You Got A Question? Ask    GNOME Community!

Let there be Gnome-Shell :)

This post was made with an older stylesheet

That was the initial design and implementation of Gnome-Shell in 2009/10 and while was perfect for large screens, it was been dropped for the sake of  small touch devices that seem to growing fast into the market and became the number one goal of Gnome. Just for the history the first commit in Gnome-Shell was pushed in October 31, 2008 by Owen Taylor.

The goals

Address problems of Focus, Attention, and Interruption
• Define focal and peripheral regions
• Minimize disruption and facilitate uninterrupted focus
• Reduce administrative debris
• Make it easy to visualize what I’m doing now
• Make it easy to do something new
• Make it easy to do what I do most often
• Make it easy to recall a previous activity

Address problems of Storing, Finding, and Reminding
• Avoid mental models with categories and hierarchies
• Obviate the need for explicit naming, sorting, filing, or categorizing

Manage Complexity and Encourage Flexibility
• Allow the experience to adapt to the usage
• Work as well for the user that uses only two applications and the one that uses tens on multiple workspaces
• Core concepts should scale to capabilities of devices other than “desktop” computers
• Must be usable with a touch or single button input device
• Must be usable in when rotated or resized

Delight the user
• Better default experience, more consistency, more fun!
• Coherence leads to comfort
◦ Incoherence – inconsistency – confusion – discomfort ➤ judgements of incompetence
• Promote a brand identity
• Be aesthetically pleasing
• “Quality isn’t job one. Being totally fucking amazing is job one.”
• Provide a consistent experience for all users so that knowledge may be shared and
expectations may be stable and deterministic
• Provide a few isolated but highly expressive places for personalization


  • Not intended to address task-based or other high-concept, unified computing models at this time
  • Not optimized for multiple concurrent users
  • If possible, do not require custom “Shell-aware” applications


The document is titled  “GNOME Shell -A design for a personal integrated digital work environment”  and is worth to read it even if is outdated.  I don’t remember where I got it from (I have it for too long) so I uploaded it on Dropbox.

Download from DropBox

  We can't watch comments unless G+ provides an API or if you send a notification, e.g +World Of Gnome
     Sometimes is better to place your questions on GNOME Community
  • jon_downfromthetrees

    >>”…dropped for the sake of  small touch devices…”

    How many “small touch devices” are running Gnome?  How many have committed to running Gnome?

    Is there any credible evidence that any small device will *ever” run Gnome?

    GUI’s for small devices need to be developed on their own, apart from desktop GUI’s.  

    • Alexis Diavatis

      There are devices that you can run Gnome. I am only saying from youTube and e-Bay that they sell some custom made.  However I haven’t found a single OEM that ships Gnome pre-installed on tablet. That is a failure of Gnome  that they trying to change. 

      GUI that needs to change considers more the Applications rather the Gnome-Shell. Shell could easily fit in big and small resolutions. Besides tablets nowadays succeed great resolutions. 

      Don’t forget that Gnome doesn’t do any better in Desktop, how many manufactures ship Gnome (or Linux if you want) on their laptops/desktops? Maybe we have to install Gnome on our own into the tablets, exactly same way as we do now in desktop.  

      • jon_downfromthetrees

        My guess is we won’t be able to put Gnome, or anything else, on tablets and phones.  Those devices are either locked down now or will be soon. That’s why I think changes to Gnome to make it more useful on small devices are, frankly, pointless.  Gnome’s market is on the desktop. (I’d make the same point about KDE.) 

        • Alexis Diavatis

          They simply cannot lock down hardware. There are hundreds of Asian OEMs to take over this opportunity. Also Microsoft isn’t the company it used to be, I doubt if can “force” OEMs to lockout other OS from devices, while Google so far it’s a proven Open Source friendly company and each tablet that can run Android, it should be able to run Gnome as well. Apple has it’s own hardware, but you can install Linux there anyway :) 

          • jon_downfromthetrees

            Well, I’m not optimistic about that. iPhones and iPads have been locked down from the start.  Microsoft will either be a player in small devices or it won’t be, but the small devices it sells will be locked to Windows. That leaves Android.

            I have no problem with Gnome or anyone developing for Android. But, that effort ought to be apart from the desktop effort.  Two teams working on two different platforms.

          • Alexis Diavatis

            Hmm, think that iPad (or any Tablet) achieves a resolution ~2000×1500. That’s even bigger than my 23″ desktop monitor. Also think that new Ultrabooks have touch screen support. 

            I conclude that Gnome should be touch screen optimized (even for the Desktops/Laptops) and if support touchscreens why not be used to tablets (with its current form) as resolutions are high there?

            Windows 8 -that they have an excellent concept with Metro- and Ubuntu Unity do the same. One OS for tablets/desktops/ultrabooks/TV’s.  

            I don’t know why you refer phones, Gnome targets to tablets (as far as I know) not to smartphones.  

          • jon_downfromthetrees

            Screen resolution isn’t the point.  The point is how people use hardware. The use of a desktop is fundamentally different than the use of a tablet.  People are OK with using their fingers on a device that rests on their lap or sits in their hand. But the notion that people will willingly sit at a desk and reach out and tap their fingers on a screen is wrong.  

            People who have used and supported Gnome in the past are upset and abandoning Gnome because it appears that the Gnome team has gone out of its way to engineer an interface to small devices while willfully ignoring the the different needs of desktop users. I believe some of that hostility is justified, and that some is not.

            I like Gnome 3, a lot.  But, I cannot convince myself to use it for more than a few hours. 

            I like, for example, the idea that additional workspaces open dynamically.  But, why must I move my mouse to the upper-left corner to reveal workspaces that are on the other side of the screen? How is that method demonstrably better than putting icons representing the workspaces in the panel or some other always visible location for users to click on? Gnome provides *no* on-screen visual clues telling people how to access those workspaces.  Gnome depends on people finding some web site that explains it.  That’s a serious mistake because most people will walk away from Gnome rather than go looking for help. (I know there’s a Help file.  I also know that few people will read it. if you can’t use an interface without reading the directions, there’s a Big Problem.)

            Also, the insistence on showing a long stack of overly large icons as the only way to find programs confuses me.  What value do all those large icons add, other than some visual appeal? It’s the name of the program people key on, assuming they know it.  If they don’t, no icon in the world is going to help them.

            Complaints about lack of configurability are self-evident and justified.  For example, how is Gnome a better interface because I am not allowed to change the width of the Launcher? How is it possible that *any* designer, much less a Gnome designer, has the smarts to tell me that I do not have a legitimate reason to alter the width of the Launcher?

          • Ruslanchik

            I also really like Gnome 3 and agree with many of your points. The first time I used it I was so confused that I swore I would never touch it again. Then, an annoying bug in Unity brought me back. After doing some research on how to use it, I find Gnome 3 a pleasure. This is mostly because I am using hot keys for almost every task and have installed extensions for any mouse-specific tasks. I literally never use the default mouse behavior of clicking on Activities to open up the Launcher. 

            The I am running Gnome 3 on a laptop and the usage of the screen is very good. There are no wasted bars or icons. The interface stays out of my way so I can use my programs (mostly in full screen). However, I can see how this would be undesirable on a desktop with a large monitor. With a big enough monitor you would never want to run a program full screen and having more accessible navigation options is very desirable. While I like the extensions system, which adds lots of functionality, I agree that Gnome 3 needs to be more flexible to meet the needs of users on multiple platforms. 

            Also, some fundamental design changes would greatly improve the interface. The Linux Deepin distro made a few small changes to the Gnome 3 interface (moving the workspace selector and the application list to the left side of the screen) that should be seriously considered for inclusion in the default package. Or, better yet, users should be given the choice of where these things appear. 

            I also agree that Gnome 3 seems to have been developed for the wrong audience. The UI is obviously designed with touch devices in mind. Desktop and laptop uses obviously make up the majority, though. Changes need to be made to appeal to these users to help spread the DE’s popularity so there will be a chance to attract users of other devices.

          • jon_downfromthetrees

            I use a Macbook as well as my Linux system. I can see that the current design of Gnome is a better fit for that laptop than my 24-inch monitor. Most of my what I do on either machine is a lot of reading broken up by short intervals of writing. On the desktop, my hands are on the keyboard only when I’m writing.  That makes using Gnome’s keyboard commands inconvenient.  But, on the Macbook, the combination of the trackpad and the keyboard would make those keyboard commands very convenient. 

  • Pingback: “Treat Gnome as something new” by Allan Day | Interview | woGue()

  • Pingback: My Favorite Gnome Shell Hacker! | woGue()