So it would be somewhat amiss of me to not comment on a recent new version of a prominent open source software project: Fedora 18. This is a full release of a Linux distribution that is built completely from open source software.
Arguably, the most prominent component of Fedora 18 is the GNOME desktop. Fedora provides different "spins" of their distributions, and the default "spin" uses the GNOME desktop.
I installed Fedora 18 on a 16GB USB stick over the weekend. I'm not very impressed. I'll leave it to others to comment on the full install process, which got a major facelift in Fedora 18. (I wrote the Fedora 18 distribution to a "live USB stick" so I didn't go through the new install process.) However, I can comment on the the usability of the desktop.
Here is the default desktop (GNOME 3) in Fedora 18. I have started two instances of the Nautilus file manager; one is maximized on one half of the screen, the other is running in a window of default size:
From my usability test last year, the four themes of successful usability were:
You can immediately see that the updated GNOME desktop in Fedora 18 doesn't do well with two of the four themes of successful usability: "Consistency" and "Menus".
Where are the menus? There is no "File" menu that allows me to do operations on files. There is no "Help" menu that I can use when I get stuck. The new Nautilus doesn't have a menu, but other programs in Fedora 18 do. The new Gedit text editor (which is also part of Gnome) still has menus, but the file manager does not. I don't understand why. The programs do not act consistently.
And things get worse when you compare the two Nautilus windows in the screenshot. When you maximize a Nautilus window, either to the full screen or to half of the screen, the title bar disappears. Look again at the screenshot and compare. The "x" button in the upper-right corner (to close the program) disappears in the maximized view. How do you exit the file manager after you've maximized it? For that matter, how do you "un-maximize" the file manager, to return Nautilus to just a regular window?
As somewhat of a "power user," I'll also complain that I can't figure out how to connect to a remote server. This used to be an obvious action under the "File" menu, but without a menu in the new file manager, I can't do it.
The only clue I have to connect to a remote folder is under "Network" - "Browse Network" at the bottom of the left pane. But this only lets me see my local network, and the server I want to connect to is hosted elsewhere.
I think I'll keep clear of this release and see if things get fixed in Fedora 19. But as an experiment, I may try out a different "spin" of Fedora 18, perhaps the "XFCE" or "LXDE" lightweight desktops.