Home Page -> Commentary -> Linux Experiences -> Graphic Environment

Graphic Environment - KDE, GNOME, and Enlightenment

As I mentioned in my previous article, I was very much impressed with KDE, the K Desktop Environment. This opinion has not changed. As shipped, it's not particularly flashy, but it does the job of handling the desktop environment quite well. It's robust and performs at reasonable speeds, even on my 133 MHz Pentium.

In version 6.0, RedHat also included GNOME, the GNU Network Object Model Environment. GNOME , with its window manager (Enlightenment) is supposed to be the Next Great Thing, with lots of really nice features.

In general, I found GNOME and Enlightenment to be quick and responsive to mouse clicks. I liked GNOME's file manager very much; it lets you sort file lists in case-insensitive alphabetical order, which is what most normal folks are used to.

The hype had led me to believe that Enlightenment was “it.” Visually, Enlightenment is one of the more attractive window managers I've seen, and it certainly has a large number of features and options for customizing the display. (See the screen shot at the right, which shows some of the options you have for displaying a window as it is moved. Click the picture for a full-size view.) But does having these options make the system any easier for a beginning user? I don't see how.

move/resize configuration options
active window in front; inactive window in back

As I see it, Enlightenment's authors appear to have concentrated more on visual power and beauty than on ease of use. For example, examine the screen shot at the left. (Click the picture for a full-size view). See the GNOME pager, which consists of those rectangular buttons near the lower right? They tell you which windows are currently available on your desktop. The one that looks like it's pushed corresponds to the window that's currently in front, /home/nessus.

active window partially hidden by inactive window

In the K Desktop Environment, clicking the button corresponding to another window brings that window to the top and gives it the “focus” (its title bar turns blue and you can type in it). This is also how it works in the system-from-Redmond. On the Macintosh, when you select an application from the menu at the top right of the screen, it also brings that application's window to the front as it activates it. In Enlightenment, however, it simply activates the window -- without bringing it to the front!

To bring it to the front, you either have to move up and click the title bar (which, presumably, you didn't do in the first place because the mouse was closer to the bottom of the screen) or you have to press CTRL-ALT-up arrow to “raise” the window.

I searched around for quite some time, but couldn't figure out how to bring the window to the front when I clicked on its rectangle at the bottom. I always needed an extra click or keypress to bring the window to the front.

If this isn't just a bug that somehow avoided the eyes of the testers, then I have to seriously question its design. I can't think of any instance where I'd want an active window that was partially (or totally) obscured by an inactive one. In any case, it should not be the default behavior; it requires extra work on the user's part and is at odds with the expectations set by several other GUIs and window managers.

The small annoyance of having to do “double work” became a major annoyance for me when it happened often enough during a working day.

<< System Software Back to main comment Graphics (continued) >>