This is a guest post written by David Gómez of the world according to Linux.
Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal was released yesterday, the first official version of Ubuntu for desktops to bring Unity as the default visual interface for all users.
There has been a lot of talk about how good or bad that is unity it could be in comparison Gnome Shell, The interface that Gnome 3 is trying to implement by default and that some distributions like Fedora will adopt for Fedora 15 Lovelock, Which is expected by the end of May.
I’ve been using Fedora 15 with Gnome Shell for some time, and although it’s still in Beta, the distribution is pretty stable and functional enough to give an opinion on the performance of GNOME Shell, always keeping in mind that in a month many things they can happen.
In the other hand, Ubuntu 11.04 I’ve been using it for almost a week now, and yesterday I installed the latest final version released by canonical of this distribution.
As of today I have already set it up as I need it, modified some Unity behaviors and am ready to give an initial opinion on the experience in both environments.
This is probably the most important feature when choosing one of the two environments, which although they are based on Gnome, one makes use of Mutter to manage the graphics desktop and the other makes use of compiz.
Gnome Shell with Mutter has always received strong criticism for its poor performance and slowness. From my point of view, these are completely unfair reviews, as Mutter’s performance with Gnome Shell on Fedora 15 is good enough, the effects are fluid, the overall behavior of the desktop feels smooth, though there are still some graphics issues, such as some windows leaving lines drawn on the desktop after they are closed or minimized.
In terms of performance, Compiz outperforms Mutter, in general the whole desktop feels smoother and lighter, the animations are faster and clearer, although it still has some issues when using proprietary drivers for video cards ATI.
Design is always a subjective issue, as it is linked to the tastes of each person, but several aspects can be highlighted in both environments.
For my taste, Gnome Shell has a much more attractive and integrated design than Unity, the colors are better used, giving a cooler look, with excellent contrast, rendering fonts that give it a smooth look, all this makes see Gnome Shell as a 21st century environment.
On the other hand the design of Unity is a little more practical, using the eternal colors of Ubuntu that make it look like a birthday cake, Ubuntu is still seen as always but with a dock on the left side and a few glasses to find applications.
In terms of design, I blindly believe that Gnome Shell surpasses Unity, beyond everyone’s personal tastes.
In this respect both desktops have interesting news and important weaknesses, for example in Gnome Shell the difficulty to change both the appearance and operation of the desktop makes us feel trapped, as sitting in front of a beautiful rock that only we allows you to write about it.
The top bar only serves to show the time and date, it is completely useless and all it does is take up valuable space that we could use otherwise, the truth is, I don’t need ornaments on my desk.
On the side of Unity, the way this lens is designed is a bit confusing, it is not easy to find applications, it has a menu in the upper left that is not visible and when it comes to finding it, it shows you lots of options that have nothing inside, just advertising the possible apps you can install.
The lack of back buttons is annoying, if you make a wrong click, you have to close and reopen the lens to start the search again. As for the launcher, it’s almost a useless accessory as it doesn’t make any recommendations when typing, so you have to know the exact command to use or it just won’t do you any good.
Gnome Shell handles desktops better than Unity and has an exceptional launcher (Simple and functional), But Unity provides a top bar that meets all expectations and becomes even more useful than in previous versions of Gnome.
Both have good and bad things, here it is a matter of getting around the problems that arise. Some will prefer Gnome Shell and another Unity, which is why, it’s everyone’s problem, I at least stay with Unity at least for now.
David Gómez is a systems technician specializing in networks and servers, currently resides in Medellin (Colombia) and is a fairly critical free software expert, you can follow David in his profile Twitter or read your blog, the world according to Linux.