Top 21 improvements that GNOME should work on

It's that time of the year again. A new version of a new application released, and it didn't include what you wanted. This time, it's GNOME.

(Note: these are incremental requested improvements. So don't be surprised when such a small topic that can be easily implemented as "Show only hidden files." makes this list.)

1. A better eject and unmount.

I thought of this after I saw a project on GetDeb, namely, Ejecter.

Sure, KDE has a panel applet for this (set next to the menu by default in Kubuntu,) and there's one for GNOME too, called Disk Mounter! But GNOME doesn't have it set by default, neither do any of the distros that run it, so its usefulness dies.

What we need is a panel applet in the Notification Area, (not just a panel applet, an applet in the Notification Area) with only the name, the description, and a simple, easy-to-see-and-click Eject/Unmount button. I am aware that Nautilus recently got eject buttons for removable media in its Places sidebar. But what for those not using the Places sidebar, and those not aware of right-click -> Eject/Unmount Volume? There's got to be something else.

Well, here's a panel applet in the Notification Area, and offering a pop-up (like in the screenshot above) for quick unmounts. What a cool and helpful solution. The only one of the two problems currently with is that Ejecter is an application. This should be a service, that should be editable in System -> Administration -> Services.

The second and bigger problem is that after executed, this application sits in the Notification Area waiting for a device to be plugged in, just taking up panel space. What would be remarkable is if it ran silently in the background, and after detecting a removable media, makes an entry in the Notification Area. Then it disappears from the panel again after the last removable drive is detached and it goes back to running in the background. (This is like how "update-notifier" runs in the background and after finding available updates, appears in the Notification Area informing the user of available updates.)

This would allow removal of right-click -> Eject/Unmount Volume and the eject buttons in the Places sidebar of Nautilus.

2. Show only hidden files.

There are times when you've edited 20 text files and you want to get rid of the ~ backups. Well I had to press Ctrl+H and right-click -> Move to Trash 20 times. You bet I don't want to do that again. This is a service improvement that will not receive much attention but will truly be useful when the time comes.

Perhaps this is too complicated and there is no simple way to display this in Nautilus's Preferences or in Menubar -> View. Fine, then. At least let us set this option using GConf Editor.

* Also, View -> Show Hidden Files should not be the only way to show hidden files. I think there should also be a right-click (on an empty space in Nautilus) -> Show Hidden Files also.

3. Implement changes you can configure with GConf Editor into separate applications' preferences.

I really don't get why some things can only be configured with Configuration Editor. I know new Linux users might be confused at the load of options if every, single, changeable option was in the preferences dialogs, but can't we at least have a tab named Advanced, and everything stashed away there?

For example, advanced permissions. Right now, the only way you can configure to show advanced permissions is through "gconf-editor." But how about just adding an "Advanced" checkbox button at the bottom of the Permissions tab of the property of a file in Nautilus?

  • And what about the / -> apps -> nautilus -> preferences -> show_desktop? That should be an option labeled as "Show icons on the desktop" in the Preferences.
  • And better yet, / -> apps -> nautilus -> desktop -> volumes_visible. Why the hell isn't that in Nautilus's preferences as "Show mounted volumes on the desktop"? I have to do this when I want to take screenshots for certain things and need a clean desktop. I say, System -> Preferences -> File Management -> (uncheck) Show mounted volumes on the desktop would be hell lot of faster than Alt+F2 -> gconf-editor (enter) -> / -> apps -> nautilus -> desktop -> volumes_visible.
  • This one has me baffled: why do I need GConf Editor to let my Computer, Home, and Trash icons on the desktop? Window XP/Vista switchers will be confused as they will have been used to the Trash always on the desktop. (Default GNOME has the Computer and Trash set on the Desktop, but there is no way to reverse the change without the use of gconf-editor, so same problem.)
All the above mentioned (except the advanced permissions one) should be incorporated into Nautilus's Preferences, under a new tab called Desktop.

4. "Take Screenshot" needs improvement.

With GNOME 2.24, came the ability to include your cursor in the screenshot or not:

And of course, the new "Copy to Clipboard" feature, also:

Wow. *Clap* Amazing. GNOME's strict rule on being simple really prevents innovation.
Now let's turn to third-party; more precisely, let's take a look at GScrot:

It's the ultimate screenshot taking tool for the GNOME desktop. Of course, the UI was taken from Vista's Snipping Tool, but its usefulness defeats that. With GScrot, you can cut a snip of your desktop, you can configure the default image format that it saves in, and plus it supports plug-ins. And the coolest, it can take a screenshot of a webpage, all you have to do is type in the URL. If this power-house tool got into official GNOME, that would shock the world.

But...GNOME's philosophy of "let's be simple, not innovative" again prevents this, and GScrot does have kind of a complicated UI, plus some of its wordings and menu items go against those of default GNOME applications. But that can easily be fixed. In fact, GNOME doesn't need all of GScrot's functionality. All I would like is the ability to save in JPG format too, and also be able to make a selection of what I would like to take a screenshot of.

P.S. The name is really bad. I give it two thumbs down. "Take Screenshot" is just not a very good name. It's like naming "Movie Player" (Totem) Watch Movie or "Sound Recorder" Record Sound. It could at least follow the basic naming rule and therefore be "Adjective Noun", not "Verb Noun". Screenshot Taker is the least it could be named to improve.

5. Show icon on panel when extracting or compressing file.

With GNOME 2.24 came Nautilus as GVFS back-end, which brought more reliable file transfers. This also brought a new feature, that when you moved or copied a file, an icon appeared in the Notification Area, and a window would pop-up showing the progress of the operation. You could minimize the window to the panel, and the icon would automatically disappear after the file(s) finished copying/moving:

File Roller needs to do the same thing when making an archive, or extracting a file. I don't like how only a window pops up, showing the progress, but not letting me minimize to the panel while I do something else.

The strange thing is that with GNOME 2.24, Nautilus can actually view the contents of archives without direct aid from File Roller (although I think it uses it as back-end when doing this.) Because of this, Nautilus can't do anything File Roller can't do, and can actually do something more: You can view the contents of an archive and copy one file from it; while with File Roller, to copy even one file, you have to extract the whole archive. I wouldn't be surprised if File Roller disappears and its functions merged into Nautilus. That would be bloat, but it would be easier to implement the above-mentioned feature.

6. Merge Keyboard Shortcuts into Keyboard Preferences.

This no-brainer has been requested for months. I'm not sure if merging the two items is difficult or not, but it sure as heck would make the desktop a whole lot neater.

Let's check the differences, shall we? First, note that there are two different applications to manage Keyboard-related things, when the latter could just be a tab in the first. (System -> Preferences -> Keyboard and System -> Preferences -> Keyboard Shortcuts.)

Here is what it is now:

Here is what it could be (mock-up): (I erased the Mouse Keys tab and put in its place Shortcuts. I know it looks horrible, I'm not a very good GIMP user)

7. Replace EOG with gThumb, or at least provide support for animated GIF images.

Wow. Are we in the 21st century here? The default image viewer in the most popular Linux desktop environment doesn't even support one of the top three most-used image file?

In fact, looking at the version number and the help Contents gThumb has in GNOME's Help Browser, it seems that this was once an official module of GNOME, replaced by EOG afterwards.

8. Even when no CD/DVD is in drive, Eject should eject.

There are times when one is new at GNOME. He opens up Nautilus and goes to computer:/// and right-clicks on the CD/DVD Drive icon and presses Eject...only to get an error message stating that there is no disc in the CD/DVD drive:

This really makes no sense. Even though I cannot find it at the moment, there is a single command that can cause your CD/DVD drive to eject, even when it is empty. This would be really easy to implement: Just program Nautilus that when it senses there is no CD/DVD, make it run that fall-back command, which will cause the empty drive to eject. Done.

9. Accept Beagle or Tracker as default search tool of GNOME.

If you are using a distribution that ships GNOME with Beagle or Tracker, having Applications -> Beagle Search or Applications -> Tracker Search Tool (and System -> Preferences -> Searching and Indexing) and Nautilus's Places -> Search for Files... really makes the computer look messy and its menu items out-of-place. If GNOME accepted either search tool, Nautilus could integrate Beagle/Tracker into Nautilus's Ctrl+F and Places -> Search for Files..., which would end in better search results, as Beagle and Tracker are more advanced in that category.

Look! There are three ways to search for files!: Beagle or Tracker, Nautilus and Nautilus (and Tracker Preferences)

Even already Nautilus is cluttered. It has two ways to search for files even within itself? What is this absurdity?

I have read somewhere that this is already done, and Nautilus uses Beagle or Tracker to search for files if they are installed. But still, this is not complete, as mentioned before, Nautilus has its own Search for Files... dialog, which needs to be completely removed and the command replaced by "beagle-search" or "tracker-search-tool".

10. Show tabbar in Gedit only when necessary.

Like all web browsers' behaviors, the tabbar should only appear when there are two or more active tabs. If a person wants it to appear always, he should be able to change it in Edit -> Preferences.
But at other times, for the sake of space, the tabbar should be hidden.

11. Rewrite Gedit's plugin manager.

If you have noticed, Gedit's plug-in manager is rather unique. It is merely a tab in its Preferences dialog:

While its companion GNOME applications, such as Totem, or Rhythmbox, have a whole new dialog just for the management of plugins:

Obviously, this is no serious issue, but creates a giant hole between the consistency of the look and feel between GNOME applications--say, official GNOME modules.

12. Regarding Totem's three Previous, Play/Pause and Next buttons.

I have noticed that these buttons do not have text beneath them even when the Interface mode is changed to Text below items in Appearance Preferences:



Even though it is pretty obvious which icons serve which purpose, this is a serious problem and doesn't integrate at all with any other applications.

13. More options regarding quitting.

For GNOME Power Management Preferences, there should be more options.

For instance, for the option When the power button is pressed, all choices: Lock Screen, Suspend, Switch User, etc. should be present in the drop-box, not just Suspend, Hibernate, and Shut down; because you never know what the user wants to do. Same for When the suspend button is pressed.

Same thing for When laptop lid is closed. I would like my screen to lock when I close my lid, and the only easy way I could configure that was through installing a third-party application (Ubuntu Tweak.)

And I also think a whole new program should be built from the ground up just for preferences of Lock Screen, Log Out, Hibernate, etc. Use cases? Well, when I have a password wrong in Lock Screen, I do not want it to waste my computer's precious battery just so that it can shake the dialog box and say the password is wrong. I also want options to disable others from leaving messages and user switching during my screen is locked. Etc.

14. Err, what happened to Rhythmbox?

I have a question for readers: Is Rhythmbox a part of official GNOME? Its project website is hosted by GNOME and it integrates seamlessly with the GNOME desktop, but its numbering system doesn't follow the GNOME format. If so, why hasn't its numbering system changed?

15. Better organization of Places in the Menu Bar.

The default menu (Applications Places System) in default GNOME desktop and many distributions that use it: it needs a cleanup.

First, I am not even sure why the CD/DVD Creator is in the Places section. I know it's part of Nautilus and GNOME's effort to tightly integrate everything, but what does a CD/DVD creator have to do with places and files? Better put that in Applications -> Accessories. It doesn't matter if that it is actually Nautilus and it is a file manager also. If it's an application that's not related to places and files, it should go under Applications, not Places.

And I never fully grasped why the Trash is not displayed there also. In fact, after GNOME developers read this and move CD/DVD Creator to Applications -> Accessories, they should put Trash in its place. I cannot express how important this minor change-up is, because Computer = Trash to many Window XP/Vista converters.

Remove GNOME's Search for Files... and replace with Beagle or Tracker. See number 9 above.

A way to customize the Places bar. See below.

16. A better menu editor.

There used to not be a menu editor for GNOME. But with GNOME 2.16, some kid thought it'd be nice and created Alacarte. It was the answer to thousands of prayers by GNOME fans.

God is good. And so is Alacarte. You can add menus, you can add submenus, and you can add subsubmenus; and you can also add menuitems. But there are still flaws in it. The biggest? Say, when I move items up or down, it takes extraordinarily long and gets unresponsive.

I need a way to edit the Places section of the menu! Perhaps the creator didn't do this on purpose because the Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos part is managed by Nautilus's Bookmarks. OK, so take that out. But I really need a way to hide CD/DVD Creator (wait, why is that there? seriously?), Network, Connect to Server..., Search for Files... and Recent Documents. I don't use them.

Great mock-up, eh? *Grin*

17. Ability to save fonts with theme and wallpaper.

Some themes look only good with certain fonts. GNOME's Accessibility themes do this, (well they forcibly change the fonts instead of asking) but I am not sure how. People who read this will be dumbstruck at how they didn't think of this before, and will marvel at how true this is.

This would be so awesome if it happened.

18. Cut (right-click -> Cut or Ctrl+X) makes the mime image of the file transparent.

This would require some compositing, but seriously, an average Ubuntu install uses up at least 400 MB of memory, and if you've got that much RAM, it's likely you've got a graphics card that can support enough compositing to make about 30 pixels on the desktop a bit transparent.

Windows does this and I like it. Well everyone likes it. Everyone wants it. This is over and over suggested on Brainstorm; (Which I find idiotic and thoughtless. what can Ubuntu do? If Ubuntu implemented it, so be it, Ubuntu benefits and its derivitives benefit, that's it. But if GNOME implements it, everyone benefits from it (because everyone uses GNOME)) and it's so obvious how benefitial this would be that I can't even express it.

19. "Compact" view option.

No, I'm not talking about Nautilus. Sometimes we have small screens, and I am not sure why, but the GNOME interface insists on being big, and making its application menus spatial and wasteful. I had to install GNOME Color Chooser (gnome-color-chooser) to change my whole GNOME desktop into "Compact" mode. Look! The difference!:



I made a mock-up for this. If this was implemented, GNOME should put it under the Interface tab of Appearance Preferences.:

20. GUI for font adding/removing.

I know, "mkdir .fonts && cp /path/to/fonts/*.ttf ~/.fonts" is easy, but new users will have a difficult time installing fonts. GNOME really really needs to make an "Add..." button in the Fonts tab of Appearance Preferences.

OK, so there are applications that distributions ship for this. But for tight GNOME integration, this needs to exist in gnome-appearance-properties.

21. Quit "60 seconds..." actually count down.

So, the new GNOME 2.24 has redesigned its quit choices, splitting it into three parts: Lock Screen, Log Out, and Shut down. Clicking the latter two will bring up a normal window that offers more choices. And of course, the latter two will display "You are currently logged in as [username]. [You will be automatically logged out/Your system will automatically shut down] in 60 seconds."

Well the problem is, the 60 seconds part, it stays frozen the way it is. Shouldn't it literally count down, 59, 58, 57, etc., letting the user onto the situation instead of making him panick and wonder how many second's passed, and making him quickly close the dialog?

  • Sorry for not using the default Clearlooks theme. After I finished writing this I noticed it but I didn't want to make the screenshots from scratch again. I was just so used to always taking screenshots with the default Human theme (for other posts) that I completely forgot that this was GNOME.
  • Mostly a lot of blogs tell you at the end of their posts "Now we've given you our so-and-so. It's your turn. What do you think about so-and-so? What have we forgotten to include? Share it in the comments!" But you and I know that nobody cares about the comments and nobody reads the comments. They're only there so the public thinks that the author(s) care(s) about the readers and so that they come back to their site. Yes, I have revealed one of the most ultimate secrets of blog commenting. (:D)

Thanks for reading my first post!


Added 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19. Lots more good stuff!


Mock-up for Compact View configuring added to 19. Also, can't believe I forgot GUI font installing, number 20 added.


Lulz, I keep adding to this. Number 21 added.


  1. Great article, yes, there are many annoyances in GNOME but I feel that some of these will be implemented over time, I hope so :)

    Lee Jarratt

  2. Linux Mint 5 XFCE and Fluxbox editions have a new and easy font installer. I guess it'll be included in the main (gnome) edition of next Mint 6.

  3. By the way, the thing that I miss the most in Gnome is the lack of information in the dialog box that appears when one is trying to overwrite a file using Nautilus. At least, It should tell you if the file you're overwriting is older than the one you want to replace it with.

  4. Wow, nice to read good opinions about Ejecter :D
    Version 0.1, just released, has the hiding icon (I just forgot to implement it in 0.0.9, and because of my internal partitions I couldn't see it wasn't working :\ )

  5. Funny how KDE4 has many of these items, and yet with many usability and simplicity improvements over that grotesque kde3..

    That's why I dumped Gnome with the release of KDE 4.1.2

    Gnome is great, but it's stagnation was driving me mad! Have you ever compared Dolphin* x Nautilus, EOG x Gwenview*?

    * kde4 versions

  6. I use the 'text under icons' option and I really don't want to see text under totem's controls.

  7. Yes, KDE applications are always more advanced. KDE always gets a feature, gets criticized for it, then months after, GNOME implements it and gets praised. WTF.

    But for better system integration, the text under the icons in Totem are necessary.

  8. Great post!

    Is there a way you can post this article for Gnome developers? Like a feedback/idea wiki?

    I'm looking forward to seeing what Canonical will contribute to Gnome with it's new team (there's also an opening for a Gnome developer, if anyone is looking for a job).

  9. Great post! I agree 100%

  10. "Even though I cannot find it at the moment, there is a single command that can cause your CD/DVD drive to eject, even when it is empty."

    If I'm not mistaken, that command is actually 'eject'. :)

  11. Number 17 is what Epidermis aims to achieve.

  12. Just now I'm trying to disable this "60 second" wainting for shutdhown i arch linux. It is soo anoying!

  13. Great comments and review of Gnome. After each upgrade of Gnome (or KDE) I have to re-adapt to the changes that developers impose on us. Nothing seems to matter to them. Unfortunately, I think your comments are like dried leaves carried away by the wind: No single developer gives a damn for what we users think. If we say: "we need this", or "do not change that", or "we need that function back"... is like talking to the air. These bastards are so fck***g arrogant. Look to what happened to amarok, KDE 3.5, etc. And yet, we are users and we are the reason of Gnome or any software to exist.

  14. So it's now what, 3 years later, and Alacarte is still the best option we have to deal with Gnome/'s atrocity of a menu system? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA (Banging head into wall...)