10 ideas to improve GNOME

Ideas for Gnome

We love GNOME. Sometime around 2.6 it started becoming really, really damned good, and a lot faster and more responsive. All kinds of nice things like Network Manager, the Nautilus CD burner and the SFTP support popped up. It helps that most major Linux apps like like Firefox, Evolution, GAIM, and OpenOffice use the same toolkit and themes too. Obviously we’re not alone either: Ubuntu, RHEL and SuSE all use GNOME by default.

Here’s a bunch of ideas to improve it.

1. Ditch the Acronym

What exactly is a GNU Network Object Modelling Environment? And what does it have to do with my desktop? GNOME’s ‘About’ page doesn’t even mention it - so let’s drop the acronym, and the caps too.

2. Highlight New Apps
When I install a package for a graphical app, it drops a menu item somewhere in my application menu. But I still don’t know where to find it. Sure, GNOME uses application types for menus, which makes it a little easier. But does that Disk Usage Analyser belong in Accessories or System Tools? Is Terminal Services Client an Office or Internet app?

We’re not always sure. So highlight the new apps till I start them or for a few days - whichever comes first.

3. Desktop Effects When I’m Plugged In, Battery Life when I’m Not
Desktop Effects are great for impressing your non-Linux using colleagues, or dragging round windows during conference calls. But all that GPU usage comes at the cost of battery life. Gnome already knows when I’m plugged in, so why not let me skip the less productive effects when I’m roaming?

4. Running individual Windows Apps in Terminal Services Client - RDesktop now supports launching individual apps from remote Windows systems, rather than the whole Windows desktop. Terminal Services Client should let users run either a whole remote Windows desktop (as it currently does) or use RDesktops ’seamless’ feature (which would launch Windows Explorer browsing the Programs menu for seamless launching of Windows apps).

Seamless Virtualization

5. Right Click An App to Uninstall It
The primary way I identify my apps is the way I launch them. So how do I know what package goes with, say, Evolution Mail, if I decide I like Thunderbird better? The computer already knows which package installed this menu entry (or that no packages did), so why not let me right click an app to uninstall it?

Novell’s alternative SLED menu already does this. But SLED is slow.

Update: While Linux has multiple packaging systems, it’s incredibly easy to abstract the differences between them (we’ve done it, so have others).

6. Something Better than Wallpaper

Nokia phones like my N95 have animated backgrounds: they cycle through a series of images as your wallpaper, slowly panning around them while they’re blurred out (the blurring shows the images, but stops the detail from being to distracting). Each photo slowly transitions into each other. It’s pretty, and you should see it for yourself…

We’d like GNOME to do the same thing, but with our own photos (sorry Nokia stock photography people).

Update: Yes, we know you can run a screensaver as an X background - provided you lose all your icons. We’d like to keep our desktop useful and pretty.

7. Video Screen Capture
Sure, there’s separate video apps like Istanbul and Record My Desktop - but why bother with a separate interface? Having a video capture inbuilt into GNOME is kind of like having a video recorder on your mobile phone - you end up using it when not expected. Want to show a developer a series of events that stop an app working? Use the inbuilt video recorder. Colleague doesn’t know how to configure the New Foo app? Make a movie and send it to him. Video is the screenshot of the modern man.

Record My Desktop

8. SyncML support in Conduit
Evolution is a great mail app - one of the first to have what are now called smart folders and heuristic spam checking (ie, SpamAssassin) was.

So why, when I try and Sync it with something, do I get a message about connecting to a Palm (the company that doesn’t install it’s own OS on half the phones it sells) Pilot (no such things exists anymore) via a serial cable (which wouldn’t plug into my computer)?

But you already know the old Palm Sync tool is getting old, and GNOME’s rocking new Conduit tool is just around the corner…and it’ll support your device, once the OpenSync gents finish creating their new framework and supporting Microsoft ActiveSync, Blackberry’s proprietary syncing protocol, and every other weird syncing protocol.


That’s not what we’re talking about.

Screw proprietary syncing protocols.

Instead of trying to support these ever-changing beasts, we’d rather Conduit just support one protocol: SyncML. SyncML is a standard syncing protocol, and clients are included with every Nokia and SonyEricsson phone, and available for Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Palm and more thanks to the Funambol project (yep, they’re Open Source too).

With SyncML support in Conduit, you could sync any device you want. Add Dynamic DNS to your computer to help you find it from the new, and you could sync that device that from anywhere in the world.

Kind of like Plaxo, except with the whole ‘giving away your passwords and data to strangers’ thing.

9. Bring Back the Skull
If you’re an old school Unix guy, remain feeling clever and skip this one.

If you’re new to Linux, bookmark this page and wait till something pisses you off. Now press Ctrl F2 and type xkill. Your mouse cursor just became a skull. The thing that’s pissing you off? Click it and it dies.

XKill is the most user friendly method of killing apps on any desktop. No Gnome System Monitor, no Windows Task Manager, no, um, Mac Thingy. Just click the bad thing with the skull and it dies.

Not only is it simple, it’s metal. GNOME should love the skull with a keyboard shortcut, menu entry, and a skullicious art revamp from the Tango guys.

10. Permissions for Multiple Users & Groups
Linux has supported permissions for multiple users and groups (ACLs) for years. Administrators of business desktops expect to be able to have different groups with different permissions more often than you’d think. For example:

  • A group who can edit some documents
  • Another group who can only read them
  • Everyone else getting no access


Multiple Users and Groups

RHEL 5 creates and uses ACLs by default on all filesystems - but doesn’t provide a graphical way to see of change them (they’ve done this before - you can’t graphically set the SELinux security context on your web pages either). A group may, or may not have access to a file but I don’t know it.

Graphical permissions may also be used by first level admin staff, who need simple, graphical ways to do basic stuff – so the hardcore admins don’t get woken up at night to change permission problems on documents.

The GNOME guys have actually been working on this one, they’re just not finished yet.

PS. While you’re messing with the file properties menu, why not tell me what package installed it?

Some Bonus Improvements

The following ideas are some more obvious improvements - some are already on the way.

  • Talk to X Guys About An Extension for High Level Primitives
    X works, and it always works. No other windowing system is suddenly about to grab the desktop. But, when both the apps and the display know what a drop down list box widget with a pretty gradient looks like, why are they talking to eachother about lots of little rectangles?If the display and the app both know about GTK, could they talk to each other about that and transfer widgets, rather than rectangles, over the network? This would make remote desktop stuff faster still.
  • Show Unix write messages, reboot alerts, and important syslog messages via a modern, DBus aware /dev/console replacement. After all, when was last time you actively checked if you hard disk was melting?
  • Messages of the Day and login. Another useful Unix command line trick that has no GUI replacement. This one’s already being worked on.
  • Tell me What’s Using My Removable Disk
    If its Nautilus, and the window isn’t busy, close it. If it’s something else, find its window name, and give me the option of closing it.
  • Get Gimp to remember our defaults - when we’ve told Gimp that we prefer best quality resampling for a particular image, in much the same way we preferred it for the last 867 images, we get a little shirty. It’s enough to make you think about using Paint.net instead.

That’s all for now - if you’ve got any more GNOME ideas, drop a line below.

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88 Responses to “10 ideas to improve GNOME

  • 1
    June 28th, 2007 02:43

    I think this is a great article and i completely agree on some points, but disagree on others. First, i don’t believe SuSe uses GNOME by default, but you did forget to mention that Debian, Fedora and countless others do.

    6. I do believe there’s a extension or something in gnome you can enable so you can use animated wallpaper or even use a video as your wallpaper. I don’t use it so i can’t link you, sorry.
    7. As far as i know, NO OS/Desktop Environment has this built-in, so why should GNOME? For probably close to 90% of people it’s a waste of space to have it and if you want it, it’s easy enough to get xvidcap, RecordMyDesktop or Istanbul.

    I do however agree with most of the other ideas except…#2…I always get annoyed when i run WinXP and i install a few new apps and like 5 items in my start menu have the yellow tint to them and i can’t turn it off without opening the app…

  • 2
    June 28th, 2007 05:04

    Even though I’m an Openbox user, I found this to be a good article with some great points. I especially liked #6, the wallpaper idea (I do something like that on my machine with an hourly cron job, but there’s no cool transition =P) The only thing I thought I’d mention is not even in the main 10; it’s the “X should have built-in widgets” idea. The reason I disagree is because X is meant to be a very flexible, very basic framework so that just about anything graphical can be built on top of it.

    Overall, great article though.

  • 3
    June 28th, 2007 08:11

    Gnome really developed very beautiful and usable. One thing bothers me though: I can’t just have a look at my screen and know the current time when it is locked because the lock dialog does not show the time. This bug was already reported in ubuntu on https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/gnome-screensaver/+bug/78922 and in gnome on http://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=362809 and it was rejected. I am not very demanding, just want this little feature that all the other operating systems and desktop environments provide.

  • 4
    June 28th, 2007 09:10

    How about a clipboard feature that works more like windows? Copy and Paste Images anyone? Screen Capture should copy to clipboard instead of just saving to a file.

  • 5
    Mike himself
    June 28th, 2007 11:39

    Hi Rob

    Thanks for your post. I don’t think X should have built in widgets (my fault for not making it clearer in the article) - just that it should have an extension to know about them, and negotiate between display and apps about to send primitives more complex than rectangles. This would be perfectly backward compatible - if either side client doesn’t support the extension, or doesn’t know about the widget set used, then it;’d degrade right back to traditional low level X shapes.


    - Suse switched from KDE to Gnome as its default desktop a little while ago. I mentioned Ubuntu as it’s the most popular for home desktops and RHEL and SuSE as they’re the most popular for business users. No disrespect to the other GNOME using distros was intended.

  • 6
    June 28th, 2007 13:34

    Ability to print directly from screen capture.

    Ability to have different background on each desktop (KDE has had this for *ages*.

    Ability to direct /dev/dsp1, /dev/dsp2, etc to a different $DISPLAY. Think multihead X + sound.

  • 7
    June 28th, 2007 13:35

    how about getting rid of the foot!!! Seriously though, that logo has to go!

  • 8
    June 28th, 2007 13:43

    Gimp has an option in the preferences for the default method of interpolation when scaling images. It’s in File -> Preferences -> Tool Options.

    Hope this helps.

  • 9
    June 28th, 2007 13:50

    I have come to enjoy gnome and with debian etch it seems gnome runs a lot better on my old pc. I do agree that the menu system is still in need of work and it would be nice if they utilized aria2c http://aria2.sourceforge.net/

    Other than that gnome is cool, try to keep it working for older and newer computers and do not attempt to make palm, ipod or other devices work with gnome. How is gnu/linux going to break ground when all people are presented with are thrid party devices primarily for another OS ? Support those who use your software or make use of your software instead of supporting some company who cares only for you to support his/her device for their greed. It is called boycott, get some !

  • 10
    June 28th, 2007 13:53

    Interesting read, here’s my 2 cents…

    (2) The main problem with this is that there are an infinite number of ways in which you can “install a package”, mainly varying upon what distribution you use and which package management system it relies upon. This would have to be implemented on a per-package-manager basis, and thus wouldn’t really fall under GNOME’s control, would it? (One could argue that this scope issue is in itself a big problem, but that’s another can of worms altogether.)

    (3) This is definitely a good idea, though this feature would likely get lost on anyone using alternatives to the built-in desktop effects configuration.

    (5) Same issue as (2).

    (6) Sure, this is nice eye-candy, but if you want eye-candy, shouldn’t you be running Windows Vista, fcol? This is a rather superfluous thing to be asking for, though I do seem to recall E17 doing some crazy ninja stuff with backgrounds, so it’s not like it’s unheard of on *nix.

    (7) I wholeheartedly agree with JD on this, in fact I was happy to see someone else have the same reaction I had - “um, does ANY existing OS/DE have this built in?” I will admit it’d be a damn convenient feature sometimes, but as JD said, there’s always external apps available for those who need the functionality.

    (8) I can’t generally speak for myself since I don’t have any such devices, but this sounds like a good idea, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it eventually gets implemented.

    (9) As silly as this is, I can’t say it’s not a valid point from a usability standpoint, and the skull IS fun. XD

    (10) Great idea and glad they’re already working on it, though I am wondering just how many people are using ACL-aware filesystems. And RE the PS: back to (2) and (5).

  • 11
    June 28th, 2007 13:54

    11.The ability to have different wallpapers on the workspaces.

    11.b. Option to stop Nautilius from drawing the desktop wallpaper, because this prevents Compiz fuzion from using its feature for different wallpapers for different workspaces.

  • 12
    June 28th, 2007 13:58

    Regarding something better than wallpaper… you can already do this with 2 simple steps.

    1st — Open gconf-editor, then go to apps… nautilus… preferences… scroll down until you find show_desktop and make sure its unchecked. NOTE, this will disable desktop icons and you won’t be able to get a menu when right clicking on the desktop after unchecking this box.

    2nd — run your favorite xscreensaver mode with the -root option so it shows on the root window insead of in its own window. glslideshow is a good choice if you want a slideshow in the background. Or maybe carousel.

  • 13
    June 28th, 2007 14:00

    How about an option that lets you specify the size of the windows on the task bar? How about an option that allows you to specify the space in between those windows?
    And while we are at it, add an option to change the color of the active and inactive windows on the task bar, and maybe their style too.

  • 14
    June 28th, 2007 14:18

    Definitely a vote for taking the different background on each desktop from KDE. The other one—KDE can take GTK apps and draw them with Qt, so why not make GNOME draw Qt apps with GTK? Also, Epiphany looks IE5-ish. I like how Firefox looks, except when some themes (at lest Murrina and Rezlooks ones) break the GUI and makes it look old and boxy. I think KDE 4 may kill GNOME.

  • 15
    June 28th, 2007 14:20

    I think gnome is great but the #1 thing I have the hardest time with is its default gtkfilechooser. For instance you’re in Firefox and you want to attach a couple of pictures to an email you get the default gtkfilechooser with no preview or thumbnails at all. I just can’t believe this has been overlooked it makes uploading a bunch of images that your not sure of by the file name very difficult. Please fix this!!!

  • 16
    June 28th, 2007 14:55

    in windows if you “right-click-drag” a file you are presented with a quick menu for copying or moving files. that would be a nice feature in gnome.

  • 17
    June 28th, 2007 14:56

    I consider Windows’ highlighting of new applications completely irritating, so if the Gnome guys add it, it needs to be an option we can reach conveniently (read: no gconf).

  • 18
    June 28th, 2007 14:57

    Can you currently sync the N95 with opensync? Does everything sync across properly?

  • 19
    June 28th, 2007 15:41

    @ bogus.idea

    Ever try middle-click-and-drag in GNOME?

  • 20
    Mike himself
    June 28th, 2007 16:41


    Yes, the N95 works fine with OpenSync via Bluetooth.

    But right now I’d rather use Funambol / Dynamic DNS - this would allow remote syncing / push email - which I’m working on.

    I’m going to write an article about the N95 and Linux when I’m done. Stay tuned.

  • 21
    June 28th, 2007 17:19

    I’d like to be able to configure my screensaver in Gnome, unfortunately I’m not allowed, because the developers believe it’s ‘Too Complicated’. :/

    Also Nautilus should be scrapped and re-written to be more like Dolphin for KDE, and the default gtkfilechooser (file open/save dialogue) is a piece of crap, thankfully you can turn it off in Firefox.

  • 22
    Mike himself
    June 28th, 2007 17:22


    You’re right that there’s multiple ways to install packages. But they’re not infinite - it’s very easy to create a set of functions to perform packaging tasks in a distro neutral way - I’ve needed to do exactly this myself when making Accudoc, which documents packages installed installed on SuSE, RHEL and Debian servers.

    Furthermore, two packaging systems cover more than 90% of GNOME users (not that adding support for Gentoo / BSD would be hard either).

  • 23
    Lord Matt
    June 28th, 2007 17:22

    Novice Panel - all the possible things a novice user might want to do in an easy to use all-in-one-place CP that is logical and not too crowded. This should be able to present you with all the packages named and iconed as you’ve come to expect them to be to uninstall, etc.

    Anything that needs more than one setting to be changed to carry out a “basic task” should be given a single UI that makes the changes for you. XP to Linux should sound like and be dead easy and it is all down to the UI.

    Furthermore it’s basic access and options should be on a lot of context menus and the main menu system.

    Anything the I couldn’t teach my mum (IQ 144 but only a basic PC user) to use in ten minuets or less should be stashed away somewhere where experts only go until said experts unleash it again.

    What I see put off potential users is the overwhelming number of options and menus which is where this discussion is going to lead us.

    However I agree with the built in capture not because it is the best idea ever but because any desk top that does not lead the market is doomed to follow it. I don’t want to switch and then wait three years for my UI to catch up to what I was used to I want to wonder why my UI is so behind and switch.

  • 24
    Wayne Booth
    June 28th, 2007 17:49

    Great post, great ideas.
    One thing does bug me about GNOME, icons on buttons and options. I would like to turn off icons (except for descktop files or files listings). Why should I have to see a “tick” next to the “OK” word in a button. This would make buttons and menus cleaner/smaller & so free up valuable apps real-estate.

  • 25
    June 28th, 2007 18:06

    There already is support in gnome to make apps force quit!

    Try adding to your panel the “Force Quit” applet. Its listed under “Desktops & Windows” on Ubuntu 7.04. Exact same functionality of xkill, but gtkified interface.

  • 26
    June 28th, 2007 18:52

    11. Make binary Copy&Paste (e.g. images) work between applications

    12. Apps should remember the last save location

    13. Make screen resolution switching better and…

    14. … support dual- or triple-monitor setups natively

  • 27
    June 28th, 2007 19:29

    Improve Gnome?

    Drop GIMP and use Krita (Ooops, it starts with a K not a G, but it is so much better than Gimp (look, no more allcaps).

    Krita > Gimp

  • 28
    June 28th, 2007 19:46

    2) If you use the application installer in Ubuntu you get a nice dialogue that shows the menu path to the newly installed application.
    The SLED Main menu also shows a list of new applications. I really hope that the SLED system can be adopted by GNOME. The new SP1 Main menu is even better.

    7) Great idea!

  • 29
    June 28th, 2007 21:36

    Please please someone fix the default Gnome file selection dialog to something user friendly. It drives me hopping mad every time used. Im a long time gnome user but considering to switch just so i can use friendly kde dialog :P

  • 30
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  • 32
    June 28th, 2007 23:26

    11) inline filename editing in Nautilus (or Thunar).

    What I mean is filename editing INSIDE the Nautilus window… like OSX finder and Windows Explorer. Most people I introduce to Linux soon discover the annoying lack of this feature, which is present in the two leading commercial file managers.

  • 33
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  • 35
    June 29th, 2007 00:04

    Newbie Ubuntu user here, coming from Windows XP. You guys are above my level but what I’d like to see fixed/improved is:

    Large directories (more than a few hundred files) load MUCH SLOWER in Nautilus (and using Eye of GNOME’s Ctrl-O) than in Windows XP Explorer. Maybe Windows keeps Thumbnails around, while GNOME has to generate them every time?

    Nautilus compact view is not nearly as compact as Windows Explorer’s “List” view. I can get far more file names visible at once under the Windows, whereas with Nautilus, I have to page up and down.

    Yes, I could use smaller directories, but I don’t want to do that!

    For some file displays, ie. using F9 under Eye of GNOME, the files are presented in rows, but pressing Up Arrow moves you Left, instead of Up One Row! And pressing Dn Arrow moves you Right, instead of Down One Row! It would be nice if ALL navigation keys worked as expected.

  • 36
    Jeff Smith
    June 29th, 2007 00:08

    Ubuntu user here, love gnome… wish they’d get their heads out of their butts on the screensaver/power management interface, otherwise, pretty darn happy. Swapping out the gnome screensaver manager app with the X-screensaver one is an imperfect solution. And having the power management tied to the screensaver config is just a throwback to Windoze. (which we can all do without)

  • 37
    Alexander Leidinger
    June 29th, 2007 00:45

    Regarding (6): There’s ChBg (http://chbg.sf.net/), it allows to create a list of pictures together with a list of blending-effects (and watermarks, banners, …) and a replacement time. So it basically does what you want.

    The only drawback: it doesn’t work with a current Gnome anymore. Additionally the author does not respond anymore.

    It could serve as a very good base (at least form a functionality point of view) for someone who wants to do something like this. If someone wants to fork this, he would have to 1. find a way to make it work with the current Gnome (maybe there’s an API for telling nautilus to change the background) and 2. to port it to gtk v2 (from v1).

  • 38
    June 29th, 2007 01:33

    Some great ideas…I’d like to see some changes to my favorite desktop. Oh, about Gimp remembering your Default interpolation (resampling), open your Preferences and visit the tool options window. Choose from “Cubic (Best)” from the Default interpolation dropdown. Save your preferences, and Gimp will remember them! Yay! You can see what it looks like at this link:

    It is figure 13.58.


  • 39
    James Laver
    June 29th, 2007 01:49

    GNOME Already has the equivalent of XKill, there’s a panel applet for it called ‘Force Quit’ which works equally well although doesn’t have the cool skull

  • 40
    June 29th, 2007 02:21

    I like a lot of these, but number 7 just seems like bloat. Sure it might be a nice feature sometimes, but you would end up with a lot of bloat if you added features that ‘could possibly be useful sometime in the future.’ Let the desktop environment be a desktop environment, not a package of applications that just happens to have a desktop environment.

  • 41
    June 29th, 2007 02:43

    Screen space, screen space, screen space.

    Why are the icons in evolution et al so huge, and why can’t I change their size here and not in nautilus. The file chooser has the same problem. The window is so small, I have to grab the edge and resize if I want to see more than 2 files at once - not to mention my folder-bookmarks I’ve created in nautilus.

    I love using gnome, and agree with most of the above, but I wish it wasn’t such a screen hog.

  • 42
    June 29th, 2007 03:37

    Even though I agree on some points (the uninstall thing would totally rock), I have to wonder if you know what you are talking about! Some of the things you describe are not really part of gnome but part of different applications that make up the Linux Distribution. Gnome doesn’t come with evolution! Evolution comes with a linux distro or you install it yourself. The syncing is part of evolution, not gnome.

    Nextly, the desktop effects. I realize that gnome is starting to get some of their own going but it seems to me like this would be more of a beryl/compiz issue than a gnome issue. Either way a simple script would fix it! (Think: if nobattery then nodesktopeffects! )

    Finally to criticize what I love. Since gnome doesnt have a package manager (duh), it would be somewhat difficult to add a remove programs type thing. Stuff like that is up to the package manager of the distribution to manage (ie Synaptic for Debian systems, Yast for SuSe.). I find it difficult to do something like that for systems without a package manager!

    I know I may get flamed but i’m pretty sure I know what I am saying.

  • 43
    June 29th, 2007 07:38

    I don’t feel every single one of these issues is the “responsibility” of GNOME, but for the sake of discussion I’ll put that aside for the moment. Anyways I agree with some and disagree with some others.

    3. Desktop Effects When I’m Plugged In, Battery Life when I’m Not
    There’s a quick and easy solution (workaround?) to this in the form of /etc/acpi/battery.d/ and /etc/acpi/ac.d/. Add two shell scripts, one with “metacity –replace” and the other with “compiz –replace”.

    9. Bring Back the Skull
    xkill requires an active window does it not? Then why not just press the close button (top right, the big X) on the window twice, that should bring up the force quit dialog. Also I have to disagree with xkill being user friendly, but that’s quite subjective.

    10. Permissions for Multiple Users & Groups
    As mentioned in the bug report you link, for POSIX ACLs there’s Eiciel which integrates quite nicely with Nautilus. Take a looksie at http://rofi.roger-ferrer.org/eiciel/?s=5 or “sudo apt-get install acl eiciel && nautilus -q && nautilus” to check it out yourself (make sure you add “acl” as an option to your partition in /etc/fstab).

  • 44
    June 29th, 2007 10:05

    Hi, I’d like to rename a file in Gnome by clicking on the name.

  • 45
    June 29th, 2007 11:07

    The one thing that I wish that GNOME had was the ability to show folder art. IE. when a folder contains a folder.jpg image it uses that image as the folder icon. This is a simple request and I know you can do it by modifying the meta files but it would be so nice as a feature so you didn’t have to bother doing that.

    just my two cents.

  • 46
    June 29th, 2007 12:39

    1. GNOME = who cares
    2. Highlight apps = No
    most annoying feature in XP
    4. Good idea for laptops
    should be a separate app (to cut down on feature bloat).
    6. VLC can play video as wallpaper
    7. Not allways needed (bloat)
    10. very much needed!

  • 47
    June 29th, 2007 23:17

    9. xkill
    That’s why I prefer KDE a lot!

  • 48
    George F. Rice
    June 29th, 2007 23:34

    I generally approve of your list, though some address gnome apps rather than the desktop manager (guess it depends on your definition of “gnome”).

    Speaking of gnome apps… Having used SnagIt on Windows, I’m a bit disappointed in the relatively limited functionality of gnome-screenshot. I don’t intend to criticize the developers (I understand time constraints, etc.), and intend this only as a list of suggestions that I would personally find very useful (but I suspect others would as well).

    1. I’ve configured it to show a configuration dialog before taking the shot - but it then includes the dialog in the shot! Doh! (Yes, a 1 second delay works around this bug.)
    2. It can snap the active window or entire desktop. What about an inactive window, or a region, or a fixed region (for a series of shots), an X-window (that is, part of another window), or a menu (ever worked on UI specs without this feature?), or a scrolling window?
    3. It creates images. What about converting images containing text into editable text?
    4. It takes still snapshots. What about a movie mode for animated GIF or other equivalent formats? This is extremely useful for creating visual HOWTOs!
    5. It saves the snapshot to a file. What about options to save to clipboard, printing, or sending directly to an application such as gimp or ooimpress (should be configurable)?
    6. It never includes the cursor. What about an option to include the cursor?
    7. AFAICT, the command line interface provides no mechanism to just save the screenshot to a file - it always brings up the Save As graphical dialog. What about a save-to-file command-line option sans GUI interaction?

    KSnapshot provides parts of 2 and 5, but is still far short of fulfilling the potential of this small but (for some of us) critical utility.

  • 49
    osViews | osOpinion
    June 30th, 2007 00:48

    10 Ideas to Improve GNOME…

    We love GNOME. Sometime around 2.6 it started becoming really, really damned good, and a lot faster and more responsive. All kinds of nice things like Network Manager, the Nautilus CD burner and the SFTP support popped up. It helps that most major Linu…

  • 50
    June 30th, 2007 01:00

    Found a way to apply Tango love to the N95 here:

  • 51
    Tom Schenk
    June 30th, 2007 01:12

    The feature you requested about killing misbehaving apps (the skull feature) already exists. You can add a button to your panel that will force misbehaving applications to quit. I use it all the time. The button icon isn’t very intuitive to me, but it does work. I click on the panel icon, then on the window I want to kill and it goes away. I started using this to deal with problems with Evolution hanging. Now, when Evolution hangs, two clicks and it’s dead and I can restart.

  • 52
    June 30th, 2007 01:57

    Something I’d love to see in GNOME is when you right-click on a picture in your favorite browser to save it locally, that only the name is selected. That is the file name without the extension (like in KDE), because you could start overwriting the file’s name right away with whatever you want instead of having to grab your mouse again and reselect without the extension.

  • 53
    June 30th, 2007 03:12

    1. afaik GNOME is no longer gnu network object model enviroment, as it has been said before. Maybe that page is outdated, but it will be ditched out completely with gnome 2.20 and the wgo revamp.
    3. That would be nice, although it’s not a gnome task, rather, it’s a compiz issue, and not a difficult one either, just a plugin that talks to gnome-power-manager and changes compiz profiles acordingly.
    6. I think that would be too destracting, I mean I already get carried away by shinny moving progress bars, let alone moving wallpapers.
    7. Would be nice as an add-on app, not sure if it would have to be part of gnome
    8. BEST IDEA IN THE POST (although I don’t have any syncable devices)
    9. just bind a key to xkill. Although it would be great to see it integrated by default (and there’s alredy a app killer applet that summons xkill, it just doesn’t have a skull)
    10. I believe it’s being worked on, and even already implemented in system running selinux.

  • 54
    June 30th, 2007 05:51

    #1 and #6 I don’t care about. I guess blurring or changing the contrast or
    whatever of the background when there are windows over it could be useful;
    it does take a little searching or editing to get a background with an
    unobstrusive contrast, especially with window transparency. I can’t remember
    when the last time was that I had to explain the meaning of GNOME to anyone.

    While it has been pointed out that there is a window-killing applet, I really
    don’t want another damn applet. I hardly have any room now on my panel!
    Also, there really is no reason to have yet another applet running, taking
    up memory. OTOH, it’s possible to assign a keybinding to a command, so you
    could just run xkill. There’s another one for the wishlist: How about a
    user-friendly way to configure keyboard-launched commands?

    #3 could be done with enhancements to gnome-power-manager.

    I like #2 and #5 particularly. I’d also like to be able to right-click an icon
    in the menu and edit or at least view the launcher settings. I sometimes find
    an app that I cannot identify and would like to know what command is being run.

    Here are some more of my own:

    o Control the pop-ups and focus-stealing. Nothing irritates me more on a
    daily basis than starting an application, switching back to my work while it
    starts and then having a bunch of pop-up prompts or notifications interrupt
    what I’m working on. Beryl does it; why can’t Metacity and Compiz? For that
    matter, how about keeping windows on the desktop they were launched from?

    o A desktop logging system. Syslog is often root-only and one could
    imagine not wanting to clutter up network logging with spew from random
    desktop applications. Currently, the streams of stdout and stderr go to
    ~/.xsession-errors if they go anywhere; they are not timestamped and often
    one cannot tell which application generates them. A desktop logging system
    would allow you to redirect these from the launcher and the core desktop
    components could log various events. Applications could log directly to
    the logging system and include, for example, structured data, which could
    the decoded and viewed with plugins in a viewer. Some applications are
    already inventing this wheel (e.g., Azureus, Pan) and many more should.
    This is, in fact, probably a problem common to the desktop environments.
    D-BUS may be appropriate for this; I don’t know.

    o Sysadmin or general user guides for underlying technologies. A lot of
    the new freedesktop technology sounds cool, but documentation that is not
    aimed at programmers is pretty scarce. D-BUS, HAL, GConf, etc.

    o GNOME Terminal should allow you to set the default terminal size. I use
    Vim with line numbers on by default, so if I could change the default width
    to 84 characters or so, I wouldn’t have to resize everytime I open a new one.


  • 55
    Lucas Lommer
    June 30th, 2007 06:47

    ad 1] Why? It’s online, everyone interrested in details can find it.

    ad 2] Menu is not so complicated so you can easily find what’s new and it’s also indicated by these buttons in submenu where’s something new.

    ad 3] What’s “Desktop Effects”? Gnome effects are unpretentious, 3D desktop is not a part of Gnome project.

    ad 4] tsclient is not a part of Gnome project.

    ad 5] The system os software installation is a question of each distro, not Gnome and I can’t imagine who will write something that will support all of these tons of package systems like yum, apt, urpmi etc.

    ad 6] And we’d like to keep nautilus clean and easy to use. No one is forced to use Nautilus to draw desktop, so you can use something whis has this feature.

    ad 9] Xkill is not a part of Gnome project, if you want to see a skull while using gnome integrated xkill replacement, change your cursor theme.

  • 56
    June 30th, 2007 08:14

    James, this feature is in GNOME and it’s actually nicer than the XP implementation. Just right click to get folder properties, and drag any image you like onto the folder icon (or just click the folder icon and browse).

  • 57
    Mike himself
    June 30th, 2007 09:28

    Hi Lucas, thanks for writing.

    1. It’s not that that details of ‘GNU Network Mod…’ is hard to find, it’s that those words don’t mean anything to most people (thankfully I hear its being dropped). And that having GNOME properly witten in all caps (as its acronym) is ugly.

    2. While GNOME’s categories are much better than Windows (which divides apps by software vendor), I can’t find new where new apps have installed themselves - eg, I think of Terminal Servics Client as an office tool, not an internet one.

    3. Desktop Effects is what you click on in recent versions of Gnome to enable composition. I don’t know ehether it’s in GNOME SVN or not, but it’s shipped with every new version of GNOME I’ve used so I consider it part of GNOME.

    4. Likewise, while TSClient may not live in GNOME SVN, it’s shipped as part of every GNOME I’ve used. If you want, I could rename the article ‘10 Idea for GNOME and Applications That Are Typically Installed if Default GNOME in most Linux distros’. But that would be tpoo long, and the points would still apply.

    5. I’m not asking GNOME to support all the weird and sundry package managers. GNOME would merely provide the ability to hook into a distro provided provide their own specific set of functions to handle tasks like querying the package that owns a file, the name of a graphical packaging tool, etc. This is incredibly easy to do in shell, so I don’t think C would be a problem.

    6. I like Nautilus! I like it drawing my desktop! As far as I know, nothing is available that gives me desktop icons and something better than a static image for my wallpaper - though please tell me if you know otherwise and I’ll add it to the article.

  • 58
    June 30th, 2007 09:42

    Windows doesn’t sort applications by software vendor, it’s just the stupid way the vendors like to use (well less today than about 1998, but still). That’s because the path is determined by the application itself. Same with linux, AFAIK.

  • 59
    June 30th, 2007 13:42

    nice post , I am also writing ideas to improve Ubuntu, I will publish my article sooon (after my uni exam)

  • 60
    10 Ideas to Improve GNOME « atlanticaGATE blog
    July 1st, 2007 04:19

    […] read more | digg story […]

  • 61
    July 1st, 2007 08:03

    Al and Aldo:
    You can select a file and press F2 to rename it inline.

  • 62
    July 1st, 2007 11:27

    I wish there could be better support for optical drives. I want to be able to insert a recordable DVD (+RW or -RW) then right click on the desktop icon for the disk and select “format” and be able to format the disk in whatever way I choose, e.g. UDF 1.5, Mt Rainier etc. Also I want to be able to copy files to a rewriteable disk previously formatted by drag and drop or copy and paste and have it actually work. Now it never does (although it seems to sometimes in KDE).

    I know optical drives are not popular, aside from their use to pirate movies, but some people do use them for backup and offline storage, and it would be nice to able to do so without having to use the command line, which is unwieldy and cumbersome and impossible for anyone who is not a Linux/Unix expert.

    It would also be nice if when you format a disk (either from comand line or via the gui) it would not default to be owned by the superuser, despite having been formatted by a normal user, then requiring to have to sudo and change permissions before it can be used.

  • 63
    July 1st, 2007 14:53

    Ok, here’s a short summary of what I’d like to see.

    We’re already using SVG icons across the board, I think it would be awesome if we could make better use of them. Using CSS to draw the colors from would be the first step, allowing icons to be recolored to match whatever theme you’re running at the moment, perhaps pulling the highlight color from the gtkrc file. Secondly, allowing icons emblems to display more than just a static image. It would be awesome if for instance, disk drives automatically recieved a bar graph or pie chart emblem which displayed the percent of disk free/in use.

    As for the file open/save dialog, there really needs to be a plugin system for gtk so that nautilus’s thumbnails can be used in those dialogs, or alternately, the thumbnailer needs to be moved into gtk and removed from nautilus.

    A new default window manager button order. The Windows-style window management buttons may be familiar, but the placing of the buttons sucks. It would be much better for usability purposes if we had minimize, maximize:close as the default.

    Tracker nautilus integration, and a tracker fuse module, so that it becomes possible to have live queries of the file system show up as virtual folders on the desktop. This is really the kind of thing we should be building whole distros around.

    Epiphany gtk-webcore backend support so we don’t have to have that depending on firefox being installed all the time. One task to perform, one app should be all we need by default.

    Gimp and Inkscape should get together and standardize on some interface issues. I’d love if they’d meet halfway. Giving the gimp an inkscape-style main window, and giving inkscape the ability to dock the sub-windows together like the gimp can.

    Mac style menu support, while not all that important for desktop systems, I can see how this would be really handy on small devices.

    Gstreamer DVD menu support, full support for non-css DVDs out of the box.

    An app to easily create a video DVD with menus from a collection of files.

  • 64
    July 1st, 2007 21:03

    Clean up the panel and applets right-click menus. They are to long and cluttered.
    Add TomBoy to the desktop right-click menu.

  • 65
    Daniel Andrews: The Weblog » essentials!
    July 2nd, 2007 02:12

    […] this point, though, I feel GNOME is right for me. There are some things that could use some work, but overall it’s the best for a GUI purist like […]

  • 66
    Zaheer M K
    July 2nd, 2007 06:57

    Very nice. Especially the points, Something more than wallpaper (I call it wallanime, short for animated wallpaper), Screencast S/W (and the ability to save in MNG format, which is the motion cousin of PNG), Force Quit utility for closing hung apps (Xkill is really superb, much better than usually what is seen in other OSes; the shortcut key for Xkill, which is usually used by most distros could also be made in-built).
    What I would like to add to the list is a utility for configuring keyboard shortcuts (could also be embedded in the main menu, in the properties of the respective apps). And as the author opined, the ability to uninstall apps by rignt-clicking on the main menu itself is also highly welcome, since it takes usability to a different level altogether.

  • 67
    July 2nd, 2007 21:01

    Hi all!!
    I used icewm before and now want to see one thing in Gnome - screen layers of running programs. I meen that i want to bring my apps to front or backward likes in icewm.
    Above dock, dock, normal, etc… that will be cool i mean :-)

    IMHO, existing Gnome’s layers (on top and normal), working not pretty good. sometimes it works, sometimes not. when i switch application with checked option ‘on top’ it may be drawn below than another ‘normal’ application.
    I never seen that behaviour in icewm


  • 68
    July 2nd, 2007 21:08

    Let me add just one thing, it annoys me everytime I plug a CF card into my cardreader to put some music on it. When I do so, a notification text pops up at the left-down corner and either stays there (and in my way) until file transfer is finished or I have to close it and become unsure if the media is ready to unplug.

    So what I would like to see is changing desktop icons for removeable media, just adding a warning sign until remove is safe would do the trick.

  • 69
    July 4th, 2007 00:51

    One improvment i would like: Some kind of Gnome Sudo tool. One admin tool to add sudo actions to users and the system should use sudo automatic when needed for some actions (like when installing packages and upgrading) instead of asking for root password and a right click should allow sudo run of applications.

  • 70
    Web 2.0 Announcer
    July 4th, 2007 02:31

    10 Ideas to Improve GNOME…

    […]We love GNOME. Sometime around 2.6 it started becoming really, really damned good, a lot faster and more responsive. We?re not alone either: Ubuntu, Fedora/RHEL and SuSE all use GNOME by default. These ideas range from the simple (highlighting new…

  • 71
    Jan Hutař
    July 4th, 2007 06:30

    > Tell me What’s Using My Removable Disk
    > If its Nautilus, and the window isn’t busy, close it. If it’s
    > something else, find its window name, and give me
    > the option of closing it.

    IMHO this is idea of all: stop the “su -c ‘lsof | grep media/disk’”! :-)

  • 72
    July 7th, 2007 01:54

    Better window management — take ideas from Ion3 or stumpwm for hotkey layout, behaviours, and scriptability.

    I’d like a way to force basic window behaviours like tiling, grouping, etc.

  • 73
    freelabs @ sbarrax.it » [VentureCake] “10 idee per migliorare GNOME”
    July 7th, 2007 02:03

    […] http://www.venturecake.com/10-ideas-to-improve-gnome/ […]

  • 74
    July 8th, 2007 04:43

    1. Stop treating users lilke idiots (as Linus has said).

    2. Change this bug[1] from “WONTFIX” to resolved and fix fix the dam thing.

    Every other screensaver module on the planet lets users change settings in the screensavers. It’s expected behavior.


  • 75
    Mårten Woxberg
    July 8th, 2007 20:31

    I agree with almost everything, except the background thing.

    When the desktop is visible, I want to click my icons (and thus I don’t want the lightning to change by image switch) , when it’s partially hidden I don’t want it to “move” and divert my eyes from what I’m doing.
    When I’m not at my computer my screensaver is on, so when am I going to just sit and watch my desktop change pictures?

    Hi Mårten - I agree with your point about not wanting to divert your eyes from what’s actually happening, which fast animation can do. Because of that, what I’m suggesting here is a very slow, almost glacial movement behind your icons - so you wouldn’t know that it’s moving unless you sat and looked. Screensavers are fun, but they’re for when I’m away at my computer. I’m suggesting a very subtle reminder of our loved ones when we need our desktop.

  • 76
    melina obq
    July 9th, 2007 21:09

    Great stuff!!!

  • 77
    July 10th, 2007 05:33

    Great ideas. I’ve got my own long list of little things here:


    Some are developer oriented (GTK+ improvements), some are vague architectural ideas, some are specific little things to do in Gnome.


  • 78
    July 10th, 2007 20:10

    Be informative…


  • 79
    July 11th, 2007 03:37


    Looks good! Very useful, good stuff. Good resources here. Thanks much!


  • 80
    This Week on the Command Line: Lieutenant Worf's favourite distro is? : Command Line Warriors
    July 12th, 2007 09:08

    […] offers 10 ideas to improve GNOME, one of my favourite […]

  • 81
    July 13th, 2007 00:27

    This is exactly what I expected to find out after reading the title 10 ideas to improve GNOME. Thanks for informative article

  • 82
    July 13th, 2007 02:45

    “While Linux has multiple packaging systems, it’s incredibly easy to abstract the differences between them (we’ve done it, so have others).”

    Can you please point out where you or others did it? The only thing I know of is the attempt of the LSB working group to create some kind of API to abstract the packaging systems, and nothing came out of that so far.

    I would love to see such an abstraction because it could solve multiple Linux problems at once, but I don’t know of any.

  • 83
    July 14th, 2007 03:02


    Please do not forget the context of the statement. He's not talking about a complete abstraction over the native package manager, as the LSB working group is working on. He's talking about being able to remove a package using the GNOME menu system. You just need to be able to:

    a) Determine the owner of the package (perhaps based on Exec from a .desktop file?)
    b) Remove the package.

    Here's a pseudo-script that does that for dpkg and rpm:

    package=$(rpm -qf "$EXECUTABLE")
    rpm -e "$package"
    package=$(dpkg -S "$EXECUTABLE")
    dpkg -r "$package"

  • 84
    Dylan McCall
    July 16th, 2007 05:42

    Just one thing: We do have the skull!
    (At least, I think we do).

    Look for the “Force Quit” panel applet. It’s nice and intuitive :)
    It could really do with being more visible, though, instead of hidden away as a panel applet. (Perhaps Control Alt Delete could trigger it?)

    Nice suggestion about Gnome letting us know what program is using a mounted device or a file. I was just complaining about that yesterday!
    It almost reminded me of Windows. But then, with Windows, the culprit is usually the same program I’m telling to delete the file (Explorer), so it is ten times worse… so Gnome is still on top.

    Message of the Day… what would be exceptionally awesome is inter-user messaging using such a system. If it was open enough, it could integrate with any Gnome application, which would be very useful. (For example, Ubuntu could then have the option to “ask your Administrator to install this package” for the unprivileged users).
    Maybe it could be done via a local mail server?
    Actually, I guess “message of the day” would be a separate beast, a GUI plugging in with the inter-user messaging, perhaps looking for messages with a particular tag or subject.
    Some clever design (which I know the Gnome folks are more than capable of!) would certainly help that.

    Oh, and I agree GNOME should become Gnome. That confused me a lot when I first was learning this environment, and as you can see I have already given up with the acronym.

  • 85
    IPLegal planet » Blog Archive » 10 ideas to improve GNOME
    July 19th, 2007 00:22

    […] See the article here: http://www.venturecake.com/10-ideas-to-improve-gnome/ […]

  • 86
    July 20th, 2007 00:47

    Alvaro Lopez contributed a fairly complete POSIX ACL patch for nautilus a good while back, we use it in OpenSolaris and it’s in http://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=62817. IIRC the main objection was that people wanted it integrated on the Permissions tab, rather than on a separate ACL tab. At one point Alo was also redesigning the GUI to look more like the OSX Server equivalent, but I don’t know if he finished that and/or updated the patch.

  • 87
    July 20th, 2007 11:26

    >>XKill is the most user friendly method of killing apps on any desktop. >>No Gnome System Monitor, no Windows Task Manager,

    yep that’s empower tool, you’ve got xlock also.. :)

    great article!!, I agree with most of it, exception on the “yellowing-highlight”, the gnome/DE needs more powertools.. Powertweak was a great one, I ‘d loved tweaking the kernel parameters, but nowadays it’s unusable, because it’s unmainted and oddie uncompatible with the new kernel futures, kde has some info/hw features that IMO would function great on gtk+ as well.
    Anyway great article, that’s exactly what’s I think it’s needed… Power tools/Sysadmin..

  • 88
    July 21st, 2007 23:03

    Though it should have been thought of from day one,
    it sure would be nice if the folder structure would be standardized.
    so applications would always be in the same place no matter which linux distro you were running.
    say for example: /applications/firefox
    all system files and folders under one folder say: /system/etc
    it sure would make linux more streamlined

    just a thought,

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