By Ian McGregor, and reposted here for your convenience:
First of all, I don’t run Compiz because I see it as no more than a resource-wasting annoyance. Sure, it looks cool, but it doesn’t help me with productivity in any way.
Secondly, I keep multiple windows open at all times, so I rarely see my desktop and it was good to see that GNOME shell includes a window switcher which can be accessed with the traditional Alt+Tab hotkeys.
Finally, my system isn’t a high-end system. I build my computers because it allows me to pick and choose hardware that I already know works with GNU/Linux. GNU/Linux, if you know what you’re doing, doesn’t need the latest and greatest hardware.
My system is, for the purpose of this review, as follows:
- CPU: AMD Sempron 2800+
- RAM: 1 GB
- Video: nVidia GeForce 6200
- Build date: June 2006
- Operating system: Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope)
Installing GNOME Shell
It’s important to note that GNOME Shell is still in fairly early development, more informatioin about GNOME Shell can be found here. I closed all applications except for a single GNOME terminal. I installed jhbuild with the command:
sudo apt-get install jhbuild
I then grabbed the GNOME Shell build script with the command:
I ran the setup script with the command:
The setup script seems to check for dependencies because I was presented with a message listing some dependencies I needed to install and then told to run the setup script again. I used apt-get to install the dependencies and ran the setup script a second time which was successful.
I then built and installed GNOME Shell with the command:
Building and installing took 18 minutes on my AMD Sempron 2800+ system and succeeded. I didn’t expect it to succeed because I hadn’t compiled anything in years and didn’t have anything in the way of a “build environment” installed, but it succeeded.
I then replaced the default GNOME window manager (Metacity) with GNOME Shell with the command:
Using GNOME Shell
GNOME Shell seems to be a compositing window manager and includes some special effects but not too many. You won’t find any desktop cube or wobbly windows (things that I feel are useless anyway), but you will find a very nice user interface. The usual panels were replaced with a single panel at the top of the screen which displays an Activities applet, the focused window icon and name, the date and time. the notification area (system tray) applet and a user applet which displays the name of the user. See the screenshots at the end of this article.
Clicking the Activities applet causes the desktop to zoom out, showing each of the running application windows as a thumbnail, and displaying the Activities panel. Clicking the Activities applet a second time restores the desktop to its normal state. The Activities panel contains a Find text box for searching, an Applications menu with Browse button, icons for the currently open applications, a Places menu and a Recent Documents menu with Browse button.
What was missing was the System menu. I played around a bit and found that clicking the user applet at the far right of the panel displays a menu containing a menu item for System Preferences. Clicking on this menu item opens the GNOME Control Center and that solved the missing System menu problem because GNOME Control Center displays all items in the System menu anyway, at least on my system. The user applet also has menu items for Lock Screen, Log Out, Shut Down and a Sidebar – which doesn’t seem to be implemented yet.
While the desktop is zoomed out (clicking on the Activities applet), there is a large “+” sign at the bottom right of the screen. This icon allows users to add workspaces. I only use one workspace but the icon functions fine.
Again, it’s important to note that GNOME Shell is still in fairly early development. However, the only thing that didn’t quite work was the pop-out sidebar, it pops out but it was empty. I’m not sure what its purpose is but I feel confident that it will be implemented in time.
Here are a couple of screenshots of GNOME Shell running on my Ubuntu 9.04 system (click each image for a larger view):
My normal GNOME desktop environment. Notice that there is only one item at the far left edge of the panel. The Activities applet takes the place of the menu bar (Applications, Places, System).
This is what the display looks like after clicking on the Activities panel applet at the far left edge of the panel.
My opinion of GNOME Shell
I love this thing! GNOME Shell seems to be working very well, I haven’t seen any problems, and is a very nice change from the traditional GNOME desktop. I love this thing! I’m very impressed with this shell especially given that it’s still in early development and seems to be fully functional. Did I mention that I love this thing?
Kudos to the GNOME developers for this beautiful and functional user interface. The only thing I need to do now is figure out how to run GNOME Shell as the default environment. If this is “early development”, I can hardly wait to see the finished product.
I wonder if Avant Window Navigator or wbar would work in this shell.
UPDATE: I already had GNOME Do installed and found that docky (a dock bar provided by GNOME Do) works quite well in GNOME Shell. More information about docky can be found here.
UPDATE2: Wbar works much better for me than docky. Wbar doesn’t have a lot of flashy eye candy, it just does its thing while staying out of your way. You can find a wbar tutorial here.
Updated screenshot showing wbar (at the bottom) and the new gKRELLM2 theme (far right) I made to match the Turrican GTK2 theme I’m using. By the way, the Turrican theme is one of four new themes you’ll see added to Ubuntu 9.10.
Sorry about the top left corner of the screenshots, the gnome screenshot tool doesn’t seem to like the Activites panel applet. Good thing I’m replacing it with Shutter 🙂
Feel free to join any of the communication channels listed below:
- IRC: Join irc.gnome.org:#gnome-shell to participate in daily discussions or get help with running, developing, or designing for the GNOME Shell.
- Mailing List: Subscribe to the GNOME Shell mailing list to get updates about the latest features and participate in the development and design discussions. Feel free to use this list for mailing your design ideas to it.
- Bugzilla: Monitor “gnome-shell” product in GNOME Bugzilla and use it to submit bugs or feature requests. View all open bugs. You can add firstname.lastname@example.org to your “Users to watch” list in your email preferences for Gnome Bugzilla to get e-mail updates about changes.
- Commit Updates: Subscribe to the gnome-shell module code updates in your svn-commits-list subscription options. Commit log for the GNOME Shell can be viewed here