I’ve been using the GNOME Shell preview available in Fedora 12 this week and I’m really enjoying it. I was testing out some candidates for updates to the free drivers for my ATI Radeon HD4850 (and the stuff that went with them) already, and decided to see what happened when I picked GNOME Shell. At F12 release time, my graphics card wasn’t quite ready for GNOME Shell use. But now I get the whole kit and kaboodle!
The free drivers for both ATI and NVidia cards have come so far in just 2009. But the fact that out of the box I can get kernel mode setting on so much new hardware, and also 3D acceleration on a new card like mine, is just phenomenal. My hat is off to the guys in both projects working on truly free software drivers for today’s video hardware, among them Fedora and Red Hat’s own Dave Airlie and Ben Skeggs. Bonzer!
Anyway, back to GNOME Shell.
My favorite feature is the application search feature. Since I’m often on the keyboard already, I don’t have to switch to the mouse, or hit a bunch of arrow keys, to pull up another app I need. Say I’m in Firefox, and I want to bring up my gEdit text editor. I can just hit Alt+F1, the normal key combination for the main menu even in current GNOME. Then I type g, e, d and by that time gEdit comes up because that locates gEdit as a unique word in its name or description. Then I hit Enter and up it pops. Nice!
The new controls for selecting among multiple running application instances, or applications across desktops, through the Alt+Tab keycombo are superb — and very easy to read, even for my tired old eyes. Effectively rearranging my desktops to put the apps I want where I want them is a snap, too. The taskbar is now down to a single bar on top, and visually it no longer even draws attention to itself because of its black color. I think that GNOME Shell has probably helped me eke out another 2-5% productivity out of my day, just eliminating time-wasting aspects of the standard GNOME 2.x interface.
The one thing I worry is that I’m missing out on some power keystrokes out there to do cool things. Is there some reference out there for under-the-hood goodies, or a way a non-programmer like me can learn how to make some?