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    However, there’s one advantage to Gnome - it’s a good indicator of where the future of Linux lies.

    I feel like it’s been a good 15 years since people have made the argument that desktop usability has any bearing on the future of adoption. UI/UX anti-patterns are pretty rampant in modern UIs - be they touch or pointer-based. Of all the things preventing “Linux on the desktop” from reaching critical mass, I would put Gnome’s despotic approach to minimalism and various idiosyncrasies way down on the list.

    I remember hot takes declaring web apps a dumb fad because users would reject their painful UI and would not tolerate radically different UX across multiple different applications. In today’s world this is the norm: even native apps on mobile devices style their own widgets, use their own layouts and only loosely follow platform usability guidelines or various trendy design patterns.

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      I agree with you.

      A curious fact though, Ubuntu with gnome 2 was probably the closest Linux ever was to more widespread adoption as a desktop solution.

      The whole gnome 3 fiasco pretty much dictated the peak. Linux mint became the most popular distribution thanks to their commitment to a classic desktop paradigm. But let’s be honest, Linux mint never had the momentum Ubuntu had.

      Now it all belongs to the past. More and more people are happy with a phone as their primary or even only computing device. And the phones even offer a desktop mode of you connect them to a screen. The future of desktop computer might well, and sadly, be in android and iOS.

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        Linux mint became the most popular distribution thanks to their commitment to a classic desktop paradigm.

        When did that happened? It is hard to believe that Linux Mint was more popular than Ubuntu at any time.

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          Looks like I was wrong in that it never overtook Ubuntu, however the effect of moving away from gnome2 is quite clear: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&q=linux%20mint,ubuntu%20linux

          The news story I remember from a decade ago is this one: https://www.extremetech.com/computing/104581-linux-mint-the-new-ubuntu

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        UI/UX anti-patterns are pretty rampant in modern UIs - be they touch or pointer-based.

        At what point are these anti-patterns and at what point are these desire paths? I’m legitimately asking because I’m not very aware of the pedagogy of UI/UX and what basis practitioners have to say “anti-pattern” in these situations. TFA was just a rant, there wasn’t anything approaching empiricism there.

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          The masses won’t chose what works best for them, but rather what looks flashier. Something can be desired by the author of a UI because of popularity incentive. Which in its turn is driven by the looks. It can still be an anti pattern.

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            I’d still appreciate concrete examples of anti-patterns (and no, dark patterns that are designed to trick consumers don’t count).

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              The fact that UI elements lack a consistent look/feel between applications. The conventional wisdom in the 90s and early 00s was that this was massively off-putting to users. It’s the entire reason why Apple (and later) Gnome created formal Human Interface Guidelines (http://interface.free.fr/Archives/Apple_HIGuidelines.pdf and https://developer.gnome.org/hig/stable/). Modern apps will loosely follow design trends, but nothing resembling the level of formalization of a HIG-like document.

              I also don’t fully understand why you feel dark patterns shouldn’t count?

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                Thanks for taking the time to answer!

                I also don’t fully understand why you feel dark patterns shouldn’t count?

                Because they are real antipatterns, designed to trick the user into taking actions contrary to their intentions.

                If you had to page through 3 screens of ads to save a file,that would be a dark antipattern - it would leverage something that you have to do as a user and make is profitable for someone else.

                I use Windows and Mac daily and the built-in system don’t have that stuff. If Gnome does I’d be surprised.

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                A few general anti-patterns: hamburger menus, low-contrast text, buttons that don’t look like buttons.

                Specific anti-patterns mentioned in the article: unnecessarily large amounts of mouse movement for common flows (click upper-left corner to open activities view, move mouse to screen bottom to select an application). Hidden/missing buttons for common actions (minimize/maximize). Missing/removed features that are intuitive, ergonomic, and useful (desktop icons, files still doesn’t let you right-click > create files.). Missing visual hints for focus (“no distinction between foreground and background windows”).

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                  Thanks for taking the time to answer, I appreciate it.

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                    Specific anti-patterns mentioned in the article: unnecessarily large amounts of mouse movement for common flows (click upper-left corner to open activities view, move mouse to screen bottom to select an application). Hidden/missing buttons for common actions (minimize/maximize). Missing/removed features that are intuitive, ergonomic, and useful (desktop icons, files still doesn’t let you right-click > create files.). Missing visual hints for focus (“no distinction between foreground and background windows”).

                    I’m curious, are you aware of any tools in regular, current-use that follow these guidelines? Like enterprise apps or something.

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                      I can only give you a few examples, but these are ones that I’ve thought of off the top of my head.

                      Microsoft Outlook 2016 places several navigation panes on the left side in close proximity to each other - after selecting a folder, you can select an email it in with only a small mouse motion. Windows 10 places the start menu icon right next to the icons in the taskbar, and several more useful buttons (power, profile settings) in the lower-left-hand corner of the start menu - after you click the start button, you have several useful actions available to you with a relatively small mouse movement.

                      The Windows context menu allows you to make a new file very easily.

                      Windows has desktop icons - which you can also completely remove if you don’t like.

                      Windows windows have hinting to help you determine which is focused - albeit not as much as ideal.

                      Are either of these programs perfect? Quite the opposite - I think that they’re bad. But they do get these things right, and I would much prefer the Windows interface to the GNOME 40 interface (although Openbox and StumpWM would be better than either).

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            dedoimedo publishes a lot of these, uh, quality reviews. Every time it’s the same story:

            • After a lot of bikeshedding and pretentious bickering discussion of potential UX improvements and anecdotes studies, $software has put out a new release…

            • …and we now bring you a lot of bikeshedding and pretentious bickering discussion on how they totally ruined their UX this time, based on these anecdotes UX studies.

            IMO, the former is why there’s such a huge overlap between the “people who have fond memories about installing Slackware from floppies” and “people who now use macOS” groups. The latter is why the border between flamebait and tech journalism is so blurry these days…

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              I’m not sure why you are so angry, I found it to be an excellent review.

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                I’m not angry, but I do think both the subject matter – the “UX” “improvements” that Gnome 40 supposedly brought – and the review are equally immaterial, and representative of the same pretentiousness that’s been plaguing UI design and HMI for some time now. I think it’s counter-productive to tiptoe around it.

                Just two examples:

                The article mentions “overall theme consistency” as a problem, but then goes on to claim that Gnome 40 is “more polished, more consistent”. What does that even mean? What exactly is “more polished” and what exactly is “more consistent” than in 3.38, and how are the two terms different, for that matter? Can something become more polished, but less consistent? More consistent, but less polished?

                Then there’s the whole Gnome Tweaks debate. The article complains that you need a separate app to do configure some things. Wanna bet that, if all those things were included in the Gnome Settings, the same article would complain that a desktop supposedly aimed at novice users has a “very cluttered” settings system?

                Or the whole “window differentiation” thing – the review claims that there’s “a lack of differentiation between foreground and background windows active/inactive status”, right under a screenshot that clearly shows an inactive background window that’s so un-saturated that most people over 30 (including yours truly) can barely read it. It’s obviously up to the reviewer to like it or not, but “I don’t like it” isn’t an “issue”, it’s just a rant.

                Meanwhile, Windows 10 and macOS, both of which tick every “unpolished” and “inconsistent” box there is, run circles around any FOSS offering, suggesting that neither of these things matter much (assuming they mean anything at all – which, based on the Mac community’s rants, I’m very inclined to believe they don’t and are just weasel words and snake oil). I’m not angry, but I am a little bitter over the fact that we had (mostly) functional free software desktops 10 years ago, but they’ve been improved to the point of uselessness (and dragged GTK, an annoying but functional cross-platform toolkit, down the drain, too).

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                  Really makes you wonder if Linux on the Desktop would’ve seen more widespread adoption if it had instead leaned hard into aesthetics and eschewed 90s/00’s UI/UX dogma.

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                    The Linux desktop did indeed. Remember E16? Compiz?

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                      Honestly, on technical merits alone, I think it could have eaten Windows 8’s lunch. KDE 3.5 and Gnome 2.24 were not the apex of usability, but nobody scratched their heads when looking at them the way they did with Windows 8’s tiles.

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                The title of this implied that it’s a GNOME 40 review, but it’s not. It’s a “Fedora 34 with GNOME 40” review. The gripe about the tour dark/light theme mismatch is probably Fedora’s fault, for example, as is the fact that GNOME Extensions isn’t packaged by Fedora (and that Flathub isn’t enabled out of the box). You could argue that from a user perspective it doesn’t matter whose fault it is, only that it’s broken; however I would expect someone who decides to try prerelease software and who knows to use dconf to be able to differentiate these things.

                Furthermore this is just unnecessarily negative. It does admit that the software in question is prerelease, but then it goes on to rake it over the coals like it was a production release. Why would you say “the tour theme doesn’t match” instead of saying “maybe the Fedora team should spend some time before release making sure that the theme is consistent”? Both of them say the same thing, but the latter does not contribute even more toxicity to a space which is too toxic to begin with.

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                  It’s fine to not like GNOME. I don’t like GNOME. But a lot of these complaints read like “it’s not LXDE” – minimize button? Extensions? Advanced configuration? Desktop icons? These are not things someone who likes the GNOME3 paradigm is expected to want.

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                    I think the problem is that Gnome pushes into a certain direction and their hold over GTK means that every other DE is forced to either follow suit, or invest in expensive workarounds (see CSD).

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                    I personally like the path that gnome is on. I get that not everyone does and that’s fine, but ever since gnome 3 I’ve really fallen in love with gnome.

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                      The problem is that their hold over GTK means that every other DE is forced to either follow suit in whatever Gnome comes up with, or invest in expensive workarounds (see CSD).

                      I encourage Gnome devs to do whatever they want, but as a non-Gnome-user it gets tiring to be at the receiving end of their “innovations” without having much choice. I just want to be left alone.

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                        It’s far from only GTK. Their hold permeates the stack and slowly but surely forces more and more of these things to fit a certain mold as their ‘vision’ (OSandroidX with glaucoma) can only really be fulfilled with strong coupling across a wide range of desktop-system services. What little competition is left will be forced to write adapters (eudev, elogind, …) until they architecturally become more or less the same but lagging behind, accept obscurity, or run out of steam entirely and join the retro-computing trend.

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                        I used to be very anti-gnome (“you’re turning my desktop into a phone?!”), but I’ve been using gnome for like three months because I wanted to actually give it a chance after using contrarian window managers for like a decade. I threw on dash to panel, made it very un-gnomey, etc. Gnome 40 came out and broke basically every extension, but I didn’t have time to transition to anything else at the time, so I was forced to just run with them turned off. With nothing more than the Yaru-remix shell/gtk/application theme running I started to really like how default gnome 40 looks and feels with just one theme and a few extra keyboard shortcuts turned on. Pretty sure even after all the recommended extensions start getting fixed I might stick with this.

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                        Frankly, I love GNOME 3.38, warts and all.

                        GNOME Shell did significantly improve my desktop experience. Dynamic workspaces with drag & drop support, super intuitive typing-based launcher and extension ecosystem made me throw away all other DEs and commit 100% to GNOME. I’ve seen people around me switch as well. Nowadays, wherever I go, GNOME Shell is the standard. Even for more open minded long bearded hackers I know. After all, the keyboard story is really sound.

                        Back when it first came out, the workspace strip in the expose was slightly hidden and one had to hover over it to expand it to the full size. I guess that the reasoning back then was that to see other workspaces is not that important as to see windows on the current one. Eventually, the workspace strip was made to be expanded permanently. This was a good mode that again helped my (a little bit) in my desktop organization.

                        Right now, I have 10 workspaces. I group open applications topically and prefer not to have more than 2 overlapping windows per workspace. I often drag windows between the workspaces and use the drop-window-in-between-workspaces feature to create a new workspace at a given position.

                        From my point of view, the horizontal workspace arrangement makes little sense. I don’t care about app icons. I almost never use them. I use search to launch exclusively. I want to see my windows and my workspaces immediately so that I can get back to work as soon as possible.

                        I think that the problem here is that GNOME chases (mostly Windows) user acquisition at the detriment to current user base retention. And it’s funny, because most people I have converted from Windows have gotten used to the current vertical workspace system the very first day and they continued to use it extensively. True, they all want productivity and always have more apps open than just the single browser window and a music player GNOME seems to be aiming for. They also use external screen and a mouse when possible.

                        Yeah, I am just a single data point. Self-elected at that, so probably not relevant at all. But the study GNOME did on so small sample of its users and decided to act upon says something as well. I would expect at least a questionaire to appear here and on the orange site as a form of reality-check.

                        I’ll probably just skip Fedora 34 so as not to hurt my productivity during the election campaign and shop for an extension that reverts the behavior later on. Because…

                        Fedora 34 - not so much.

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                          Fedora 34 will be released, and alongside it - you will get to use Gnome 40

                          I completely agree that GNOME3 started horrible and consistently gets worse from there. However, I use Fedora and never use GNOME3, I install MATE on every new machine right away.

                          You never have to use the distro default. Hell, different users can use different desktop environments on the same shared machine. That’s the great thing about Linux on the desktop—people should not forget it, and distro maintainers should not try to suppress that (I’m glad Fedora maintainers don’t, for the most part).

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                            This thread needs a KDE screenshot. So I’m gladly posting it now! :)


                            But really, after setting up KDE the way I want, I’m immune to anything GNOME-related. I’m not even mad that they’ve ruined the desktop experience since GNOME 2, which I liked very much. I’ve tried to use G3 for several years, but after those years, switching back to KDE was like a breath of fresh air.

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                              A lot of the criticism I see leveled against Gnome centers around the way they often make changes that impact the UX but don’t allow long-time users to opt-out of these new changes.

                              The biggest example for me: There was a change to the nautilus file manager where it used to be you could press a key with a file explorer window open, and it would jump to the 1st file in the currently open folder whose name starts with that letter or number. They changed it so it opens up a search instead when you start typing. The “select 1st file” behaviour is (was??) standard behavior in Mac OS / Windows for many many years, so it seemed a bit odd to me that they would change it. It seemed crazy to me that they would change it without making it a configurable option, and it seemed downright Dark Triad of them that they would make that change, not let users choose, and then lock / delete all the issue threads where people complained about it.

                              It got to the point where people who cared, myself included, started maintaining a fork of nautilus that had the old behavior patched in, and using that instead.

                              What’s stopping people who hate the new & seemingly “sadistic” features of gnome from simply forking it? Most of the “annoying” changes, at least from a non-developer desktop user’s perspective, are relatively surface level & easy to patch.

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                                Wow, I thought I was the only one who thought that behavior was crazy. Since the early 90’s, my workflow for saving files was: “find the dir I want to save the file in,” then “type in the name.” In GNOME (or GTK?) the file dialog forces me to reverse that workflow, or punishes me with extra mouse clicks to focus the correct field.

                                I have never wanted to use a search field when trying to save a file.

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                                The font scaling issues aren’t really GNOME’s fault, that’s pango and fontconfig, right?

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                                  Pango is a Gnome project. A long time ago, two different projects called GScript and GnomeText got merged and the result was Pango. It has its own release roadmap and stuff but it’s pretty much part of the Gnome org – it’s hosted in Gnome’s Gitlab infrastructure, it uses Gnome’s bugtracker and so on.

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                                  I’ve been using Linux on the desktop on a daily basis for over 20 years and fully agree with most of the author’s other points. Ever since GNOME 3 was first released, it feels to me like the devs have been aiming to make GNOME a tablet-like experience on the desktop, which is not something I ever wanted. Improvements to the experience seem to be entirely experimental and without direction or cohesive vision. Pleas for options and settings to make GNOME behave similarly to conventional (read: tried and true) desktop idioms fall on deaf ears.

                                  I stuck with XFCE for a long time, but for the past couple of years tried seriously to make peace with GNOME. First it was Ubuntu’s take, which I found palatable with a handful of extensions. I then switched over to Pop OS but again had to plaster over the deficiencies with extensions. But having to wrangle extensions just to get a usable desktop just isn’t my idea of a good time.

                                  Earlier this week I decided to give KDE (or is it “Plasma” now?) another try and have so far been pretty happy with it. It seems like they have recently stripped back a lot of the fluff while being able to keep all of the customization that I require. I gave up on KDE in the past due to outright buggy behavior and crashes in common workflows but haven’t hit anything serious yet. Crossing my fingers that it stays that way for a while.