Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
There’s absolutely no denying the fact that there has been a lot of bickering between people about which desktop environment is the best. However, in more recent times, the discussion has been expanded and refocused, from not just Gnome vs. KDE but now Gnome Shell vs. Unity, two desktop environments that are both dependent on the Gnome framework.
The difference between the two is simply the desktop shell, which is much more a difference in looks and functionality than a technical one. However, Gnome Shell has finally started to build itself a place in my heart, while Unity has not.
Here are three reasons why this is the case.
This may come as a major surprise to many, but my first point is all about speed. From personal experience, I’ve always found Gnome Shell (especially when version 3.2.1 came out) to be faster than Unity. The Activities screen in Gnome Shell loads as fast as the Dash in Unity, but the dock launcher on the left side in Unity is somewhat slow and sluggish. This is especially noticeable on my netbook, whereas Gnome Shell runs smoothly.
It’s quite a surprise to myself, actually, because Compiz, the window manager framework of which Unity is a plugin for, was touted to be the better and faster alternative to Mutter, the window manager framework on which Gnome Shell runs. Although I have to admit that Gnome Shell at it’s first release was a little sluggish too, it has improved quite a bit. Now that Unity is the default desktop shell for the second straight release in Ubuntu, it has only gotten slower.
Organization and Design
The organization and design of the desktop environments is also a major factor between the two. Unity tries to be organized, but with lenses, the Dash, and the different categories inside the Dash, things quickly get confusing. I know when I looked at Unity that it took a while before I understood what everything is for.
As for Gnome Shell, everything is better hidden and organized. You see nothing but the desktop until you go into the Activities screen, where inside you’ll be presented with favorites, different open windows, and the different workspaces for each application or task. In the applications view, all you get is a list of applications and the different categories for each. That’s it. It’s simple, clean, and works well.
Extras in Unity like the ability to search your music collection is a cool idea, but I find it unnecessary. It’s not any harder to just go look around in your Music folder or to open up your music player and easily find and play your music through that.
Unity for Ubuntu Only
While this isn’t a major reason, it’s still worth mentioning. For those that do enjoy Unity, they are forced to use Ubuntu in order to get that experience. With Gnome Shell, that isn’t an issue, as it’s available on any distribution in existence that has moved up to Gnome 3. The world of Linux that we currently live in is very well used to being able to put any desktop environment that they like on their distribution.
Unity is the only desktop environment out of all the major players that is specific to only one distribution. I’m sure that Canonical has their own reasons for doing this, but in the spirit of free software I don’t believe that their choice goes in the right direction.
Say what you like, but those are just my opinions on the matter. I simply find Gnome Shell to be a little more usable with its clean look and design, unlimited workspaces that automatically get created or destroyed, and overall ease of use. The Gnome developers definitely changed the desktop as they had hoped, and I find it to be enjoyable. For those who don’t think the same, you still have to admit that some pretty innovative ideas are presented in Gnome Shell.
What’s your own opinion on this? Do you agree with me or am I just an idiot? Let us know in the comments!