hateful article about something.

mark
mark

Even though there were significant changes in the way the desktop worked the win 95 product was easier and more productive than 3.1 version. The same cannot be said about gnome 3 or Win 8. Win 8 is more useable than Gnome 3 in my opinion. Win 8 is similar to Windows 7 after you get past the cheesy Metro touch Fisher Price interface of the tablet screen.

clockmendergb
clockmendergb

maszsam@... As a one finger type maybe two, I have to agree with you. I like a touch screen I hate the touch pad on a laptop and I wish i could type Better. I still sit at my desktop most of the time at home as I am comfortable with the mouse and keyboard Even on a laptop I use a mouse when possible. My phone a touch screen is is preferred. As for Gnome I prefer kde and Suisse has always been my favorite Linux Os

mitchloftus
mitchloftus

Why is everyone hopping on the touch pad wagon. I've got one. I don't like it. It doesn't have a keyboard. I could not even write this comment in a reasonable time on a touch pad. It's OK for reading E-books, and maybe a couple of other simple tasks, but for anything requiring actual input .... no good. I doubt it ever will be. So? Why does anyone think that migrating a user interface to something that looks like it is built for a touch pad is a good idea? Just because it's new and different? Phaw. That's silly. Anyone here have a touch screen at your desktop? On your laptop? Anyone who is NOT a geek who loves toys? Windows 8, I notice, is similarly flawed. Hasn't anyone heard the phrase, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it?"

dvd.moore
dvd.moore

Does this mean from now on all the available apps are going to have a K in their names?

pjolson
pjolson

It seems to me the one thing that the Gnome, Windows, etc. desktop developers have completely forgotten is the end user. I'm an openSUSE/SLES/Gnome user with over 30 years in the IT industry. Twice I have tried to switch to openSUSE 12.1/Gnome 3 and had to fall back to 11.4/2. Why? The user interface is NOT intuitively understandable and cannot simply be jumped into with minor inconveniences (such as Windows XP to Windows 7). In both instances, it took less time to achieve my results by installing an earlier version distro. In a real-world production environment, end users do not have time to fiddle with a completely new interface. And the main distro vendors need to realize that the adoption of their newer versions will be severely impacted by bad desktop UI's. Right now I have no plans to move forward to either openSUSE/SLES 12.x because of the desktop issue. This will also be the downfall of Windows 8. BTW desktop developers - If I wanted my computer to work like a smartphone, I'd just buy the smart phone. There are reasons I DON'T use my smartphone as my main production tool. You've forgotten that.

hometoy
hometoy

I am hoping that the Gnome developers actually do have a *vision* they are building towards, and just not telling us. First they remove the minimize, now they remove split screen? Let's make it more and more difficult to drag-and-drop files from one folder to another! Thankfully there ARE choices, whether Unity (on Ubuntu or Fedora), KDE, Xfce, LXDE or others. Unity is shaping up nicely and gives the appearance they are listening to their users so it is genuinely improving with each version. KDE is a good, solid, conservative environment that is very flexible and customizable. Plasma Active is even being used in Tablets *now*. One defining moment will be when the more conservative enterprises are faced with Gnome from Red Hat. If their customers balk, then we'll see Gnome do a two-step towards whatever these enterprises want. And if Red Hat doesn't, SUSE has been reorganizing and laying the foundation under their new owners so they should be ready to really push SUSE as a competitor to Red Hat. If SUSE wanted, openSUSE uses KDE as their default and could probably tweak it for the enterprises and switch to that if that will satisfy their customers.

wolsonjr
wolsonjr

lxde is more and more becoming my answer to both gnome3 and kde3+ - stability be damned, they are just plain unusable

andrew5859
andrew5859

There is hope for Gome, and the are projects currently in the making which still use the original Gnome 2. If one is tired of the fiddle-faddle of Gnome 3 that the developers have obviously blundered, and also fail to listen to the end user, then come over to SolusOS, which is a fresh clean & lite OS that is simple to use and the developer is always open to user suggestion to make and improve on how Gnome 2 can still be utilized....it also still uses the Nautilus file manager....so, if you're curiousity is up, and you'd like to see what I'm talking about, come on over to http://www.solusos.com you won't be disappointed, I've been using SolusOS for over a year, and haven't had any issues so far....it's the one OS that doesn't use a whole lot of resources....so take a look, come and see.....cheers

pinroot
pinroot

There was a time when KDE was transitioning from 3.x to 4.x where it seemed that KDE would become irrelevant. Nothing worked, it was bloated, etc, etc. But today it seems pretty stable (though still a little bloated) and usable, which I never would have believed was possible after all the problems they had with the initial 4.0 release. Hopefully, for the sake of Gnome and its users, things will go the same way with Gnome. Although personally, I haven't used Gnome or KDE in some time, and prefer to use either XFCE or Fluxbox because of their simplicity and lack of bloat.

StuartRothrock
StuartRothrock

I can't wait for the Fedora team to replace GNOME3. With minor known hacks I had been able to keep working with perfornamce, but not after the latest changes.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Those are fking irritating. I have had them several times show up overtop of an appilication (especially old games that hid the cursor by moving it to the side of the screen) while other cases they wouldn't show up until you clicked an empty spot on the desktop.

maszsam
maszsam

For people who don't innately see a problem with one finger typing for everything, touch screen is going to be a blast. For more serious types, it is prohibitively silly. To me its as dumb as texting is to voice mail, for general purposes. But the reality is that many people just love it. Maybe these are the same types that wind up as lunch in H. G. Wells' books. In the mean time, do hang on to your OS software.

hometoy
hometoy

While many of the programs do have the "k" in front, they seem to be moving away from that (Amarok, Digikam, Calligre, etc.) 'Kay?

Slayer_
Slayer_

kThat's kSo kIritating.

hometoy
hometoy

I thought Gnome3 was billed as a "major change" from the outset. As such one cannot expect to easily move into it without a learning curve just like there will be the learning curve for Windows 8+ or even Windows 3.1 to Windows 95! Or even to a degree going between KDE, Gnome(2), Fluxbox, Gnome(3) and Xfce (haven't done LXDE). The changes are not *as* drastic but there is still the learning curve for each one.

andrew5859
andrew5859

Come on now, Ubuntu, Fedora, KDE, etc....they're all trying to make their OS look more and more like Windows.....Linux was developed with the idea of being different from Windows, that's why people started using linux in the first place, to get away from Windows. The OS's I mentioned above are bloated, and in their own way, difficult to work with, and in their own right, a lot of other programs won't work wih them.....the gnome devs ahve completely lost their minds, they aren't listening to their user base, if you do get some kind of response from them, it's usually very arogant...

IsacDaavid
IsacDaavid

Really? How is it that I still have that button?

andrew5859
andrew5859

Update: The current version of SolusOS is 1.2 Eveline.....there's a respin 1.3 in the works currently, with UEFI and OEM support...future version 2.0 is also in progress, but will have a new package manager, it will be using the PiSi package manager that is used in Pardus...there are updates over at the SolusOS forums if anyone is interested in researching a better OS

pjolson
pjolson

But there is the concept of incremental changes which better suits the enterprise, because it's not just IT that needs to learn the new UI, it's the entire organization. And IT's time is not just impacted by having to learn the new UI themselves, but increased end-user training and support time across the entire enterprise. Bumping that up against already strained IT departments (staff, time and budget) and you have an untenable situation. If Linux is ever to make it to the corporate desktop, the UI developers need to take these things into consideration. Until then, Linux will only be used for servers and desktops in the IT department, and by hobbyists who don't control corporate dollars.