Since I got Photoshop working in Ubuntu, I’ve spent more time on the Linux desktop than ever before. I’ve been a user of Linux and FreeBSD on the server for the past nine years and I am not afraid of the command line. During that same time, I made numerous attempts to switch on the desktop as well. I’ve always come back to Windows for two reasons: applications and usability.
For most applications there are solutions on both sides of the divide now. One application exclusive to one platform is enough to shift the balance. Rebooting is a hassle, so once the day has started on one side of the divide it takes a lot of effort to close all open applications and reboot on the other side.
Now that I do boot on the Linux side of the divide more often, I notice more issues with the desktop. Little details become more noticeable with frequent use. Like 90% of users I don’t bother with tweaking and customizing beyond some simple things. Gnome happens to be Ubuntu’s default, so I use it. I like Gnome. I find it modern and pleasant. It compares well to the other contemporary desktops I’ve seen – Windows, OSX, KDE. As always, there are things that can be improved and one that caught my eye big time is that Gnome is too big. Compare the Windows screenshot above with the Gnome screenshot below.
- Both have the same application open – Hugin.
- It is the same project – my first gigapixel panorama (still in the making) of 260+ shots.
- Both are on the same 2560×1024 pixels of limited screen real estate.
- Both display the same control point editor and the same images.
- Gnome takes double as much vertical space for the same table as Windows. And this is not the worse example.
I understand that for some people, usability = accessibility and they need a readable desktop, with big icons, big fonts, lots of spacing. For me it is not. When I get a higher resolution display, it is to get as much information as possible on the limited surface. I loved the 1024×768 on 10.4″ of my old SONY Vaio SR7K (R.I.P.). I love the 1400×1050 on 15″ of my HP Compaq nc6120.
My desktop’s screen is scarce and very valuable real estate. On Windows, I hated application installers that clog it with their icons (obnoxious marketing fight for the user’s mind share). On Gnome the default icon and font size are taking that place. What can a user do to reclaim it?