New Shell design (feedback)

This might be a better place for feedback

So I’m trying to summarize some of the feedback (what I think is not “destroying” the whole new design)

  • Some way of accessing the dock form outside of the overview and app grid (because of mouse travel)
  • Maybe a way to have the dock on the left like in the current design
  • A gesture to open the app grid directly like the double tap the super key or super + a

I think some misunderstand that the fundamental elements of gnome remain, like the search function, the hot corner and the non distracting design. The only thing that is a bit more than only reorienting thinks, that the whole desktop overview is now were the app grid is located.

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I have created a standalone thread about workspaces management with multi-monitor setups, to avoid that question being potentially buried in a big general discussion, as I suspect the answer will be complicated and may warrant its own thread. So if anyone is interested specifically in that question, see that thread.

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It seems feedback is supposed to be posted here instead of in the issue thread for the new design. I’ll therefore repost what I said there into here:


First impressions upon looking at the blog post are that it looks nice visually.

Great: One thing that I really like and think will be a huge usability improvement is the application icons drawn over the windows. I’ve always found it very difficult to differentiate windows with stock GNOME, as many of them look identical when scaled down to a smaller size. In fact, for a long time I’ve used the WindowOverlay Icons extension to add in application icons on the overview. Now it seems that this is becoming a native feature, so I’m very happy.

The only thing I’m unsure about is the icon’s placement at the bottom of each window — wouldn’t it make more sense for the icons to be centred?

Great (?): It isn’t entirely clear to me from reading the blog post and the issue thread, whether the applications bar is being changed in how it functions. The blog post doesn’t seem to mention it at all other than that it’s being moved. But the screenshots suggest that it no longer shows running apps (e.g. Text Editor is running as a window, but isn’t shown on the bar), and some comments in the issue thread have called it a “Favourites Bar”. It would be nice to get some clarification on that.

If it is being changed to only function as a favourites bar, then I think that’s a great change. Again, it’s something that I’ve already modified on my own system using an extension. I’ve always found it very strange how stock GNOME shows running applications on this bar, as you can already see them on the window spread, so it’s essentially duplicating information which is redundant.

The two things above are the only things I currently use extensions for, as I try to keep very close to a stock GNOME experience, and with these changes I would be able to remove the extensions entirely. That’s wonderful for me.


Unconvinced: The big concern to me here, as seems to be the case for many others, is the orientation change. This design has workspaces laid out horizontally, with the Apps Grid positioned vertically below as a second page. I’m very unconvinced by this and am currently leaning towards thinking that it’s a step backwards.

It seems to me that the current vertical workspaces layout is a better fit for both the keyboard and mouse as input devices.

Almost every mouse has a vertical scroll wheel. With the current GNOME layout, it is possible to open the Activities view, and then scroll between workspaces using the mouse wheel. This is very fast, fluid, and intuitive. With this new design, it would seem that this would be changed in one of either two ways:

  1. Scrolling with the mouse wheel would instead just toggle you between the Apps Grid and the “Workspace Scroller” pages. That’s all you’d get — the entire scroll wheel at your disposal and you can only toggle between two pages.
  2. Scrolling with the mouse wheel would continue to scroll between workspaces. However, there would be a confusing disconnect between the physical movement and the on-screen result. You’d be scrolling the wheel vertically to shift between workspaces horizontally on-screen. That doesn’t seem intuitive to me.

On the keyboard side, you have two keys that specifically suit a vertical layout: Page Up and Page Down. I’m not sure if I’ve changed my shortcuts from GNOME’s defaults or not, but I currently switch workspaces using Super+Page Up/Down, and move windows between workspaces using Super+Shift+Page Up/Down. Again, I find this to be very fast, fluid, and intuitive. There would be a similar issue with this if the workspaces were laid out horizontally — it would no longer make intuitive sense and there would be a disconnect between the physical input and the end result. The keyboard’s arrow keys are better suited for manipulating the active window instead (e.g. Super+Left to snap to the left).

I also think it’s just more intuitive and natural to scroll vertically rather than horizontally. In this new design, not just the workspace scrolling, but also the Apps Grid scrolling is done horizontally. To me that seems unintuitive and unnatural. Think of like a newspaper, for example — you read columns of text down the page. Think of a website — you scroll down between pages as you read. Think of a leaflet — you hold it in a portrait orientation and read down from top to bottom. It just seems so much more natural to me for both the workspaces and Apps Grid to scroll vertically… And that also fits the input devices better. Indeed, isn’t that why the input devices are designed around vertical scrolling? Because that’s more natural and how most content would be navigated? Or am I crazy?

I’m really not quite sure why the orientation change is necessary. It seems to me like this same design could just be rotated 90 degrees and still work the same, except better matching the input devices. Why not have the apps bar on the left where it is now, or on the right side instead, and then navigate left/right on the Activities view to get to the Apps Grid? Then you can have vertical scrolling for workspaces with the new design, and vertical scrolling for the Apps Grid with the new design.


It also seems to me that this new design means that you can no longer see all the windows on all of your workspaces immediately. With the current GNOME, you can simply open Activites, and then on the right you can see all of your workspaces, and all of the windows inside them — although admittedly they are quite tiny. With this new design, when you open Activities you would only see your current workspace, and a tiny sliver of the left and right workspaces. In order to actually get a “bird’s eye view”, you’d need to scroll down to the Apps Grid, meaning that it requires an extra input step.


It also seems like this new design results in more wasted space on the left and right sides of the screen, when using typical widescreen monitors. The current Activities view uses the left and right space to show the apps bar and the vertical workspaces. The new design just has empty space there when showing the Apps Grid, and otherwise only shows a sliver of the next/previous workspace which doesn’t really seem useful.


Really, just the more I think about this, the more I think the orientation change is a bad idea. I’m only finding more and more practical drawbacks and don’t see any benefits whatsoever. It seems to me that the current GNOME Activities view is better thought out and more practical than this redesign.

I implore you to reconsider this. The Activities view is currently the single most praised and loved feature of GNOME. Whenever people discuss their favourite thing about GNOME, it’s always the Activities view that comes up first. Even the KDE Plasma users want to copy it. That doesn’t mean that you can’t change it — but please, 1. consider that if people love it so much, it’s probably because it’s doing something right, and 2. be very careful if you do change it!

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And I will do the same :slight_smile:


  1. I belief it’s a very good decision to place the workspaces horizontally because this makes it much easier to create a mental image of all the workspaces and windows. If I read the blog post correctly, this is also the outcome of the user research.
  2. Zooming in and out of the workspaces (like the Deepin desktop) probably looks very nice but this add a 3D-effect to the desktop. This is a break from all the past designs. Do you really want to go 3D? Is it really necessary? I don’t think this is slight decision.
  3. Showing the window picker on boot is a good decision because this means a click less to start working.
  4. In the new design the App grid becomes really crowded. From top to bottom you have five rows: time, search, workspaces, apps and the dash. The problem with this is that it makes it a bit difficult to scan the page quickly. I don’t have a quick solution for this but be aware that the app grid is now a little but more difficult to scan.
  5. Scroll the app grid horizontally is, I think, a bad idea that most users, probably, will dislike. It just is unnatural to scroll up and down and see the icons move left and right. My suggestion: align the workspaces/windows horizontally but keep the vertical scrolling for the apps.
  6. Just as scrolling the apps in the grid feels unnatural, scrolling the apps in the app folders also feels unnatural.
  7. Search in an overlay is, I think, a very clever idea! This makes searching much less distractive.
  8. I belief the designs given are not completely fair because most user don’t use workspaces at all and will only see this:

one-workspace|attachment

As you can see in the mockups, this is not a problem for the workspace overview but the app grid doesn’t look that esthetic anymore.

Question: how should a user create a new workspace? By dragging and dropping a window onto an empty space of the workspace overview or will there always be one workspaces more than there is in use (like in the current design)?

  1. I miss mockups how the design works on different screen sizes (older smaller screens, super wide screens, multi monitor setups, etc.).
  2. While workspaces are very central in the current and new design, I belief that people don’t necessary want to create and destroy workspaces. I belief that users want to group and ungroup applications and I made a design that makes this possible.

You can find that design here https://jeroenverhoeckx.com/gnome-workspace-management.html

I completely understand that this design is too far reaching at the moment (it merges the concepts of windows and workspaces) but know that it’s possible to work with windows and workspaces in a completely different way.

I read in some comments that some don’t like that this issue is being used to give feedback on the new design but don’t forget that this issue is for a normal user as me the only opportunity to give feedback on a design before it’s implemented. It also makes the project more open and I belief this is exactly what the GNOME project needs (in mind I have the recent blog post of E. Bassi). Don’t forget that I, just as everybody else, want the project to succeed.

Who am I? I’m a Linux user since 2001 and have used the GNOME-desktop almost exclusively since that time. I have seen the rise of the project (GNOME 2), the fall & splintering (GNOME 3) and now I’m witnessing, hopefully, the rise again (GNOME 40+). I watched the project from the side most of the time though.

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I was reading Allans blog post with interest - nice work. Question regarding vertical placement of desktops, apps + favorites in the overview page: will it be possible to switch between vertical and horizontal layout? I typically go for ultra-wide screens. And phones / tablets in landscape could also make use of space in horizontal.

Out of interest: what are the current arguments for vertical placement (of desktops, apps + favorites in the overview page)?

(horizontal desktop placement comes to mind)
(portrait mode in phones comes to mind)

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GNOME devs said no

Honestly, I think that this needs to be reconsidered (I know it wont though)

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Horizontal desktop placement
One nice goal that the new design reaches is a refinement of the gestures. In the current design it was not possible to use the four finger swipe to the left and right, in a way that would make sense. In the new design it is now possible to use all four direction with the four fingers. Probably using quite a few people gnome with, only mouse and keyboard. This is why some people complaining about it.

One solution is that it could be manually changed but without the gestures, they stay like in the new design. The only thing that must be changes are the keyboard shortcuts. This would satisfy all people that are using gnome only with mouse and keyboard. The only big question were what is with the whole desktop overview?

But one thing that should be mentioned is that I know not a single desktop / operating system that uses vertical desktops. I know that just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean it’s good, but that was the best way with very little compromise to all types of users and input devices.

They locked it because it was the wrong place
In the MR @allanday said:

More general design issues should be reported directly against os-mockups.

gnome-shell gets way more attention than os-mockups (and when the thread was locked they said that the conversation should be moved to discoruse, which is even worse than os-mockups)

Despite the user study there are many, many, many many issues raised on reddit and elsewhere. please make this vertical.

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So lets wait for the designers to respond. Maybe there is a way to undo it. At least there is a way to undo it with extensions. I think now they know that many people love vertical workspaces.

gnome-shell gets way more attention than os-mockups

But why need feedback attention? The design team definitely read it if it is in os-mockups or in gnome-shell. And the redesign in general gets enough attention in the whole linux desktop community.

Out of interest: what are the current arguments for vertical placement (of desktops, apps + favorites in the overview page)?

Best usage of real estate on widescreen monitors, which are the majority of desktops. To be able to have workspaces (which gains you a good way to organize multiple windows) you need somewhere out of the way to have the switcher and launcher. Since you have more room on the horizontal axis you run the launcher and switcher vertically on each side. Or something along those lines.

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yes, we already had this horizontal model. it was called docky and compiz and the current gnome was built as a better way. Having to switch virtual desktops/workspaces to see what is in them is going backwards. Wasting space with horizontal dock is going backwards.

The app grid is fine for me the way it is. I have no trouble moving in and out of it and rarely use it anyways. Not a good enough reason for a major change, much less one that is a step backwards.

I don’t know if workspaces will be cleanly separated with horizontal, but that’s important to me too. I don’t want to scroll through groups of windows like it’s a slideshow. The way the workspaces, launcher and overview works now is perfect for me.

I don’t trust that the user research is necessarily designed properly, or that the correct conclusions are being drawn from it. Where is this user research anyways?

There are plenty of little things that could be fixed in Gnome, but vertical orientation is not one of them.

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sorry that should have linked to a comment saying that theres going to be no option to change layout

Hello!
@allanday or other members in the design team:
I missed to ask in the GitLab issue. How does the new Shell design work without workspaces (virtual desktops)? I cannot find a picture or note about it. Do we get more space for showing the window overview?

I’m happily using the Shell for many years without workspaces because the Shell does a great job in giving the necessary overview. This doesn’t mean workspaces bad, I just don’t use them.

Thank you

I belief that my solution to group and ungroup windows (see above) instead of creating and destroying workspaces solves the the question of vertical vs horizontal workspaces by ‘merging’ the concepts of windows and workspaces.

i had ignored that last part of your post for some reason. i was probably still irritated with your #1. :slight_smile:
Your solution might be an acceptable compromise, but i don’t see it as superior for someone who likes vertical workspaces and uses workspaces. I see the current design as best for them/me. There is no difficulty getting a mental model using vertical (when used correctly) that i have seen. Only people who aren’t grouping their windows using some logic. Then, of course you don’t know where your windows are because there was no system. Most people (including me) are not going to remember where they are in that case. That’s not how i use workspaces though. I don’t just randomly distribute windows all over the place and hope to find them later. I group them into the same workspaces every day and those workspaces are chosen by how the activities relate to one another and how often i engage in those activities. This is very productive for me and i always know where everything is. I understand that some people may not invent little systems like this, but gnome could easily demonstrate this to new users. I just believe that the current design is superior and that it is being watered down to appeal to the masses instead of setting a good example and showing people how to use it. Yes, it’s more trouble. Yes, people will complain. Most people i have installed gnome for like it, even if most of them don’t use workspaces at all, or properly. A little education might go a long way.

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Hey there. I realize you are receiving lots of feedback, so I don’t expect a direct answer, I am just posting here to provide more feedback and hopefully help the project achieve a better outcome.

Here is how I use GNOME Shell:

  • Ubuntu 20.04 with v3.36.4.
  • Two monitors with dynamic workspaces enabled only on the primary one.
  • Left dock disabled for more screen space and fewer distractions.
  • Using “Top Panel Workspace Scroll” extension for fast switching workspaces with the mouse wheel on the top bar (I also use the keyboard shortcut, but this is a great extension because I don’t need to open the overview or move one hand away from the mouse when using it to switch workspaces).
  • Impatience extension enabled for faster animations.
  • Overview screen accessed both via keyboard and hot corner when switching windows with the mouse.
  • Extension enabled for switching windows only in the current screen/workspace.

So the major points for me on this change seem to be:

  • I usually cycle through my workspaces without using the overview but I still use the mini workspace switcher on the overview screen. In the new design, it seems it is only available when opening the app grid, which doesn’t make much sense.
  • I may have used the app grid 3 times in the last 2 years since the search is so much faster.
  • I also rarely use the overview dock on the left, but when I do it is great that it is next to the hot corner.

What worries me is that this new workflow could be slower because these changes seem to be aimed at making the Shell more appealing to a larger audience. Hopefully, I am wrong, or at least the same agility will still be possible with some more extensions.

Hope this helps.

Thank you for the great work!

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