CDE to GNOME migration: the pros and cons
I've been a CDE user for many years (in fact, since I started using very early internal builds of Solaris 2.6 when I was a contractor at Sun). For the most part, I've been happy: little superfluous, performance-robbing eye candy, intuitive ease-of-use, and enough customisation to let me do things more or less how I want.
Sun has stated for a long time now that GNOME is the way forward for Solaris desktops, so every now and then I give it a try. To say that I've underwhelmed by Solaris 10's GNOME 2.6-based JDS is an understatement. But recent builds of OpenSolaris have included Vermillion, which is the codename for the next generation of JDS--currently based on GNOME 2.14.1--so I thought I'd give it another try. Given that the only way something can be fixed is if people are aware of perceived trouble areas, I though I'd blog about my efforts to come to grips with GNOME.
I'll start off with the pros: The performance issues I remember with GNOME 2.6 are, for the most part, history. The default desktop, a striking fade of dark blue to black, is beautiful. Some of the toys--esepcially the image previewer of the file system browser--are great, and very useful. (The image previewer was VERY useful recently, when it was time to sort the 600 or so photos on my camera's CF card.) Finally, if you're coming to Solaris from Windoze, the migration should be fairly painless, as the two seem to act similarly (I am fortunate enough to not use Windoze very often, so I can't say for sure how close the two are). Unfortunately, this last point is the source for most of my issues with GNOME.
Let me get this one out of the way first: I *hate* the stupid "Launch" menu being buried in one corner of my screen. My screen is 24.1" in size, running at 1920x1200 pixels; the bright spark who thought that putting the menu in a corner of the screen was a good idea obviously didn't use high res displays (I'm sure that on a 15" monitor at 640x480, it's a fine set up). Sun touts the accessability features of their contributions to GNOME. All fine, I'm sure, but perhaps they ought to do something about that bloody menu location to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome! Moving my mouse to the bottom left corner of the screen everytime I want to open a new application is a major pain...
CDE has it right: you right click on the desktop, and presto: the "Launch" menu appears where your mouse is, enabling you to run the app you want with the minimum of hassle. I strongly encourage the GNOME people to adopt this behaviour--or at least make it an easily selectable option. Launch -> Preferences -> Menus & Toolbars seems to be the most logical place to put this; create an new option under "Behaviour and Appearence" called "Enable Desktop Launch Menu" or something similar.
The applet bar along the bootom is a good idea; I think minimised apps are supposed to go there, a la Windoze, but at least for me they don't. For me, this is another annoyance: I prefer my minimised apps to appear as icons on my desktop. Not everyone would like this--especially those coming from Windoze--so this too should be easily configurable behaviour. This time, Launch -> Preferences -> Window Behaviour is the logical place to put this option. Simply create an option called "Minimised windows appear as desktop icons", and away you go. Even if minimsed apps appear on the desktop, I'd keep the applet bar, because, as I said earlier, it's a great place to put nifty little applets, like the volume control, clock, and network activity monitor.
On the subject of window behaviour, can we please make it that double-clicking the top left Window menu button closes that window, like it does with CDE? Or at the very least, make this behviour optional (put it in the same place as above).
Here's another one: GNOME seems to (at best) ignore the keys on the Sun keyboard (Stop, Again, and so on). I very frequently use the Front, Open, Copy, and Paste keys, so their non functioning in GNOME is a major pain.
I think that's covered my major issues and annoyances with GNOME. I managed to fix one very major issue recently with the behaviour of dtterm on GNOME (I'll blog about that soon); I really want to adopt GNOME, but I'm afraid that right now there're too many problems with it for me to adopt it full time. For now I'll be sticking with CDE, opening up GNOME when necessary. If the community can fix these issues, I bet a lot of people would be happy. Oh, and one final message to GNOME developers: configurabilty is not necessarily evil!