Ubuntu GNOME is a new Ubuntu flavour beginning 13.04 that uses the controversial GNOME 3.x Desktop Environment which Canonical originally rejected in favour of Unity (a decision which has paid off in the long run (see the Ubuntu article)). Now it is back in this flavour, but I am reviewing the GNOME Fallback desktop in this which is more suited for older PCs and is basically a GNOME 2.x (traditional Linux) continuation with GNOME 3.x features.
Personally, I don’t like sticking with the ‘traditional desktop’ because it can be improved so that it makes more sense than the Windows hodge-podge (like in the Unity desktop environment) and made much more efficient in terms of usability, but I needed something that would run on my old PC. Unity 2D felt rather featureless and outdated as well as only being updated and being easily avaliable on LTS (Unity 8 will be even faster codewise than Unity 2D but that will only be easily avaliable in October 2014). Lubuntu and Xubuntu use desktop environments that are hardly related to GNOME at all so I went with Ubuntu GNOME Fallback because that gave me a fast desktop environment and an Ubuntu (Ambiance) feel that also has the amazing indicators in the top-right that are ever so useful (social media and email updates in one place for example).
To draw out GNOME Fallback to you, it has the Application (Start) Menu in the top-left, the close button in the top-left (sensible, because it means that you can close and open programs quickly), indicator applets in the top-right, the traditional Linux ‘workspace switcher’ in the bottom-right (these let you move your open windows off the screen entirely – great if you want to make it look like you are working to your boss ;)), the helpful ‘Show Desktop’ button in the bottom-left (which is much more informative than the Windows one because…IT ACTUALLY HAS A PICTURE OF A DESKTOP ON IT! – and it doesn’t annoyingly hide all your windows when you hover over it) and the applications along the bottom.
It is ever so simple and ever so brilliant. I still think that Unity is the future (one similar interface for all form factors), but if you want a ‘traditonal desktop’, then this is the most up-to-date way to go.
Usability: 7/10 (A bit inverse to what you would expect and not very efficient mousewise but completely usable)
Size: 7/10 (Same as with normal Ubuntu, too big to fit on a normal CD but pretty small considering what you get in that size)
Performance: 8/10 (Can feel a bit sluggish on menus where LXDE and other desktop environments are faster on, but you get a lot of features for a fast speed so it’s pretty impressive overall)
Overall: 7/10 (Feels a bit standard, probably because it is a bit standard. Best OS for my old laptop though which would be at least 10 years out-of-date (Windows XP) without it)
Written by Adam.