I’m unsure of how many parts this series will consist of, but this is the first.
Prior to Ubuntu’s Unity, I was a long time user of Gnome 2 with the occasional deviation to KDE (typically days at a time, just was never my thing). Prior to the release of Unity, I had moved to having an OSX-style dock in preparation for Unity (abandoning the bottom gnome-panel). Fun fact is that I used to despise the OSX dock (more on that later) but eventually warmed up to it.
When Unity came out, I was long overdue for a change so I embraced it wholeheartedly and used it as my main environment up to but not exceeding the 11.10 release of Ubuntu. My beef with Unity wasn’t the interface itself but the speed. It seemed like the UI was getting slower and slower the longer I used it. My first thought was that it was the system I was running it on, but I experienced this same degradation of performance across 3 machines, one with which is still pretty beefy with 8G of RAM.
This eventually led me to giving Gnome Shell a shot. Love at first sight is a pretty accurate summation of my feelings. The UI felt fresh, it was pretty snappy and the extensions available were able to solve all of my minor gripes.
But wait, no Compiz?! Yes, I used to be a sucker for wobbly windows and worthless eye candy. That’s since changed, but Compiz is actually more than just eye candy. One plugin in particular that I missed was the Placement plugin. Placement provided the ability to place windows on the screen and size them easily using hotkeys (utilizing the “directions” on the 10 key). It was sharp and didn’t do much, but it was enough for me to miss.
Once the newness wore off, I still felt Gnome Shell was impressive. The notification area was my only gripe that the available extensions at the time couldn’t fix for me. The performance didn’t degrade on me the way Unity’s did, so the notification area ended up being negligible.