I admit I am writing this blog post with a bit of sadness.
I regularly used GNOME over any other Desktop Environment for years. I have always preferred it because it is minimalistic, easy to use, has a keyboard-driven workflow and allows separating your workflow in multiple dynamic workspaces, with which you could easily move applications across them with the mouse or the keyboard in an intuitive manner. They also offer a polished, solid and reliable ecosystem of applications you can immediately start working with, and the wonderful Wayland integration was also a valid bonus.
I own two machines: my older desktop workstation and my newer Laptop.
The first mounts an Intel i5 4670 with its integrated graphics card, with 8 GB of RAM on a SSD. It’s not really a brand new machine, but it can still open a Web Browser with dozens of tabs in a couple of seconds without showing any sign of slowness, all while running Virtual Machines, terminal processes, music in background and chatting in multiple instant messaging applications.
The second is even faster: it runs on a i7 6700HQ, iGPU, with faster RAM and faster SSD. This other machine can run even more stuff before lagging and slowing down.
The thing is, they both can perform heavy tasks on Linux and can even run simple videogames at a low quality, so they both are far from being ‘obsolete’. They could successfully run GNOME 3.38 and the previous versions (some of them were affected by terrible performance bugs, but the last ones have been a lot better).
But, apparently, for whatever reason they cannot properly run the new GNOME 40.
Some days ago I suddenly received the
gnome-shell update through pacman. Despite looking really gorgeous at the surface, the new update is sadly unusable for me.
With the new update there is a severe performance regression that affects most of the animations: when pressing ‘Super’ key (basically the single most important button when using GNOME) the framerate drops during the animation from 60fps to ~40fps on my laptop, and down to ~15fps on my desktop rig. This is insane! Other animations are affected by the regression too, such as switching workspace or going straight to the new ‘deeper’ level of Activity Overview where you can directly launch applications with your mouse.
Animations now are so sluggish they completely break my workflow and ultimately prevent me from using GNOME.
Some people suggested to tweak the governor to
performance or launch tuned with a more aggressive profile. This helped me gain some frames per second, but it is just a small improvement which does not solve the issue. And then, why the hell do I need to run my CPU at the highest clock frequency all the time just to get better animations?
There are also a couple of things I don’t like, but I could adapt to:
The new design completely breaks the beautiful vertical workflow, because in order to get a quick, properly-sized glance of all your workspaces it forces you to jump to a deeper level in the Activity Overview, resulting in a less efficient keyboard workflow and much more confusion due to the unnecessary added complexity. Remember that in the previous versions you could access all information by pressing a single button. I only need to adapt to it, but I am a bit disappointed;
The mouse workflow is affected too, because they converted the left Dash to a bottom Dash, so much they are actually thinking to move the top bar and the ‘Activity’ button down to the bottom to lower the mouse travel between the Activity button and the Dash. Again, I only need to adapt to it, but I am a bit disappointed;
But let’s just focus on the silver lining. Unironically, GNOME 40 issues pushed me out of my comfort zone. They forced me to experiment with alternatives, moving me for the first time in the vast and complex tiling window managers universe.
In place of GNOME I have chosen Sway, a tiling window manager which natively supports Wayland. It runs smoothly, it looks good and it’s really wonderful to use.
I still like and use some GNOME applications, such as Evolution and Nautilus, and I must rarely launch a GNOME session in order to use the features I have not implemented yet on Sway (such as screenshots and screen capture in video-calls).
From now on, Sway will be my daily driver, and I will invest some spare time to make it more useful, more beautiful and more efficient, and the most important thing, to make it my personal desktop.