47 Responses

  1. kevin r.
    kevin r. at |

    I support Linux 100% but I feel that people should make an objective decision for themselves after reading The Truth about Linux.

  2. Psychic Advice
    Psychic Advice at |

    Great blog, subscribed to your rss feed. Thanks.

  3. Vadim P.
    Vadim P. at |

    It’s a feature for me. No need to click ‘Apply’ after you change every setting when testing things.

  4. Vadim P.
    Vadim P. at |

    kevin r., thank you for your contribution to the Troll Cave! http://vadi-blog.com/2008/07/15/the-troll-cave/

  5. Sam
    Sam at |

    Another thing about gnome/metacity is the missing right-click drag and copy/paste of files, this has to be the thing I miss most from windows

  6. ue
    ue at |

    That all settings are applied directly is generally a good thing, but they should be combined with an undo feature, so that you could go back step by step, or go back to settings of a certain time e.g. yesterday, last week, last month,…

  7. Craig
    Craig at |

    I haven’t used GNOME in a few years, but I’m pretty sure it used to have Cancel buttons in dialog boxes. Taking them out is pretty damn stupid. I understand (though I disagree with) their desire for extreme simplicity, but this is going too far. Do they really think the average user is too stupid to understand the difference between OK and Cancel buttons?

  8. True_Friend
    True_Friend at |

    Gnome’s view point of GUI is sometimes TOO simpler that it lacks many useful but little (and whose absent irritates) features. Another example is not have a hide button in Notification Area to hide inactive icons (in system tray/notification area).

  9. D G Braun
    D G Braun at |

    That “The Truth about Linux” website is HYSTERICAL! But who has the time to spend to write such incredibly funny, ironic, and facetious copy? Anyway, thanks for the link to the laugh.
    On topic, I agree that even though Gnome is geared for ease of use, the lack of an “undo” option is limiting.

  10. matthews
    matthews at |

    I think this a symptom of the Linux mindset that people know what they are doing when they set out to do it. J

  11. ryanhaigh
    ryanhaigh at |

    You can use the middle click (press down on scrollwheel or right+left click at the same time) and drag to copy/move/create link.

  12. Frank
    Frank at |

    Gnome != Linux

    You could always take Linus’ advice from about a year ago when he said everyone should just forget Gnome and use KDE.
    You could ask Patrick Volkerding why he dropped it from Slackware.

    Gnome does have a nice interface and can be made to look pretty good. The issue is that functionality is removed so nonchalantly that it makes it near impossible to be a power user.

    But this isn’t really about what desktop is better. This is about why Gnome developers think that everyone is incompetent. Douglas Adams summed it up the best when he said, “A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”

    Use what you have a preference for.

  13. anonymous
    anonymous at |

    stop using Ubuntu. That’s ok

  14. Finalzone
    Finalzone at |


    “Gnome does have a nice interface and can be made to look pretty good. The issue is that functionality is removed so nonchalantly that it makes it near impossible to be a power user.”

    gconf throught gconf-editor does allow customization on Gnome desktop for these power users. Most of these features are disabled.

  15. Alan
    Alan at |

    Well, if that’s the biggest flaw, then they must be doing a lot right. I go back and forth on this issue, though it really throws me off when using GNOME apps in KDE or XFCE. I tend to prefer to apply my changes, but that’s just long habit. I suppose one just has to approach GNOME configuration with a bit more caution and trepidation: there’s no going back…

  16. Golodh
    Golodh at |

    This is one of the reasons why I never use Gnome. I use KDE exclusively, and I have no complaints like these about KDE.

    Another thing that GUI’s should respond to is the button. It’s there for a reason. MS WIndows responds to it, and so does KDE.

    Perhaps Gnome will let you out of the currently opened screen if you press . Did anybody try that?

  17. ocularb0b
    ocularb0b at |

    I’m a bit confused, none of the other interfaces allow you to “go back” either.
    Once you hit apply its done and cant be undone. Until you apply you’ve done nothing. I like that you see changes as you make them. And since all of the settings for everything are in gconf you could just whip up a cron script to backup your settings and you could revert to last week.
    It’s silly like saying “i like mangos more than oranges because mangos are spaceships.”
    i cant believe linux.com linked this.

  18. Richard
    Richard at |

    Finally somebody says this aloud!

    Every time I change settings, I have to remember their previous positions/values or else I screwed, when things don’t work as I thougt they would. And this is something that can happen really fast anywhere in GNU/Linux because of the lack of documentation, in the sense of explaining briefly next to the button, what the button does.

    Okay, I know what gconf is but what is a cron script, how do I write it and why do I have to regularly backup my settings only to prevail mistakes I could make? … No, I don’t want to know. I wanted to say that why does it have to be so complicated if it could be so simple? These small things take up my cognitive energy I need for more important tasks. The interface shouldn’t be in my way.

  19. Eruaran
    Eruaran at |

    This is exactly the kind of stupidity that I utterly despise about GNOME, and this with the popularity of Ubuntu, gives new users the impression that “this is linux”.

    It isn’t, and its just one reason I use KDE.

  20. Wodin
    Wodin at |

    ocularb0b: The point is that there is no “Apply” button. See the screenshot above. There is only “Close”. Anything you change is immediately applied and there’s no way to undo it except by remembering what you changed and what the previous setting was.

    Windows and KDE do allow you a minimal “Go back” option, i.e. the “Cancel” button (or just close the window by some other means.)

    Gnome appears to have got this idea from Mac OS. I never did understand why it was a good idea.

  21. Kris Marsh
    Kris Marsh at |

    This is a really good point that seems to have been overlooked so far. The mindset of the Gnome devs is that there shouldn’t need to be the concept of saving settings.

    Think of a text editor where the preferences dialog is not modal (i.e. you can have it open, and you can still edit your document). Now, it would be confusing to have a setting “bold all text” enabled in your preferences, where the text isn’t really all bold. Thus, the save-less dialog was born.

    Where this system breaks down is exactly as you mention – what if someone screws up a previous set of ‘good’ settings.

    Google have got this right with Google Docs – automatic saving (so that the concept of ‘save’ no longer exists – things are stored always as they are shown) is present with undo; Gnome’s save-less dialogs should have a way to undo your settings – maybe a bar at the top of the window that slides down when a setting has been changed.

    I know this came up in the latest Gnome developer summit, but I can’t find the link to it now.

    Have you filed a Gnome usability bug for this? It would be much more constructive talking directly to the developers


  22. atc
    atc at |

    The point is that Gnome is developed and run by a bunch of zealots who think they know exactly what the users need & want – without consulting anyone.

    You’ve got a great point, and it’s a perfect example of why Gnome needs a little revamp here and there.

  23. Greg P
    Greg P at |

    The opposite can be annoying too.
    One of the Windows apps I use at work has a menu item File > Exit, which only brings up a dialog asking if I want to save the file.
    It isn’t like there isn’t enough space to have 2 choices: File > Exit without Saving, File > Save, then Exit.
    Would save me a lot of time.

  24. MD
    MD at |

    You seem to be overlooking the fact that all the configuration options in Gnome don’t have the capability to ruin your desktop. If you can go back to the option and turn it back on/off, what’s the problem? The Gnome HIG (Human Interface Guideline) specifically states this behavior. It’s an intended feature, not a bug!

    When you change an option in Gnome, the changes are set instantly; letting you see what you’ve done. I like it, it makes the whole experience so much simpler. Changing themes is a nicer experience in Gnome than any other desktop.

    @atc “The point is that Gnome is developed and run by a bunch of zealots who think they know exactly what the users need & want – without consulting anyone.”

    Erm, Gnome was tested with random strangers off the street in the UK and US while they were developing ideas for Gnome 2. Funnily enough, Gnome scored higher for usability than KDE or windows, this is the opinion of the users and not the testers. Computer illiterate people love Gnome, whereas experienced windows users gripe about a lack of ‘apply’ button. 🙂

    Here’s an example, there’s more to be found:

    Oh, and I prefer using blackbox myself. Before someone accuses me of being a Gnome fanboi.

  25. John
    John at |

    I just wish there was a “Default” button. I often experiment with a bunch of changes, and then I can’t remember what the default was before — be it a theme, color, font size, volume, or whatever. I don’t mind having it set the configuration change immediately, but I’d just like a way to get back to where it was before I messed everything up. Even Web page forms usually have a Reset button.

    Gnome does it just like Mac OS X, which I also noticed immediately as missing any kind of Reset or Default or Cancel on its settings.

  26. Anonymous coward
    Anonymous coward at |

    You missed the point, it’s not about lack of apply button, but about lack of cancel button.

  27. lando
    lando at |

    its a feature not a flaw

  28. Rufus Polson
    Rufus Polson at |

    Well, I can see where this might be irritating once in a long while. I’ve never really noticed myself because I don’t spend a whole ton of time fiddling with settings. But yeah, I guess it’s a bug.
    But if it’s the Biggest Flaw in Gnome UI, then I’d say the Gnome UI must rock pretty hard, ’cause it’s not exactly a major impact on a typical user experience.

  29. MD
    MD at |

    @Anonymouse Coward
    “You missed the point, it’s not about lack of apply button, but about lack of cancel button.”

    That’s what I was talking about, sorry for not being thorough enough. I was trying to make a point that Desktop environments do not need to emulate the Microsoft centric way of working which I believe to be inherently broken and confusing for new users. Just because it works doesn’t mean it’s the only way of doing it.

    I am sure that there are many better ways of finding a much tidier solution, the font selection tool seems to be getting the lions share of complaints so here’s a solution:

    Change the button that you press to choose a font from a button to a drop-down list with two entries:

    1: Choose new font.
    2: Use default font.
    (and maybe a ‘choose default font’ option too, or leave that to the g-conf experts/distro makers).

    There, simple. No confusing cancel buttons. 🙂 Mmmm. I like it. Anyone else?

  30. Fred Muntenara
    Fred Muntenara at |

    WTF is everyone smoking here?

    In Winders, once you “APPLY” the change the Cancel button doesn’t undo it, Cancel just ignores any changes you’ve made but haven’t applied.

    So you click a series of options in one of these dialogs, but they don’t really DO anything (so you can see what effect they have) until you APPLY one or more of these changes. At which point the Cancel button won’t help you.

    Someone in Gnome sat down and worked out that with windows you have a panel with say 50 options. You click and select 15 different changes but it doesn’t really DO anything (it just provides a way to bacth or queue up a set of changes that you intend to Apply or Cance). You then click OK (Apply and Close) or just Apply (and continue), or Cancel. Because you are then unsure which of the 15 changes you made had the effect of changing your settings in such a way that you didn’t expect so you wade into any configuration exercise with some reticence, and seek comfort in the Cancel button. In the end, neither Windows nor Gnome allows you to back out a change that has been made, its just that Windows allows you to “batch up” multiple changes in a single step so need the added functionality to deal with the complexity of batching up your changes.

    Gnome just took the approach that says, hey, we’ll just make all settings direct acting so you can see the effect as soon as you select it, so that if you don’t like one, you can undo it right there and then rather than having to go back and work out which of the 15 changes you just made screwed it up for you.

    FWIW I am a KDE user and am equally comfortable with either approch, I’ve just stopped to understand the rationale behind the approach.

  31. MD
    MD at |

    Fred said:
    “In Windows, once you “APPLY” the change the Cancel button doesn’t undo it, Cancel just ignores any changes you’ve made but haven’t applied.”

    You have just made me smile for eloquently describing the problem I couldn’t. It seems the discussion has been thoroughly punctuated by this. Erm.

    Fred said:
    “WTF is everyone smoking here?”


  32. justme
    justme at |

    Right on the spot. The inability for undoing any mistakes is a problem in this design. You’d better know what you’re doing or… This is grossly unhelpful for novices. And yes, the way other applications do it (apply cannot be canceled) is wrong too. The best way would be use a cancel button to revert any changes made, and use a “preview” (not apply) button.

    This is not the only anoyance in the GTK and Gnome UI. Not being able do dismiss a yes/no dialog with the “y” or “n” keys is a step back, IMHO (let alone the fact that yes/no dialogs are considered “evil”).

  33. Boycott Novell » IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: October 12th, 2008

    […] I happened to read this 5 minutes ago (it’s new): http://tech.shantanugoel.com/2008/07/08/the-big… […]

  34. JFM
    JFM at |

    Another IMHO more important gripe is that 99% of gnome aplications are realesesed without any kind of online help (and may of them have no documentation at all even at their home site.

    If only for that reason Gnome is a poor choice for desktop and specially for desktop aimed at new users.

    While KDE is far from perfect on the chapter of documentation, most of its applications are documented.

    Alos, can anyone tell me what is so special about Ubuntu/Kubuntu: any time I have tried it I found Mandriva or Suse to be far easier to use be it under Gnome or KDE and have a far better KDE implementation than the one in Kubutu

  35. heng
    heng at |

    The vast majority of GNOME dialogues *do* provide a cancel button. Its in situations where its easy to make a large mistake, or make changes you forget you’ve made.

    If you can really come up with a use case for the above example (the “about me” dialogue) that requires a Cancel button, then please submit it to bugzilla (with your argument). The reality is that such a dialogue is trivial to get right and correct if you make a mistake.

    I use GNOME all the time and really value programs that have instant apply/save. The point is, cancel/apply/save buttons break the “data as an object” paradigm that, if used correctly, makes GUIs resistant to stupid state mismatches. In this context, cancel should only be used when it adds serious usability to an interface, and that case has not been made here. This is relevant to producing code with few bugs, but equally so to the user. I can’t count the number times when I’ve run something based on a text file I changed, only to end up with garbage because I forgot to save it.

    The correct way to handle all this is with a system level versioning system. apply/cancel/save are just crappy user interface hacks.

  36. Wren
    Wren at |

    I totally friggin agree!!!

    If there is one thing I hate about gnome is that there is no apply button. It just does stuff soon as I click an option.

  37. Zenwalker
    Zenwalker at |

    Well theres no need for any extra button for apply or cancel. One button do both these operations (Saving and closing).

    Unless u change the settings in any UI components, u r pretty sure that it wud save coz theres only one button avail there.

    Now, when u want to change the settings then u open that window (UI) and change it. If u dont want, then retain the default settings and close, default settings will be over written.

    So if u dont know what u r doing, then providing extra buttons is merely a waste. As a system user u should know what ur doing.

  38. Chris Lees
    Chris Lees at |

    No. You are just too used to Windows.

    Being a Mac person, when I started using Windows for the first time, I was confused by the “Apply” button. Did I have to “Apply” first before clicking “Ok”? Would clicking Ok without clicking Apply first cause my changes to not be saved? Even today, I still click Apply and then Ok.

    Removing the Cancel button I believe comes in response to some user tests Apple conducted in the 1980s. Some new users were clicking Cancel to close, and didn’t understand that “Ok” meant “Yes, Do This”. My grandfather, when he was learning computers, talked about “cancelling” a window; he meant to close it, not to literally tell it not to accept his changes.

    Having just one button, Close, is completely self-explanatory and unconfusing. If you want to close the window, you immediately know to click that. The important settings windows where you really need to be able to cancel your changes, have the “Defaults” button where you can reset everything to known good values.

  39. Darryl R.
    Darryl R. at |

    Sooo, you’re saying that being able to:
    1) cue up a large number of changes, and then press apply to apply them all at once (or cancel, not to), and have no way of rolling back
    is better than
    2) change one setting and see the results immediately, and have no way of rolling back.

    Isn’t it a lot easier to change a setting, see the result immediately, and change it back if necessary, than try to remember a number of changes made at once.

    Windows carries this ‘multiple apply’ madness to extremes, where you often have the option to change things on a series of tabs before pressing apply – not only a strain on the ol’ memory, its confusing because its unclear whether ‘apply’ is applying just the changes on the current tab, or all tabs.

    Gnome has a lot of UI problems, but this isn’t one of them. A priori, the ‘Instant apply’ way is a lot more intuitive and less likely to cause problems than the ‘multiple apply’ way in > 98% situations, though there may be situations where it’s not appropriate.

  40. Andrew Rodland
    Andrew Rodland at |

    GNOME HIG is pretty uniformly idiotic, but I do think that it’s fair to say that this is the most epic fail in a big pile full of fail. There’s nothing at all wrong with the CUA behavior of dialog boxes, which has been around for 20 years and more. It’s usable. It’s predictable. Everyone knows it. GNOME chooses to replace it with a behavior that’s slightly better in some cases, much worse in some cases, and _unexpected_ in every case.

  41. Carl
    Carl at |

    Andrew, you’re making the mistake of assuming everyone is like you. While I used Windows extensively growing up (and bit of the old Mac system as well as some ‘dead’ systems) and used KDE a lot when I first moved to Linux about 5 years ago and switched to Gnome about 6 months ago, I don’t see the point of having an Apply or Cancel button if the changes are applied immediately upon selection and you can just change them back if you don’t like them. Look at the other comments above. Some people prefer this method, some do not.

    That is another reason why having choices is great. If you don’t like Gnome then you can choose to use KDE, or Fluxbox, or IceWM, etc. No one is forcing you to use one or another. I use Gnome, and after getting used to the way it works (since I was used to KDE) I now find I prefer Gnome in most things.

    But really, my desktop environment matters little in the end. The programs I use are far more important, and they work just fine on all of them (I use Kompozer for basic web pages, gedit for Ruby on Rails programming for example.)

  42. Lew Yin
    Lew Yin at |

    Ever heard of implicit save?

  43. scribe63
    scribe63 at |

    To add my 2 cents, i am not sure if this is a gnome/gtk issue or firefox/iceweasel.

    You go to a website, and you want to play an audio or video file, with an application beside the default two options that you have in the dialog box (Open With > Other).
    The only option i came across, in the dialoge box, to find the application is a dialog called location. It seems you have know and type in the full path, /usr/bin/mplayer, to the application or browse the file system, then wait a considerable amount of time before it is located and still have to select it before using it.

    In Konqueror, i usually just type in the name of the application, and boom it get opened. (Open With > Other > mplayer)

    Is there something i am missing in gnome configuration to be able to get that feature, or is it not available.

  44. Gnome
    Gnome at |

    I like that Gnome doesn’t have a cancel button like Windows. When I change stuff I know that I want to change it and not first change it and two seconds later decide no I will just press cancel to undo the changes. Whats the point of changing it in the first place?

  45. Damian Nikodem
    Damian Nikodem at |

    Ctrl+Alt+Backspace is undo for all the gnome settings.

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