GNOME 3.0 needs a big, visible change

Plans for the next major iteration of the GNOME desktop have been released with the major change being a new user experience.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

After first being discussed at the GUADEC conference back in July last year, the GNOME project is moving forward on its plans for GNOME 3.0, with a new user interface planned.

The plan for GNOME 3.0 sticks to the original intention of having GNOME 2.30, due in April 2010, be GNOME 3.0 and plans for GNOME Shell and Zeitgeist to be included have crystallised.

As noted in the plan: "one concern that came more than once was that it would be an error to do GNOME 3.0 without any big user-visible change" — I couldn't agree more with this sentiment.

One problem that I can foresee for Apple's Snow Leopard release of OS X is the lack of high visibility changes. It is an unfortunate truism of software development that a major version number increase needs to have visible changes, regardless of the work done behind the scenes and architectural improvements.


GNOME Zeitgeist looks to replace the standard
file management with a journal approach. (Credit: Chris Duckett/ZDNet.com.au)

GNOME 2.x's innards have consistently improved throughout its 2.x life cycle, but its user interface has not changed in any major way. For a default install, application functionality remains the same: Nautilus is still very much the same, the panel has remained untouched and the file chooser is still a mess despite multiple revisions.

It's great to see GNOME boldly step out into improving the user desktop experience metaphor.

A video demonstration of GNOME Zeitgeist looks very interesting indeed. Taking a journal rather than file system approach to file management looks like a good choice for the non-technical user — not having to explain UNIX file system structures to users can only be a good thing.

By the same token, GNOME Shell looks to improve panel and multiple desktop management. After having tested GNOME Shell a couple of months ago, it's safe to say that it has potential. Admittedly it was dog slow, but it will improve enormously if accepted as a core component of GNOME.

Zeitgeist and Shell are good choices to improve GNOME as they are already in development and their objectives are known. It should help GNOME avoid the problems that plagued KDE when they moved to their 4.0 release.

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