Gnome, and why it sucks

yes, even worse than The new Trio 😈💗💗💗 - Corina Dust 😈😝

If you didn’t know, I use Linux. And I, to say the least, do not like Gnome[1]. Filled with header bars the size of Jupiter, no minimize or maximize buttons without an external program, extensions written IN JAVASCRIPT that are nearly mandatory for the best experience, being somewhat unoptimized for mouse pointers (we’ll get to this later), and performance lower than the JVM on a good day, it’s regarded in some circles as the worst DE available for most users. Even with these problems, I will give it complements for adopting Wayland earlier than the LX*s and XFCE, but that doesn’t do much to make up for the complaints I’ve listed prior, especially when Wayland is still not ready for prime-time quite yet (although I will recommend Pipewire at this point to anyone, even on X11). The HIG does not make this situation better.

Human Interface Guidelines

The HIG, similar to Gnome itself, is a restrictive mess. Filled with a book’s worth of guidelines compressed into ~50-100 pages (a bit like the HIG wants you to do, eh?), it creates a dystopia of computer programs where everything is a meld of responsive design that leaves traditional mouse and keyboard users in the dust[2][3]. Due to this, most HIG-respecting GTK apps tend to… not work as well as they should. Even with the more general problems GTK has (menu bars i.e. Notepad just not), some of the specifications specified in here are.. kinda bad.

But I don’t wanna go too in depth about the HIG here, considering that was the original focus of this article in which I really don’t wanna continue doing. So, lets get back to a different topic. Speaking of different topics…

Gnome vs System76

This had started after I’d started the article… funny coincidence, isn’t it? It’s the main reason I’m switching the article to focus about Gnome itself instead of just the HIG. Other stuff aside, this has just been a shitshow on both sides. Gnome developers being asshats, System76 developers being asshats, and everyone in-between having a slight chance of being an ass. However, on the scale of asshattery, Gnome developers are definitely higher up in this case (2022 note: I am beginning to agree with this less and less. While I think that GNOME devs were quite rude, Sys76 were possibly even moreso. IMO, it’s still up for the jury). However, since I haven’t really kept up with the developments and any blogs or tweets are heresay without evidence, and I don’t feel like going up through more Gitlab issues than I already have to to make my point about the stylesheet drama (don’t worry, it’s coming…). However, this Reddit post[4] basically sums up my opinions as of writing this:

be adults, come to a natural agreement, 2021 could’ve been the the year of the Linux desktop with contributions coming from every nook and cranny of the community, Valve focusing on making the gaming experience better, while people at Gnome, Canonical and System76 are wasting their valuable time just to play blame games.

grab a couple beers, iron the issues out in a weekend or two, bring power back to the community, not negativity. let’s make the best out of 2022 with productivity than negativity and politics.

The Theme Situation, and LibAdwaita

This is a mess overall. After GTK4’s introduction, LibHandy was phased out in favour of libadwaita. This has also brought along with it many changes, most notably (for users (and System76, apparently)), a change in the theming API: there was none[5]. Que anger by System76, and other powerusers who themed their apps. This wasquite a bad move, especially for GNOME devs; who wants to be the guy who removed customization potential from a Linux DE? As well as this, it furthered GNOME’s reputation in being an incredibly opinionated project, thats wants you to do things their way, or to take the highway. Of course this couldn’t br farther from the truth, especislly compared to Windows and macOS. But reality cannot stop opinion. Alongside this, a movement began among (some) GNOME app developers: “Stop Theming My App.”

It had a fancy badge for READMEs and everything! Sadly (or not), this did not land very well among Linuxians. It has now mostly disappeared.

Closing Thoughts

GNOME, as a project, has had declining reputation since the move from 2 to 3, which introduced a complete paradigm shift. Only recently has GNOME escalated this willing behaviour to change vital parts of the desktop for some users. Was all of this justified. No. Not at all.

Some extra notes, thoughts, and citations:
[1] I haven’t actually tried Gnome much recently… I only tried it once for this article, and thats about it.
[2] The HIG is not that bad. At least, not as bad as I make it out to be in some places. While I still personally think it sets a bad precident for any GTK apps, I feel at least some the guidelines makes sense.
[3] I really should stop talking like Luke Smith before I become a neon**i.
[4] https://old.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/qqit79/comment/hk2pawk
[5] I’m not entirely sure of this. The details are blurry due to the biases on everyone’s side (including my own). Regardless, there was/is no easy way to define a stylesheet system-wide and require all apps to use it.