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RHEL 7 is shipping GNOME Shell in Classic Mode

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RHEL 7 the upcoming enterprise Linux of Red Hat is scheduled for the second half of 2013. Around half year ago Red Hat made known that they were going to ship GNOME 3 for their desktop, so it was easy to guess that they were going to use version 3.8 since that was going to be the latest GNOME version at the time for RHEL 7 Beta.


Shell 3.8 Classic Mode in Fedora 19

According to Denise Dumas, director of software engineering at Red Hat, RHEL 7 is going to use a tweaked version of Shell Classic

We think that people who are accustomed to Gnome 2 will use classic mode until they’re ready to experiment with modern mode. Classic mode is going to be the default for RHEL 7, and we’re in the final stages now. We’re tweaking it and having people experiment with it. The last thing we want to do is disrupt our customers’ workflows.


I think it’s been hard for the Gnome guys, because they really, really love modern mode, because that’s where their hearts are. But they’ve done a great job putting together classic mode for us, and I think it’s going to keep people working on RHEL 5, 6 and 7 who don’t want to retrain their fingers each time they switch operating systems — I think classic mode’s going to be really helpful for them.

Red Hat’s summit is currently in progress and new features will be revealed to the public.. Ooh yes, Red Hat is so famous to keep their future plans secret -at least whatever has to do with their precious RHEL :)

So a question here is why Classic instead of Default Shell; Does that means that RH guys recognize a small failure of Shell to be acceptable from their customers? The question is quite complex and we need to keep on mind two facts.

First, many of the guys that held high positions in Red Hat and Fedora Desktop are also respectful members of GNOME Community like the legendary Matthias Clasen. The second is that Classic Mode is basically just a Default Shell patched with a bunch of extensions, so the differences in practise are pretty small.

So the real question is: “Why RH guys (including some GNOME and Fedora guys) believe that Classic is more appropriate desktop than Default, for the RHEL customers*, when RHEL users are more tech-aware from the casual users of a Fedora or Arch (ok not Arch!) or Ubuntu home-distro?”.

The good news of course is that GNOME 3.8 and GNOME 3 will receive the enormous attention of RHEL and all its derivatives like CentOS and Oracle Linux. Besides RHEL is not only about CLI but is deployed as desktop workstation in various companies –RH doesn’t disclose their clients like Canonical.

*Question: Is a RHEL user considered customer while a Fedora user just user? –If yes, what that means? ;)

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  • luigi lops

    because… in a virtual machine that might need to run a GUI, it’s a little hard i believe to run the gnome-shell with opengl, and i would really kill anybody who would suggest to run it with llvm-pipe.
    Also i believe that remote managment on servers that usually only have a chip with 2d acceleration the admins would face the same problem.

    • alex285

      Classic requires opengl(it has also software rendering) like gnome-shell. Don’t confuse it with fallback mode

      • Márcio Sousa Rocha

        But classic mode has less effects, mainly overview transitions.

    • wouter

      This is not a thing for servers, most servers don’t have a gui running because X is a security risk and it requires a lot of extra processing power and disk space. This is purely done for the normal users.

  • Johannes

    Actually, while I welcome that the GNOME developers have responded to the users, I feel that coming from GNOME 2.x, the “classic mode still feels inferior. The GNOME Shell-based panel lacks all the interactivity that the good old gnome-panel had. E.g. you can install gnome-shell extensions, but you have no control over where on the panel they appear. With gnome-panel, you could freely position applets, move them around as you please. In gnome-shell my experience is that some extensions are competing for the same position and sometimes they overlap each other, sometimes one is hidden by the other, and since there is no way to reposition applets aka extensions, there is no way to remedy this.

    Similarly, when I right-click on a task in the taks panel, I expect to see a context menu for minimize, maximize etc. With the task panel of GNOME shell, while it looks somewhat familiar, it lacks all that functionality, so it feels like an empty shell, an unfulfilled promise. So, even with Classic mode, my dominant feeling when using GNOME 3 is that of lost: Loss of freedom and of options which I had before. Gnome shell may be an elegant straightjacket, but it is a straightjacket nevertheless, with or without Classic mode.

    • Helmuth Saatkamp

      Let’s face the facts, RHEL or CentOS are distributions mostly for servers. The shell DO what is necessary, as a server admin i dont need to play with the interface, customize the DE or move the applets to left or right in panel to be able to do my work or make me more productive.
      These things are for my pc/workstation, and i really don’t miss the old fashion panel.

      • Fewt

        Servers shouldn’t even have GUIs installed, but for those that do prefer them I’m glad to see RedHat preparing a sane desktop offering.

        • boodaddy

          I disagree. I have many Oracle DB servers, and my DB admins prefer to have a gui installed to make their work easier. It’s what they are used to.
          For me, those are about the only ones I run with Gnome, the rest are all run level 3.

          But, If my internal customers want a server with a GUI, because it makes them more productive, why should I argue?

          • Fewt

            All they need is a minimal install plus the Oracle required dependencies. The DBA should be given ssh access, and the rights to sudo to Oracle, and also sudo to run Export the display, install Oracle, and move on.

            They don’t need a full desktop install, and they certainly don’t need console access.

            Like I said though, “for those that do prefer them I’m glad to see RedHat preparing a sane desktop offering.”

          • jnamaya

            agree. the GUI only waste precious resources that could be used for something else.

          • Craig

            Amendment: servers *run by competent people* shouldn’t have GUIs installed. I guess they’re OK for people stupid enough to pay for Oracle though.

      • Wouter

        The gui is there for users, not for sys admins. There are web interfaces for managing servers if you really need a gui.

    • Dang Ren Bo

      Well, Classic’s panel is certainly better than logging into GNOME 2 and finding everything on the panel randomly rearranged.

      • Johannes

        The point is, if things get randomly rearranged on the classic panel, I can change it. If the same happens in GNOME shell, there is nothing I can do. There are several extensions I am using in parallel (wheather, sensors, status icon field, system monitor), and there seems to be no way of having them coexist peacefully, even though there is plenty of free space left…

  • jon_downfromthetrees

    It’s about money.

    For a business or institutional user of RHEL, change is not free. Or, necessarily, even welcome.

    Interface changes, and the workflow changes that follow from that, create costs in the form of down time, training, fixes, dealing with employee complaints, etc. By setting classic mode as the default in RHEL 7, Red Hat is trying to minimize those costs for its customers.

    (I know from my own experience that when you roll out new software to an organization, you inevitably discover that employees had created all sorts of tweaks and workarounds to make the old software work to their satisfaction, and that you and the developers were blissfully unaware of their existence. The new software wipes out those tweaks and workarounds, and, all of a sudden, employees complain that they can’t do their work anymore.)

    So, as much as I like Gnome Shell, this call by RH makes sense to me. In any case, assuming CentOS rolls this out as CentOS 7, there’s a very good chance I will switch to it, opting for the full shell.

    • Craig

      CentOS have a policy of not patching anything, so that’s already a given.

  • Marcus

    I have noticed that what confuses most of the classic users is that activities overview is still enabled. The whole desktop experience then changes just by pushing the mouse in the upper left corner.

    It would be great if this feature could be switched on/off by demand. At least I did not find a way to do so, yet.

  • nos

    And this is why we pay Red Hat, as they tend to do the sensible things, instead of going with $RANDOM distro where things changes at a whim, which would only cause our user to spend time retrain themselves on pointless things instead of doing their job.

  • boodaddy

    “Why RH guys (including some GNOME and Fedora guys) believe that Classic is more appropriate desktop than Default, for the RHEL customers*, when RHEL users are more tech-aware from the casual users of a Fedora or Arch (ok not Arch!) or Ubuntu home-distro?”.

    Its pretty simple: Because we PAY Red Hat to develop software the way WE want it. I am a Red Hat subscriber, and I voiced my opinions (like many many others I would presume) that Gnome 3.* was a bad idea for servers. That’s the beauty of a company like Red Hat… they listen to their customers, and steer their developers to produce products we as users want to use.

    I can’t say the same for the GNOME and Fedora projects. They tend to design GNOME the way their developers want it, and not necessarily the way their users want it. That’s pretty easy to see with all the Gnome hate across the internet.
    I am a Fedora user, and the first thing I do one a new instance is install Cinnamon just to get some useability back (My personal opinion).

    • Hannes Ovrén

      To be fair, there are A LOT of very satisfied GNOME users as well. As the existance of this site helps to prove, I suppose.

      • Colin Griffith

        I would really like some statistics about this. How many Gnome users are satisfied, vs. how many are unsatisfied?

    • Craig

      I agree it’s a perfectly sane choice. Don’t force change, but allow it if people have the time and inclination to learn something new.

      Having a GUI on a server on the other hand is strictly insane.

  • Paul Wohlhart

    I think its not a big riddle. They say “The last thing we want to do is disrupt our customers’ workflows.” This does not mean that anything in the shell is bad or broken. It’s just not what people are used to. Whoever is willing to learn something new and sees his/her needs met can easily try the shell, all the others dont need to. Having the classic mode as default is only logical, since people who are willing to adopt have to make and effort and adjustments anyway, the others get what they are used to out of the box.

    • Craig

      People who aren’t inclined to change things will be mostly undisturbed by going from GNOME 2 to classic mode. People who are inclined will configure it however they prefer.

      I have all my GSettings overrides in a git repository and can install them on a new system in about 3 seconds. If people were more willing to fix their own problems with the tools available instead of petitioning someone else to do it, they’d have nothing to whine about.

  • Michael Mistretta

    Is this really a surprise? I don’t get Gnome 3, I use it but I have to install 20 extensions to make it usable. It’s not a very attractive DE out of the box, it takes quite a bit of effort to make it ‘OK’. Don’t get me wrong, like I said, I use it every day.. but the developers take glee in removing “old” “boring” “legacy” or “hard to maintain” features and are on some hapless mission to turn Gnome into a tablet OS.

    99.99999% of us are using this on a desktop or laptop, why not develop software for the actual users of your software and make a Gnome Tablet fork if being a “me too” iOS clone software is your real motive while you whittle away your user base…?

    Some changes are good but for every two steps forward it’s three steps back. Red Hat pays the Gnome developers salary so I have to wonder what the point is? Obviously they do not want Gnomes 3’s desktop and want classic mode.

    • Luya Tshimbalanga

      Please read jon_downfromthetrees posts.
      Do you realize that Classic Mode is just an extended Gnome Shell and Gnome Shell is a part of Gnome 3?

      • Michael Mistretta

        Yes I am aware of what this Classic Mode is, and yes it is just extensions to mimic Gnome 2. Yes I understand where Red Hat is coming from and they they would prefer to ship with these Classic Mode extensions. I have to question where the Gnome project is going though because at this point I am still scratching my head at the end game.

        It seems geared each and every version more for tablets.. but it’s used by the vast majority (I would say, damn near 100%) by desktop and laptop users.

        My point is that I do not understand where the Gnome 3 developers are taking us.. I have no idea where this bus ride goes. They say they are anti-desktop pro-tablet / pro-touch anti-mouse & keyboard but Gnome is a *desktop* environment and they want that to shift to touch screens.

        The whole situation is confusing, why not just deliver an awesome desktop experience and spin off a Gnome tablettouch screenmobile version instead?

        I think it’s a little disheartening that the Gnome project has evolved into what it is only to have a bunch of addons thrown on top of it to get to mimic what it supposedly was supposed to replace, Gnome 2.

        Again I am a Gnome user, I’ve learned to deal with the change but it’s still not a great sign of where it’s going as a project.

        • Luya Tshimbalanga

          “My point is that I do not understand where the Gnome 3 developers are
          taking us.. I have no idea where this bus ride goes. They say they are
          anti-desktop pro-tablet / pro-touch anti-mouse & keyboard but Gnome
          is a *desktop* environment and they want that to shift to touch screens.”

          Who are those developers with those claims? Tablet is still a desktop under different name. Gnome Shell is taking advantage of the keyboard. Touch is not there yet because of missing functionality from the backend (Wayland library like Weston).

          “The whole situation is confusing, why not just deliver an awesome
          desktop experience and spin off a Gnome tablettouch screenmobile
          version instead?”

          Take a look at Enlightenement window manager allowing to set up the environment in either traditional desktop or mobile mode.

          • Michael Mistretta

            The statement of why I feel Gnome is slowly becoming pro-tablet / anti-desktop is coming directly from the Gnome developers from their last conference (I believe it was right before 3.6 was release?) where in their power point presentation they literally said, let’s remove desktop stuff and be more pro-touch/tablet stuff. It’s right there and I’m sure if you Google enough you could find it.

            That’s all well and good. Unless, of course, your users are laptop/desktop users and are no longer using your product because you can’t seem to grasp who your user base is and seemingly are willing to purge said user base..

            Apple did not replace OS X with iOS, that would be a disaster. Taking Gnome3 morphing it into a tablet OS and ripping away the features and customization that draws people to Linux is a huge costly mistake.

            How has pushing a touch interface down the throats of desktop users worked out for a multi-billion dollar company as big as Microsoft?

            (hint: not very well)

          • Craig

            They’re not pro- or anti- anything. Historically, they have been a desktop OS, so they’re not about to marginalise that in a blind rush to support something else. They’re evolving slowly and surely, based on experimentation and feedback.

            People are always fast to fling poorly-reasoned criticism but very slow to assist. Contrary to what the peanut gallery around here thinks, getting it right is a process — it can’t be prophesied. Progress would be faster if all these little cretin commenters and unconstructive criticizers actually helped, or at the very least came up with some well thought out feedback.

          • Michael Mistretta

            Hi! Lil’ Cretin (as they like to call me) here.

            You say my comments or criticisms are not constructive because you do not happen to share my opinion, so be it but I don’t believe it invalidates my argument.

            Here’s my ‘constructive’ feedback which I plan for the Gnome developers to take note of and fix promptly (as all software developers do, of course).

            1. Background changer is now flaming dog poop, why can’t we have Center, Zoom, or Tiled back? I don’t have a tablet so why do I have a background changer ripped from a damn tablet OS?

            2. What happened to Nautilus features? Did removing split pane really make it a better file manager? Where is my status bar?! Maybe I want to know how much disk space a directory is using.. Where are my freakin’ emblems? Whoops! Maximized the app! My close button is gone, where did it go? Oh it’s on the Gmenu thing now (luckily I found an extension to fix this), please do check gripe #6!

            3. Why do I need to install a ‘Gnome Tweak Tool’ to get simple customization options back? Not everyone likes Adwaita or default shell, in fact it’s terrible. There are quite a few (though ever decreasing due to gripe #4) shell/gtk3 themes out there which are much better designed than the default theme. Also Cantrell is possibly the worst font I’ve ever laid my eyes upon.

            4. Why must my shell themes break on every release? (causing many theme creators to simply ‘give up’ on creating themes) I wish there was some more consideration to custom themes, I’m still using Gnome 3.6 (though I’ve tried 3.8) because themes/extensions I find highly useful simply are broken if I upgrade.

            5. Perhaps it’s time to accept the fact 99.9% of users want their damn min/max buttons back and just add them back by default already… Yes I know you can add them back but by default, they’re not there yet EVERYONE adds them back.

            (and now for my #1 biggest gripe of them all)

            6. The Gmenu + Standard Menus + Gear has caused a completely nightmarish schizophrenic design, pick a please to put the damn menus and GO WITH IT. I should not have to look in three different places for my application menus!!!

            My purpose is not to ‘troll’ or insult anyone. I do appreciate the work the Gnome developers do and I do use their software. It is simply frustrating for all the good work they do they also tend to shoot themselves in the foot quite often with some rather bad design choices. All of these are easy fixes.

            The “we know what you want and need” philosophy doesn’t work on Linux. We use Linux because we want the freedom to customize and tailor the software to our needs. I can’t even change a damn font without a hack tool or custom editing a CSS file now and that’s just not how it ought to be.

            Now I’m not saying you can’t fork or use another DE, obviously this is open source and we have other choices and yes people are forking Gnome Shell and that’s all well and dandy but if Gnome developers would just give a LITTLE BIT Gnome Shell would be a better DE and we’d see less fragmentation.

            Also I want my wobbly windows back. : )

          • Craig

            1. Because no one added it yet. Mass code overhauls always produce some regressions. It may seem a small thing, but developers are tied up with many other, higher priority small things to produce a big whole.

            2. As above.

            3. All of those things are configurable via dconf-editor. Take a look at the settings tree in dconf-editor and then ask yourself how you could possibly come up with a simple interface for that or merge it with the control centre. It’s there if you look hard enough, along with about 10,000 other options.

            4. Because things are in flux, following a major version release and limited manpower to bring all the remaining components up to speed. That will settle down, especially after enterprise distros start shipping it. Like it or not, using cutting edge distros is volunteering yourself as a test dummy.

            5. That feedback has already been acknowledged and is even in the screenshot on this article. You can completely customise it to your prefernce with dconf-editor/gsettings.

            6. This transition is still a work in progress. There’s also a perfectly sensible model for it. Application level stuff is in the aptly named “app menu”, window level stuff is in the window.

            Does it not keep improving with each release? Those improvements are only limited by structured feedback (bug reports, not first world problem comments) and the direct involvement of more people.

          • Craig

            This comment is just mouth-running and sensationalism. There’s nothing at all concrete or actionable here. You simply like the sound of your own keyboard.

          • Michael Mistretta

            Craig you’re being awfully insulting, any particular reason for this? I’m hardly the harshest critic of Gnome 3. If I did not like it, I wouldn’t use it, right? I have some complaints, I feel they are valid.

            You actually seem to agree with some of my points but write it off as the software is simply “not done” or in the middle of a “massive code overhaul” (though the background changer has sucked for two full versions now) or is just “in flux”.

            Sorry but is this Gnome 3.8 final or Gnome 3.8 alpha that I’m using for testing purposes only?

            Made of easy? Nope, gotta use dconf-editor to get back simple stuff that ought to be default (or God forbid have a damn built in config editor, is Gnome Tweak Tool even an official Gnome app?), the equivalent of a reghack, that is “made of easy”?

            Hey man look, Gnome Shell was terrible at first. It’s gotten better since, the performance isn’t half back and I’ve adapted to the new ‘gnome’ way of things as far as workflow. I’ve been a good trooper but I still see some serious flaws in Gnome 3 and if making a point of it is “mouth-running sensationalism” than so be it.

            Guess we gotta agree to disagree on that point, obviously.

            P.S. Still miss my wobbly windows.

          • Craig

            My apologies for being a jerk. I was just reading Phoronix and got all fired up about all the trolling and idiocy there ;)

            I’m not sure I understand the “if it isn’t in control centre, it’s not user friendly!” mentality. dconf-editor may be a little overwhelming at first but it’s the only sane way of representing such a huge number of options. It’s really not a “hack” — it’s intended to be used by anyone who needs it. Chances are if you
            care enough to customise some hidden setting, you probably care enough to learn how to use dconf-editor. Anyway, Gnome Control Center, dconf-editor and Gnome Tweak Tool are all just front-ends to the same system.

            I don’t think Gnome will ever be finished or “done”. Any software can stand to be improved. Still, the limiting factor here is manpower. Complaining can help bring attention to flawed design but it can’t increase the speed of development.

          • Craig

            By the way, if you think something along the lines of “the developers have had long enough now, time to start complaining”, you should take a look at the activity here:


            I count 74 projects with commits in the last 48 hours. There’s also been activity on 4519 bugzilla tickets in the last 30 days.

            Only getting involved in the development process can improve that.

          • Craig

            They don’t claim to be anti- or pro- *anything*. Stop putting words in people’s mouths and editorialising things just so you can perform some pathetic, amateur dramatics.

  • Fred .

    I prefer the fallback. I hope they make this sane and fast and simple.
    This extension needs some improvement to make it sane.

  • lw8000

    I am very happy to see this. Gnome 3 is not a good fit. I can use Gnome 3, but when using it I just get the sense things have been changed just for the sake of change, instead of a logical reason. Applications are fragmented in where their menus are located and how they show up, for example. Some settings show up in the Applications / Accessories menu, and some things show up under the Options under the user account. And a whole bunch of items show up under “Other”. Things are just scattered everywhere where in Gnome 2 things were much more logically organized. I would rather just stick to the same old interface and not have the UI constantly changing. Gnome Classic has some more work however. For example, what’s the point of having the application name show up in the top bar near the menu? It’s redundant to the bottom bar, which we’ve had for years. I just don’t need all of the extra bloat and “features” that I will never use.

  • jmxx

    Once upon a time there was a nice, elegant, and perfectly usable Gnome 2.6. Gnome 2.6 with Ubuntu nearly conquered the world of developers who work on their computers developing software. (It would have been Torvalds dream come true.) Yes there are other users of computers such as web surfers, email checkers, tablet users, and gamers. Even the gamers liked Gnome 2.6.

    Unfortunately for the developers, the Gnome people decided that taking over the world of laptops was not
    enough. They wanted to take over the tablet business. So they destroyed Gnome by coming with Gnome 3.0 which is useful for tablets and web surfers and gamers but useless for developers.

    However as has been said by others, we developers do not develop sw on tablets or on android phones, we do
    it on a laptop. So developers are running away from Gnome 3.x to other shells, but still Gnome 3.x does not get the message.

    The smart thing would have been to develop a fork for tablets. But it seems like the people who use laptops for development got forked.