My wish for GNOME 3: better configuration tools

A while ago there was a meme at Planet GNOME about the wishes for GNOME 3. Although I don’t have any influence on this, I do also have things I’d like to see in the next major release of my favourite desktop environment. But there is one thing that bugs me the most: the tons of configuration tools. This is not only GNOME’s fault — Ubuntu also adds its share — but it’s something that could and should be improved. Currently there is a tool for every tiny thing on your system.

For example: I’m using Compiz-Fusion, Emerald and AWN. Because of this I’ve got a list of configuration utilities for appearance and graphics:

  • Awn manager
  • CompizConfig Settings Manager
  • Screensaver
  • Screenresolution
  • gnome-appearance-properties
  • GDM theme

The special effects tab of the gnome-appearance-properties program is useless now because I’m using custom settings.

Although I do appreciate the work both the Ubuntu and GNOME developers did to make configuration easier and I have to say that a lot has improved, like the gnome-appearance-properties program bundling all different theme programs. However, it can still become a lot better.

At least some configuration utilities should be looked at to see if they could be merged with others. But I think that some more fundamental changes could even make it better. What about a pluggable system that divides all configuration tools into some basic categories. The ‘System’ menu would contain these categories in its root and all programs like Synaptic would be moved to Application->System tools for the sake of consistency.
Each category would have its own program based on the same framework to make things consistent. When a new configuration tool is installed it would appear as some kind of tab. All settings that require root privileges can be handled with policykit.

This would just make browsing the tools easier, but doesn’t solve the issues like the enabling of Compiz. There is no other solution for this than just going by all settings and see how this could be improved.

There is also an idea at Brainstorm suggesting something similar:

It already has quite a lot of votes, but giving it more attention can’t hurt.

Again, I’m not affilated with GNOME. I don’t know if this is something GNOME developers would like, I don’t even know if they’re ever going to read this. But maybe they’re already working on something like this! I don’t know.
What I do know is that this issue is, at least in my eyes, one of the weakest parts of GNOME. It deserves some attention. I hope I this post helps a bit.

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  1. Gnome can’t do what you’re asking it to do. AWN isn’t part of Gnome because Gnome uses a panel instead. Compiz isn’t part of Gnome because it uses Metacity. Emerald isn’t part f Gnome because Metacity handles that.

    Gnome can’t create configuration utilities for things it doesn’t control. Ubuntu can do those things, and it has to some extent.

    The GDM theme isn’t a user-configurable item, so it’s not lumped together with the user stuff.

    I’m not saying these things wouldn’t be good to have, I’m just telling you that Gnome 3 won’t be involved.

  2. @Daeng Bo:
    You’ve got a point there. GNOME can’t dictate other projects to use their standards. However, they still could provide a good framework for others to use and encourage the use of this.
    If the maintainers of the separate projects don’t do this, Ubuntu could do that. But again, it’s not the fault of just one project, like you also said.

  3. What you suggest is (mostly) incompatible with FOSS. I guess you haven’t been paying attention but everyone wants everything their own way and no single anything to provide that in a clean way.

    Even if Canonical suddenly changed to an iron fisted design and standardized everything it would be a long time coming to pull off an integrated interface similar to MacOS or Windows and it would likely anger most FOSS developers and users.

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