Xmonad backed by GNOME 3.0

Posted by Jack on 2011-03-29 at 19:47
Tagged: software

My previous post criticized modern desktop environments (like gnome-shell and KDE 4.6) because they lack anything resembling efficient window management. It's not a surprising view coming from someone that's been spoiled by Xmonad's beautifully easy mouse-free window management and dynamic layouts.

I'm not going to talk about window management today though. I installed a fresh copy of the libraries from Arch's gnome-unstable repository and, instead of giving gnome-shell another whirl (not yet at least), I merely restarted Xmonad with the usual suspects running in the background (gnome-settings-daemon, gnome-keyring-daemon) and continued to use my typical GTK apps.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised that the GNOME beta functioned well as a drop-in replacement and, aside from the different theme and widget style everything worked identically. The VNC client still remembered my passwords too, so I interpret that as the keyring being intact. I even like the new default font and anti-aliasing choices. I'm sure some people will complain that it looks muddy (as critics of anti-aliasing almost always do), but to each their own.

Overall I've been pleased with some of the non-shell improvements of GNOME 3. The control center is a good replacement for the system menu of traditional GNOME and on par with Windows and KDE. I probably appreciate it a little more than average considering that I don't have the system menu under Xmonad and it's easier to remember to invoke gnome-control-center than it is to remember which little GNOME subapp to use to tweak some behavior of the GNOME applications.

One thing that surprised me was dconf-editor. I've heard throughout the GNOME 3 bashing blogs, that a lot of the configuration was hidden in dconf-editor and that really sucks because it's basically regedit. That may be true, but GNOME has always essentially had a registry (gconf) and dconf-editor has to be the nicest registry editor I've ever used. Not that it's a passable replacement for a control center option, but as a developer and desktop explorer it's nice to see a full on description of each possible toggle and tweak in the registry.

I understand that this is a very small subset of GNOME that I'm using, but it's nice to know that even if the GNOME desktop's next full release is the Linux desktop apocalypse, everything will still just work.