Surely some users are still broken-hearted about the loss of the Gnome panel and other components of Gnome 2. Gnome Shell is getting better every day, and there are certainly some features that are becoming popular.
About Gnome 3
Gnome 3 is designed to be even more user-friendly than Gnome 2. Not only that, Gnome shell was created to look absolutely stylish and offer users a fun experience.
Integrated Chat Support
The desktop now offers built-in chat support for several protocols. You can also access your online calendars, documents, and many of your online contacts. Empathy and Evolution will also be integrated directly into the user interface.
Users attempting to try Gnome 3 using VirtualBox will most likely experience several problems as I did. You may be able to fix this by sacrificing a chicken and doing a ritualistic dance, but I found it not worth the effort. I did try on several occasions and only had success one time. If you are determined, try using a brand new version of VirtualBox, and enable guest additions in Gnome fallback mode before activating Gnome Shell.
This desktop environment is not difficult to install. You an easily this desktop on your Linux system and use it in place of your default desktop environment. You can install Gnome Shell with the APT tool with just a few quick commands.
Installing Gnome 3 on Ubuntu is also fairly simple, installation instructions are provided. You can also learn how to install the Gnome tweak tool along with all the cool Gnome Shell extensions.
Arch Linux Installation
You can even install Gnome 3 desktop on any Arch Linux-based system, and they provide much helpful documentation.
Be sure to have a look at all the components used by the Gnome 3 desktop and the Gnome Shell. This should give users a better understanding of exactly what the Gnome 3 desktop delivers, you will also see many of the available tools and packages.
This desktop is not nearly as modular as some earlier versions. Most components are just mixed libraries not clearly labeled packages. This means it will be harder to use individual components on the Gnome desktop on your system.
One of the greatest benefits of this excellent desktop environment is the large list of Gnome software. You will get a huge list of high quality software that will help with all basic desktop activities.
Some distributions have recently dropped GDM in favor of the LightDM display manager. The display manager provides the graphical user interface used at the desktop login screen. GDM has recently made some big improvements as well.
Like some of the other popular display managers GDM can also use different themes. Naturally several exciting themes have been created by the user community that you can download for free.
The Gnome 3 desktop is still taking advantage of the old Gnome session manager. The session manager is used to restore application states and run desktop startup scripts. This session manager also offers several configuration options which may be helpful.
Session Manager Functions
The session manager is started by the login manager after user authentication has been confirmed. The display manager and the session manager will then run several additional scripts and proceed to launch the desktop. The session manager then continues to load all required applications and desktop services.
Mutter is the default window manager used with Gnome 3. The new window manager provides much advanced 3D graphics functionality. But of course all the same great window functions are still around.
The new Mutter window manager also uses the Clutter graphical libraries to provide unique and very modern graphical interfaces based on CSS and Java. This allows for the cool new window look with the rounded borders, and fast production of new user interfaces.
When using your new desktop installed applications can be found by clicking on the activities button in the top panel. You can select the applications button near the top of the new window to switch between open windows or available applications being displayed.
When applications are displayed a list of categories will also be displayed on the right hand side, this allow you to quickly search to applications related to specific functions.
Activity Search Bar
Additionally you can also use the search bar in the top right corner of the activities overview to find anything you like. When using the search bar you will be offered to quick launchers for google, or Wikipedia. Gnome Shell attempts to make everything easy to find, once you know what you are doing that is.
The dash bar on the left will hold your favorite and currently running applications, simply drag new items into the dash to add them as favorites.
Adding New Launchers
Newly opened applications will automatically appear in the dash, you can right-click on any item and then click add to favorites. This will make the launcher stay in the dash when the application is closed. You can remove unwanted launchers from the Gnome Shell dash as well, also from the right-click menu.
As mentioned above open windows can also be found inside the activities window. Or you can browse your open windows using the Windows key on your keyboard.
Activities Overview Workspace Panel
The Gnome Shell activities area will display open windows in a shrunken state in the middle of your desktop, as well as a panel on the right hand side displaying your open windows on other workspaces. The whole look is quite attractive and at least decently convenient, especially for new users.
From the windows and workspaces view you can also zoom in on displayed windows using the middle mouse scroll buttons. This will enlarge or shrink the window allowing you to see its contents.
The Gnome 3 desktop will also display several useful system notifications. These will notify you about different system events or anything that may require your attention.
All of your system settings are very easy to find when using this desktop environment. Just open your activities window, and select the applications tab. Then open the system tools tab, and select YaST if you are using the OpenSUSE Gnome 3 LiveCD. All of your network, desktop, display, keyboard, mouse, and sound settings can be found here. There are several settings categories to choose from on the left hand side of the main window. Just select one of the categories to open a window with several available options.
Gnome Control Center
The control center is also available to handle system settings, though it is scarcely populated. I am still not entirely satisfied with the graphical user interfaces offered with Gnome 3, for more control stick to the GConf Editor.
The introduction of Gnome Shell extensions has many users excited. You can download Gnome Shell extensions to enhance your desktop and add functionality. There is a growing list of Gnome Shell extensions available to download. Gnome Shell also uses a simple framework for desktop extensions which help to allow users to create their own.
Available Gnome Shell Extensions
There is a long list of available extensions with installation instructions provided. Install any of the extensions you want to add extra features to the Gnome Shell. You can then use the Gnome Tweak tool to enable them. Try adding new menus, new notifications, and in general, lots of fun new little toys.
For anyone encountering misbehaving applications the gnome system monitor is also available. This tool can kill frozen applications, or you can use the system monitor to see your system resources and details.
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