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GNOME 3 Is Bad For Your Health As a Developer

With the recent release of GNOME 3.6, once again the GNOME developer cabel have managed to royally upset their third party developer base – in particular those who develop GNOME Shell extensions and themes.

This blog post sums up the attitude of the GNOME developers nicely and should be required reading for anybody who thinks of developing an extension, theme, or application for GNOME 3.

GTK 3.6 breaks virtually every third party theme out there. GNOME Shell 3.6 breaks a large number of third party extensions. The removal of the ability to display debugging messages in Looking Glass in GNOME Shell 3.6 s a royal pain in the neck. Why was it removed? One of the developers decided that since GJS (GNOME JavaScript) had a logging facility, there was no need to provide a simple logging or debugging facility within the GNOME Shell code. By the way, the same developer arbitrarily decided there was no need for tooltips in GNOME Shell because the tooltip code was broken in St.

GNOME Shell 3.6 is not about freedom to customize. It should be – but unfortunately it is quickly becoming a walled garden. This is what happens when you let a small group of UX designers control a project.

2 comments to GNOME 3 Is Bad For Your Health As a Developer

  • It wouldn’t be quite so bad if those designers hadn’t baked in some fundamental mistakes that can’t be corrected without fundamentally changing Gnome-Shell. I don’t see Gnome-Ego allowing that.

    For example, the Application Overview is a close copy of the LaunchPad Apple introduced a few iterations ago to OS X. But, Gnome got at least two things wrong. First, you do not need to use the LaunchPad in OS X to launch an application. The traditional method, via the Finder, is still there, as is launching via Spotlight. I’m a heavy OS X user and never use LaunchPad.

    Different story in Gnome, where we are forced to use the Application Overview to find and launch applications.

    Here’s the second thing Gnome gets wrong about that: It is safe to assume that applications a user executes all the time will have icons housed in the dock, from where they will be launched. The user has enough familiarity with the app to recognize its icon in the launcher, unaccompanied by a name.

    Therefore, it is also safe to assume that when a user resorts to the App Overview, it is to look for an application he seldom uses. Because he hardly uses that app, it is very unlikely he will recognize it by its icon.

    And, indeed, every icon in the Application Overview has a label identifying that application by name.

    The better approach for Gnome would be to convert the App Overview into a largely text-base quasi menu, and relegate much diminished icons to the left of the application names.

    The icons in the Application Overview convey *no* useful information to a user.

    If I was a UI designer, I’m pretty sure I’d be reluctant to implement every request made by a user. But, the Gnome folks have made a bet that their locked down, rigid, One True Path will prove popular. I think they’re losing that bet.

  • Ryan Matte

    I completely agree that the gnome developer’s attitude completely sucks. The whole point of an open source community is that you’re able to leverage other people’s talent to create amazing stuff (themes included). For instance, Malys has been creating some kick-ass GTK3 themes, and now he’s going to have to go back and update about 10 themes because they are all broken in 3.6. It’s ridiculous to make updates to a framework with no regard for backwards compatibility. Also, developer’s tools are supposed to make people’s lives as easy as possible. Lazy, lazy development. I’d expect more from such a large project.