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Finding the Ubuntu Desktop

Finding the Ubuntu Desktop

Yes, I think there should be an Ubuntu Desktop. A stand-alone. Maybe because the actual desktop is based on the Gnome project, but it is not Gnome. We can use pure Gnome for that. And the actual desktop is okay, but not really good. Or really pretty. It just is an adoption of Gnome, with some Ubuntu colors (simplified…).

So, what are the conditions?

  • Modern & stylish – but not overwhelming, or too focused on the OS
  • A unique and complete design – not just assembled from other distributions
  • Logical and meaningful – based workflows and tasks
  • Easy and recurring workflows
  • Work oriented – to really work for & with you, to attract more user in companies
  • Content first – get rid of space-occupying bars, content is king
  • Defining standards – to have a basic system & to find more developers building apps for it (which also run on other distributions, of course)
  • Re-interpreting old designs – to convey the known Ubuntu feeling from the beginning
  • Personal – give the user a bigger role in their own system, like the opportunity to personalize the system more

I like the way the Gnome desktop is going. Not entirely, but I like the apps and the courage, to redefine the desktop (from version 3). But the absence of a “dock” was a big no-go for me and my way of working. It seems, it is made for little screens. Always have to click or tab a key to get to my other open applications, or for an overview is unnecessarily complicated and slows work down. And no ordinary user will come up with the idea to install whatever extensions – this needs to work out of the box. And lastly, it is not as self-explaining, as it needs to be.

So, I see Gnome as a good base for the Desktop. How? Maybe as Gnome-Extensions? But at least it saves work for not having to develop a whole new environment and using the included apps. But like I said before: it must be different.

When you have a look at Windows, macOS and the most used/important Linux desktop environments, you find a lot of nice ideas, a lot of problems and a lot of ways to do things. But you find a lot of stuff that is made the same way. Sometimes things feel as if they are simply there because they have always been. And you find design flaws and inconsistently implemented parts.

For me, KDE is for example interesting to use, but rustic and playful at the same time – I just cannot take it seriously. You can do so much change to it to make it look and feel different – but this is not the way the ordinary user thinks – but professionals can customize the f*ck out of it. And this is what macOS teaches us: users don’t want to change anything. At the most they switch the dock to the left or right, when they have figured out how.

Elementary OS is going that way and is successful with it, because it has a simple, useful and stylish (yes, copied) design. In my opinion, Ubuntu Mate/Mint looks outdated in the year 2017 (also like others). Budgie has nice ideas, but is not right there and sometimes still too complicated – but they will make it. Zorin OS is stylish and fresh, but too much a copy of Windows, which just restricts progress and own ways.

Then there is Deepin Linux. It kind of surprised me to see, what’s possible. Elementary OS was already stylish and customized down to many apps, but the top of all, was Deepin. I didn’t even know the desktop, I tried and just was surprised by the truly different ways. But also here, there is a “but”. It wants to be too easy, which is hardly working for the Control Center or the system settings. And it handles tasks like “shutdown” like apps, which is a little irritating and pro user will have the dock very full in a short time. But still – impressive, let’s see where this will lead to.

So: Gnome is and was the way to go, to have a good and stable base. To have nice and useful apps, but there are still some apps and functions missing. This brings me to the other side of using Gnome: to contribute back to the Gnome project.

As the last months showed us it seems to work, that Canonical and the Gnome team work together to get things done. This is so important, because while Windows and macOS are developed down to every little detail (by hundreds of fully-paid developers, of course). A lot of Linux desktops are still having problems on the surface and a lot of them don’t feel like they are ready to use. The sometimes weird version numbers don’t help with that. Because nobody wants to use the version 0.42 in a productive way. This just makes sense to the developers, but it kind of frightens the end-user.

Also, a very important task to do: to ship every necessary standard app. For the basic work and play. And to give the user a straight and easy line how to handle lot of the day by day tasks. We treat that in detail in “Finding Ubuntu Part 3: The Present”.

With that we are back at where I started. How can Ubuntu be an operating system for the masses? For the normal user? For companies, schools and governments? For your mum?

I think:

Starting from scratch. Rethink about everything what Ubuntu is. Find an ambitious goal. Use existing resources and bring resources back to the community. Position Ubuntu as the great end-user operating system it should be.

That is (of course) my opinion.

Read next: “Finding Ubuntu Part 2- Design