So now that the Alpha release for Fedora 15 has been declared gold, all the features are in, only polish and bug fixing are to be applied until final, is the time for previews are reviews, it was also the time for me to look at the new default desktop and understand what is coming. The executive summary of my review is: from a desktop point of view, this is a release to skip, and I am not talking about the Alpha, but about F15 altogether.
As you can see from the first look, the desktop is very bare, one single panel at the top, no icons, no files, no applets, no widgets, no nothing. And the panel and its widgets are dark, Windows and OS X style.
What I tested here is a very fresh version: GNOME 2.91.6 from Fedora 15 Alpha RC2:
Playing with the Desktop Live image, our default download there is very little to do other than getting a feel of the desktop, practically there is no app to use, which is a shame and a disservice to fedora... the ISO is 567MB for i686, respectively 568MB for x86_64, with plenty of room left available for a few useful goodies, that would make it an useful tool.
As with the apps is very little to talk about (at least we have in a beta of Firefox 4), let's move back to the desktop feel: for me not having a second panel with an open windows list so no quick application switch is possible turns into a huge productivity killer. No icons on the desktop means a big paradigm switch and very slow access to my files and to the general file system and no applets on the panel means little usefulness of my desktop - for example what good is Gnote now if I don't have access to my notes with 2 click any more?
And our friends from the Desktop Team succeeded to make it feel "Fedora" as little as they could, I am not talking now about the striped background that was
I didn't need more than 5 minutes to understand this is not for me, the developers made GNOME 3.0 worse from my usability point of view than Xfce and even than LXDE, so the next step was to try the backup option, the classic panel was supposed to be available as a fallback option and providing a "classic" style of work. Unfortunately, the settings are now re-organized in an awkward control panel where is no option to switch modes.
Unable to find a switch, the first idea was to reboot, degrade the video settings, so hardware acceleration isn't available and the panel kicks in automatically. This was an opportunity to learn I can't reboot my PC, only shut it down or suspend... hello! this is a desktop, not a portable! And also learned I don't have handy access (where the panel applets are gone?) to safely umount the USB stick where I saved my screenshots.
So reboot and degrade the video mode.
And surprise! As I expected, the panel is not the classic feel promised to people complaining about a paradigm shift, but is a half-assed effort to provide... something. It is half shell and half panel.
There is a window list, there are some applets, you can put launchers on the panel, the desktop is empty, with no files or launchers, the colors are an uneven mix of light and dark, the window widgets are completely different... at least you can use Gnote and switch apps.
So not even the "classic" mode is not good for me, time to end the review, an opportunity to notice neither here I have easy access to safely umount the USB stick where I saved the screenshots, there are some applets available, but only very few.
- for me, GNOME Shell as it will be available in Fedora 15 is not an option, my advice is if you can live with KDE, Xfce or LXDE instead, use one of those, they are better desktops. If not, do like me: stay with GNOME 2.32, it is a so better desktop compared with those other options;
- if you hope the Shell problems will be fixed in the couple of months until final, have a touch of reality: this is Alpha, is feature complete, only small bugfixes will get in forward, the problems outlined above are intentional decisions made from a flawed design, they won't be fixed this release cycle
- my faith with GNOME in Fedora is very low, the designers and developers refuse to listen, labelling all the non-enthusiastic feedback as "stop energy". Unity, the GNOME fork driven by Canonical does not look better either, so I can't think about a positive outcome, even if a massive user backslash will happen, the people in charge are so arrogant, they will not acknowledge their mistakes.