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I have seen the future, and it is GNOME 3

Jack Wallen has peered into the future and beheld the desktop of the future. Dare you sneak a peak as well? Read on and find out.

Today, I finally managed to get GNOME Shell installed so I could get a preview of what is to come on the Linux desktop (at least through the eyes of GNOME). This new GNOME will arrive sometime this year (2010) and will, I promise you, change the way you use your desktop. Finally someone has looked at the current desktop metaphor and said, "It's over!" Think about it, the current paradigm has been in play since, when, Windows 95? Earlier you say? CDE? Let's stick with Windows 95, because that really solidified the whole "taskbar, start button, icons, notification try" metaphor in the eyes of the public.

Well, public, that is about to change - drastically.

GNOME 3 is different. Very different. Gone is the start button, to be replaced by the Activities button. No more are you fumbling around in menus to find what you need. What you will have is a very streamlined, sleek, and sexy desktop that is sure to make your computing life easier. Oh of course there will be those that say, "If it isn't broke..." Well, I am one of those who will first claim that it is, in fact, "broke."

The current desktop that most everyone uses is klunky, kludgy, and ugly. It's a task bar, and menus, and icons, and blah blah blah...there's no "Apple factor." What do I mean by "Apple factor?" Simple - there is very little energy given to aesthetics. And believe me, in the current incarnation of the modern, capitalist society - it is all about form over function. You have to look good before you can be good.

It's crazy I know...but it's truth.

And you know what? Soon the Linux desktop will take that current formula

form/function

and totally rewrite it into a new equation similar to

form = function.

How do I know this? I have peeked into the future of the computer desktop and that future is GNOME 3. It wasn't an easy peek, believe me. I had to jump through a few hoops (mostly because of an update to the gnome-shell package that required a dependency that couldn't be met). But once I managed to get it up and running, the thought of going back to the old GNOME just didn't settle well with me.

Figure A

Figure A

I realize I'm being a bit circuitous at the moment...build up is really hard without a soundtrack behind you. So I guess I'll just pull the big reveal now. Figure A shows the GNOME Shell in action. I will tell you up front that all special effects (Compiz) are turned off. So all effects are inherent in the new shell. That is really an impressive feat when you see this in action (the picture really can't do it justice).

The gist of the desktop is you have Activities. Activities are what you do. Be it browsing, email, documents, multimedia...and these show up in the Activity "list" as either Applications, Places & Devices, or Recent Items. When you click on the Activities button all windows "thumbnail" (aka Compiz Scale) to make room for the listing and without having to minimize your windows.

You can also create new desktops. In fact a new record for desktops was set thanks to GNOME Shell. 1681 desktops were able to be created and opened with this new version. That's impressive. Of course if anyone has a need for that many desktops, they are in serious need of an intervention.

Bold predictions

I am going to make a fairly bold prediction here (would you expect anything less?). You will find (at least) aspects of this desktop working their way into both Windows and OS X in the future. That is how good GNOME 3 is going to be. If you don't believe me, try it yourself. On an Ubuntu machine, add the following to your /etc/apt/sources.list file:

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/ricotz/testing/ubuntu UBUNTU_RELEASE main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/ricotz/testing/ubuntu UBUNTU_RELEASE main

Where UBUNTU_RELEASE is the version you use (lucid, karmic, etc). Now issue the command apt-get install gnome-shell and HOPE it installs without a hitch. If it does, issue the command gnome-shell --replace & and be prepared to pick your socks off the floor, as they will be knocked off.

Final thoughts

I'm serious...this is the future of the desktop. There is no way around it. The GNOME team have absolutely nailed it. Somehow they managed to borrow Dr. Walter Bishop and steal a superior desktop from an alternate universe, reverse engineer it, and make it happen in our world. Who knows, it might be dangerous. Or, it might just be the future of the desktop.

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.