GNOME: The traditional Linux desktop is coming back

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It would be difficult to imagine a more vivid testament to many Linux users' dislike of the new-style GNOME 3 desktop than the many alternative options that have sprung up in response.

Ubuntu's Unity, of course, has been another motivating factor.

We've seen the launch of the more traditionally flavored MATE and Cinnamon desktops, for instance, as well as whole distros--such as SolusOS--focused on providing a more classic feel.

In a surprising about-face, however, the GNOME project on Wednesday announced that it is working on a “classic mode” that will bring back key elements of the traditional GNOME 2 feel.

'We should not fault people'

A little background: Earlier this month the GNOME project announced that it would drop “fallback mode” from the forthcoming GNOME 3.8. Aimed at systems not capable of the 3D rendering required by GNOME Shell, fallback mode delivers a 2D desktop very similar to the user interface of GNOME 2.

Much like Ubuntu's Unity, GNOME 3 has proven controversial among users (Click image to enlarge.)

“We've talked about GNOME users who use fallback mode because they are used to certain elements and features of the GNOME 2 UX, such as task bars, minimization, etc.,” wrote developer Matthias Clasen in the announcement on Wednesday.

“GNOME 3 has brought new patterns to replace these, such as overview and search,” Clasen added. “And while we certainly hope that many users will find the new ways comfortable and refreshing after a short learning phase, we should not fault people who prefer the old way. After all, these features were a selling point of GNOME 2 for 10 years!”

'We will release them as a tarball'

Instead, the project plans to tap the collection of extensions available for GNOME Shell, among which are already many that bring back classic user interface elements, Clasen noted.

Specifically, the project has decided to compile a list of supported extensions focused on re-creating the classic interface feel, including a classic Alt tab, task bar, min/max buttons, and main menu.

“To ensure that these extensions keep working, we will release them as a tarball, just like any other module,” Clasen said.

Still to be decided is how users will turn on this new classic mode, but one option could be a switch in the GNOME Tweak Tool, he added.

Bottom line? It seems like GNOME is responding to its users at last. Will this stem the tide of GNOME 2 alternatives that keep appearing? I'm betting it will.

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