elementary desktop 2017, from a GNOME user POV

this is a post totally for GNOME users, so i wont give GNOME screenshots, because you are supposed to already know how GNOME looks!

so here im in Ubuntu 18.04 with elementary daily PPA and the App Center repository

elementary is three things. the desktop (Pantheon), the apps (both core and community) and ofc the OS itself. current elementary OS is Loki (0.4) and it is based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. next elementary release is gonna be Juno (0.5) based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, and it will be likely released in the first half of 2018

from these three, i was always finding their desktop the most interesting part, and by far, so i will focus on this ..always from the GNOME side of things!

i use GNOME, so obviously i prefer GNOME over elementary, but i believe the reason behind this, isn’t the design of elementary, rather that GNOME has more development, bigger community, and thus it is a more polished desktop

however i use a very customized GNOME (with various settings and extensions), and if i couldn’t customize the GNOME, then i would probably be an elementary user

my point is that perhaps stock elementary beats stock GNOME. anyway lets start by comparing some main desktop components!


i said that i will focus on desktop, and not in apps, but in GNOME, application menus are drawn in desktop (in top panel), so this is half desktop thing. in elementary there are not application menus, all menus are part of the apps, and usually are properly designed, although elementary apps don’t really have much of menus

in GNOME there is a way to restore appMenus in appWindow, but that doesn’t solve the real problem behind this idea, leading on no-spatial memory and inconsistencies, and overall decreases the usability in apps

elementary beats GNOME!

Favorites/Running dock

both desktops have a top bar (for clock, indicators etc), accompanied to a dock menu similar to macOS, for favorites and running applications.

personally i find this annoying in both desktops (thus i use Dash To Panel), first because you end up with two panels, when instead you could had a single one, and second because both docks missing essential functionality like window previews

from a design perspective, they have more (two panels), that does less :/

the difference is that in GNOME this menu is only accessible from overview mode(?!), without any option to have it visible on desktop mode, when in elementary is visible on desktop mode with auto-hide, plus it has some options

elementary beats GNOME!


GNOME’s notifications come out in the top-center of the screen, and when there are many, it is getting really annoying! in elementary notifications popup lands with a nice animation on the top right side, which makes much more sense, and it is less distracting

an extra point, in elementary there is a handy switch for disable notification, directly from notification menu, when in GNOME you should go in Setting

elementary beats GNOME!


well, elementary shares mutter code base, so tiling is pretty much the same as GNOME. in my case exactly similar to GNOME 3.26

we have a draw!

Application Launcher

while the application launchers of two desktops are completely different, i would give my vote to GNOME, only because of the appFolders, when elementary has categories!

GNOME beats elementary!

Alt Tab

i think both desktops are trying to get rid of alt-tab for the sake of overview for switching applications, and even on Windows 10, the alt-tab is like getting in overview mode!

what elementary does is to have the window previews on icons on the bottom, and focus the active window with a hot animation! it is bad in usability really, but i will vote for it because it switches only between current virtual desktop windows!

in GNOME you can do that via an extension, and it is getting much better than elementary, but remember! i only compare stock GNOME and stock elementary here!

elementary beats GNOME!


performance like visuals responsiveness. do you watch The Flash?

have you seen Barry on StarLabs using his super speed in his computer? well, i can tell you this! StarLabs dont have either GNOME or elementary, because Barry cant do faster than a normal guy, in either desktop!

here’s the tricky part though. in a low-end PCs elementary will play better than Shell, because Shell doesn’t play at all! however in average $1000 PCs with dedicate GPUs, both desktops seems unable to fully utilize hardware capabilities

so i could give an advantage to elementary, but with modern standards both desktops have issues in responsiveness performance!

we have a draw!

Overview mode

many differences here! appIcons on apps, appIcons on virtual desktops thumbnails (that are actually boxes), and ofc horizontal desktops

in GNOME 3.26 there were some changes to make window previews bigger, so we could easily recognize them. but in practice, and at least in big desktop screens, it doesn’t really help! plus the workspaces thumbnails are not very informative (no appIcons). so when many workspaces and many windows you run into a situation that you’re cycling between the desktops like an idiot, trying to find your app!

in general GNOME has done an okay job at this, but elementary is on a whole new level! you should try that yourselves really, rather reading someone’s post, or even watching a video!

elementary should work some bits here, like the DnD on thumbnails, that works, but it isn’t very good ..but in any case, and definitely..

elementary beats GNOME!

Hot Corners

right! hot corners and not hot corner, because elementary can have four, and we can also customize them!

by default elementary has all corners disabled, but we can enable them from the Settings! now you expect me to say that elementary is better than GNOME in this, right? well, you are so wrong!

the reason is that hot corners in elementary aren’t triggered with pressure sensitivity, but with a simple touch, that it can really make them annoying! not really for me, but in general this is a very bad design ..that i bet is not wanted behavior, but a bug!

GNOME beats elementary!


thats a nice volume widget, popping out with a very nice animation too!

the problem is that it doesn’t work on a fullscreen video! therefore..

GNOME beats elementary!


this is the single most embarrasing calendar that exists anywhere, in the last 500 hundred years of computing! i took a full screenshot, so you can admire it in its full pathetic-ness! and it would be so so much more ridiculous if i had a 4k!

and ..where are the events anyway?!

GNOME beats elementary!


desktop, like the plain desktop! neither elementary or GNOME dont support icons on desktop, but elementary has gone to the next level, and there is not even a right click there?!!?

however in App Center there are some applets, like those you see on screenshot, which are so really amazing! and they might work in Shell too, but since are made for elementary..

elementary beats GNOME!


if i could praise GNOME for a single thing, that would be their shortcuts, and keyboard navigation in general! i think there is nothing even close to GNOME in this part!

GNOME beats elementary!


there is a single desktop that does worse than GNOME in Settings! and that is elementary :)

however i must credit that! elementary Settings app, supports plugins, and that is a community made plugin (elementary Tweaks), which is the equivalent to GNOME Tweaks (with less features though), inside elementary Settings!! why GNOME cant just do this?!

GNOME beats elementary!

System Tray

both desktops dont support legacy system icons. GNOME dropped support in version 3.26

so if you run Stremio, good luck with closing it! you’ll need to use a task manager monitor to find the process! ofc Stremio isn’t the only app!

at least in case of GNOME we can use an extension, but since i compare stock functionality

we have a draw!


i added this section a bit later, and it was really a miss from that post! coolness as some small details that make a desktop visually pleasant!

elementary desktop is a clear winner! since the very empty screen with its fancy bottom dock, and the various animations here and there, that are well made! for example when you are on the last empty desktop and you try to move right, it will reject you with a tilt effect! pretty neat!

or when you remove an app from the dock, it will make an “disappearing” effect! they didnt need to do that, but they did it anyway, so someone would give a cool vote in elementary! ..in case he was posting in Medium a comparison with GNOME!

elementary beats GNOME!


while elementary uses some more “common sense” patterns than GNOME, they lack behind in polishing

for example, we cannot DnD a maximized window from the top bar, some animations are broken, some functionality is obviously wrong, and then there are things like the full screen mode than opens windows on a new workspace (like macOS), that no matter if you like or you dont like this, in elementary has a bunch of bugs. in GNOME they would never push it, unless they totally had fixed it

many of the issues in elementary in general come by the architecture (widgets on top of window manager), plus they dont have as many developers as GNOME. for example imagine all the work in Wayland, that in elementary hasn’t even started. however they share a large part of GNOME codebase, so GNOME development, is also elementary development

btw i dont have a multi-monitor (although i could set up one!), so no idea what happens in that part!

GNOME beats elementary!

Gameplay and Community

all the features aside, there is a “gameplay” factor which is the overall feeling a user gets by using the desktop. in elementary sometimes getting some basic things can become very very annoying!

GNOME definetely does better, and together with the amazing GNOME Shell extensions, made by the GNOME community, makes GNOME a pure winner, in the category that matters the most!

but elementary has its own cool things, as you can see from this video!

GNOME beats elementary!

advice on elementary

im not giving any advises here, but i believe that elementary shouldn’t care that much for the apps, and instead they can use the GNOME core and community apps (their design isn’t super different anyway), and focus exclusively on their OS (as distribution) and their desktop (Pantheon) development, which with some more attention can be much much better! without that meaning it is bad! i placed it as my second choice behind GNOME!

basically i mean, remove the effort from the apps, and place that effort in Pantheon and OS! it will pay off more i imagine!


…did i just post the most boring 9m read article in the whole Medium history?! and i cant even imagine the typos :)

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