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In defense of GNOME

by Marko Mirceski · 3 min read


We all know and hate the GNOME desktop environment. It’s the dreaded “anti-user” human interface guidelines, that, quite frankly, make Windows and macOS look perfectly usable. But what if I told you that our criticism stems from all the wrong reasons, and why you should give GNOME a second chance, or at least, a try. In this article I will make a case for using GNOME, and why it is by far the most unique desktop environment there is.

The Basics

For all that have been living in a cave until now, here’s the basics: GNOME is a desktop environment of the GNU/Linux operating system, which has been around since 1999. The developers, at first, took a rather common approach to GNOME’s design philosophy, creating a desktop environment that looked quite familiar to users of Windows, for example. But with version 3, they started going in a different direction, doing radical things to transform the Linux Desktop into a truly unique experience. And for all their faults, these devs truly believe in what they do, creating quality software that doesn’t even closely compromise their design philosophy.

The Philosophy

GNOME’s philosophy is mainly to be “out of the way”, meaning that the system won’t stand in your way of getting your work done. This translates into a sleek, empty desktop, with a small top bar and nothing else. The apps can be accessed by opening the Applications overview with a shortcut, or by using the mouse to open your activities on the top bar, and then accessing your applications from the dock that only shows up in the activites and applications menu. (In fact, the button on the far right of the dock opens the applications panel.) This also shows through the fact that there are no desktop icons per default. The Activities are virtual desktops that can help you separate different workflows easily and efficiently. With the use of extensions, you can regain some of the “traditional” desktop functionality. Some people though are really opposed to this way of working. Let’s see why:

Why people hate on GNOME

The main reason, I think, why people hate on GNOME is the fact that it is very alien to them. They don’t know how to handle something so weird and unusual and they resort to negativity as their only way of coping with it. Of course, some people just don’t like the way GNOME handles stuff, and they resort to using more traditional environments, like KDE, Xfce, and Cinnamon. It’s true that some decisions are very questionable, like omitting the minimize and maximize buttons from the default system, and not even allowing desktop icons without an extension. In my opinion, though, these are just things one needs to adjust to when using GNOME, or installing mentioned extensions to get it back.

Why you should give it a chance

In my opinion, all the issues GNOME has are things people can adjust to. If you like Wayland, I highly suggest GNOME. There is no experience like GNOME on Wayland, and I think that says a lot about the system. Another reason to try it is if you seek a truly unique experience, far away from all the traditional Windows/macOS stuff that has been burned into your brain over the decades. If you are a massive Qt-lover/super-fanboy, I say you should skip GNOME, because Qt just looks odd in the posterboy-GTK-ennvironment. Other than that, I say: Give it a spin. Who knows, maybe you’ll love it?


You can say whatever you want about GNOME. But you can’t criticize their attempt at offering something new. And it is the best “unique” desktop experience out there.