I never thought I'd say this.. but I'm considering dropping Ubuntu in favor of an other distro.
It's sad because as a whole I still love Ubuntu, however Unity just doesn't feel right.
Now don't get me wrong, Unity is pretty well made and has lots of good ideas in it. It's obvious that
they've put lots of thoughts and efforts into it, however there's some things that I think are
fundamentally wrong with it.
On the good side I think most of the issues can be addressed. But on the other side, Mark Shuttleworth and his team seems
to have a pretty narrow and stubborn vision of what Unity should or should not be.
Now before you tell me, I know I can switch back to classic Gnome in Ubuntu 11.04, but this will not be the case in future releases.
And even if I can install another desktop environment in later releases, do I really want to give myself the trouble to install,
configure and use a desktop environment that isn't officially supported ? Switching to another distro would be less a hassles.
So without much more fanfare, here's my beefs with Unity:
With Unity, the titlebar and menubar are at the same place. By default the titlebar is shown
and if you hover it with the mouse, the menubar replaces the titlebar.
This saves space on the screen and makes the applications look less cluttered. Fair enough. From a
designer POV this might seem like a good idea.
At the very least, making the window controls semi-transparent might have been an acceptable trade-off.
To make things even worst the menubar changes it's behavior whether the window is in fullscreen mode or not.
So if you want to access the menu bar from a window that isn't in fullscreen mode you have to focus it and
then move your mouse to the top taskbar. This means now I have to preform two different interactions just
to have the privilege of accessing that god damn menubar.
On a single screen monitor setup or a tablet, where you tend to work always with fullscreen windows,
this might not be such a big deal. But on a dual monitors setup with large screens it gets annoying
pretty damn fast.
This also means it's possible to have application windows stacked horizontally and have the bottom window
menubar separated by some other windows. I believe this can lead to some confusion and force user to move
their mouse too far away from the window to access it.
Finally, some applications does not play well with this type of configuration. I had a hard time making
Gvim behave with it and I'm still not satisfied (I get to see the menubar only when it's fullscreen).
When alt-tabing to cycle through running applications, I was used to see the window titles along with the
window thumbnails. Too bad for me. Someone at Ubuntu believe a small window thumbnail is all I need.
This is problematic when I work on many projects at the same time. Just try to distinguish the window
you want from many Gvim thumbnails just for fun. You have to alt-tab and raise them one by one to find the one you need.
Window interactions sucks
Unlike Gnome, if a window is in fullscreen mode it's not clear that you can drag it .. but you cannot
drag it unless it has focus. Because the menu/title bar are hidden until the window has focus. Again
this forces me to perform additional interactions to achieve what I want to do.
Furthermore, I used to drag windows from one workspace to another routinely. But with Unity you just can't.
If you drag the window to the edge of the screen it places it automatically to take half the screen.
To send it to another workspace you have to right-click the menu/titlebar of the window (but fist you need to focus it remember ?) and then you have use the context menu to move it to the other workspace. But that's not all, if the window is in full screen mode
the window's context menu will not show up. You have to un-maximize the window first to see its real titlebar and then
you can right click on it and see the context menu.
So .. I click & alt-tab twice as much, but god damn my desktop looks fresh.
Oh. And I bet it looks awesome on yet to be popular devices I don't own.
Awkward mouse interactions
Even after two weeks I still find mouse interactions awkward at best.
I feel that I have to click and move the mouse a lot more to achieve the
same things I did in Gnome. For someone working all day long on a
computer it's not really a detail, it's real a pain in the ass.
On the good sides, I've practiced a lot my keyboard shortcuts lately.
Dual screen, dual everything
I always work with two screens because I find it more productive. That said
I don't really need two IM widgets, two calendar widgets two mail
notification widgets, two sound control widgets and so on.
Like your taskbar at the bottom of the screen ? Well suck on it. Mark and his
design team knows better than you. And don't even think about customizing their
masterpiece, because it's perfect as is. I mean COME ON, even MS Windows
lets you reposition the taskbar.
Yes. In case you haven't tried it and you wonder, no you can't customize your
taskbar(s). The most you can do is to install packages which adds widgets ..
also on each screens.
Worst, you can delete launcher icons from the lateral bar, but I can't find any way to add new .. or re-add those I deleted.
I cannot rearrange or reorder them or even choose the icon size. This is ridiculous.
Now for the cold shower, here's the Launcher and Menus "configuration" window:
Which leads me to my final point:
This is the point which could fix them all (well almost). I couldn't care less what they set for
defaults as long as I can change it and that my configs stays when I update/upgrade.
I've been using Ubuntu for nearly 5 years and I've been improving my desktop environment
incrementally for as long as I started using it. Everything single shit was set the
way I wanted, from shortcut to applets to colors. Everything was configured for me.
And this was not just about taste or a design caprice. This is about productivity,
accessibility and conviviality. My computer was setup to minimize the mouse interactions
and maximize my productivity while being aesthetically pleasant to me.
With Unity all this was thrown out the window and I can't help but feel that I'm using an
half baked vanilla setup that I can't tweak nor configure, something like MS Window I guess.
Oh wait.. even Windows is more customizable than this .. fuck.
I do understand what Mark and the Ubuntu team are trying to achieve and to their credit, they
are surfing a growing trend. But to me, this is what's wrong with Unity:
It seems that some design decisions have been made in favour of aesthetic over accessibility and conviviality
Overall user experience quality (on PCs at least) have been lost by making trade-offs to accommodate a larger device base (like netbook, tablet, etc..)
The desire to control the way we use our desktop and all design aspects is not what I've signed for when I chose Linux
So I think that A) Unity wasn't ready for prime time and B) it should at least have stayed a choice.
Now I can only hope that things will get better, but unless there is spectacular improvement I guess I'll have to pack my shit and use another distro.