The Top 5 Gnome/Ubuntu Usability Bugs I’d Love to See Fixed

I’ve been a Linux user only two years now, and I’ve tried KDE, Gnome, Xfce, IceWM, Fluxbox, Openbox, Sawfish… and a lot of random window managers. Right now, I’m at a place in my computing life where I like Gnome. That place may change, but Gnome has finally grown on me, as it does to many Linux users.

I like the simplicity of Gnome. I like gconf-editor for advanced configuration. I like how it prompts you to run or display text files that may also be scripts. Gnome has a certain appeal.

For regular end-users, though, I’d probably still recommend KDE, because there are some essential end-user tasks that are either not possible in Gnome or not immediately obvious how to do in Gnome.

Bugs have already been filed on all these issues, and, in most cases, the bug has been filed upstream as well. So it’s not as if users haven’t complained about them through the proper channels.

Here’s my list of stuff I’d love to see fixed for the next release of Gnome and/or Ubuntu:

  1. Restore from Trash (Bug link)
    Don’t tell me doing so would copy Windows. Don’t tell me it’s too difficult to do. I’m no programmer, but I’ve seen it implemented in Windows, KDE, and Xfce. There’s absolutely no reason it can’t also be implemented in Gnome. The other day I deleted a file and wanted to restore it. It wasn’t too difficult to restore by cutting and pasting it to the original location, but it did require me thinking about where it was originally located and then browsing back to that location through Nautilus.

    Think how much worse it’d be if you’d deleted through Rhythmbox a bunch of songs from various nested folders in your ~/music folder. A restore from trash feature can be only a good thing. If you don’t want to use it, you don’t have to. It doesn’t get in the way, but it could be a lifesaver for many people.

  2. Allow Image Previews in the Firefox Upload Dialogue (Bug link)
    Have a folder full of images? Want to upload them to Flickr or Imageshack? You’d better have each named with a really good description, then! Gnome users shouldn’t have to resort to using Konqueror in order to get image previews for files to upload. The other alternative (apart from detailed descriptions in names or using Konqueror) is having a Nautilus window open separately that you can compare against the file upload list.

    These are all workarounds. Right now, there’s a Show Hidden Files and Folders option in the upload context menu. Why not add one more item for Show Thumbnails? Or, better yet, make the thumbnail preview the default for any image file (*.png, *.jpg, *.svg, *.gif, etc.).

  3. Allow users to choose the screensaver folder through the GUI (Bug link)
    This is one of the few customizations (along with wallpaper image) I’ve seen end users (not power users) indulge themselves in on computers. Most users who do want a screensaver customized want to pick what photos or images to have in that slideshow.

    And, no, forcing people to have a ~/Pictures folder is not the solution. Sorry.

  4. Allow easy selection of another default music player (Bug link)
    One of the things I love about Gnome is the Removable Drives and Media dialogue. You just type in a different application name if you want to use a different application. Want to use Grip or Goobox instead of Sound Juicer for CDs? Just edit the name. Want to use VLC instead of Totem for movies? Change the name. You are allowed to edit which application opens when an iPod is connected, but you can’t change the default music program. Why not?

    I can go to System > Preferences > Preferred Applications and change the default web browser, default email client, and default terminal. I think it’d make sense to be able to change from Rhythmbox to Banshee, XMMS, AmaroK, or Exaile as easily as changing from Firefox to Epiphany or Opera. After all, there’s such variety in which music players Ubuntu users favor.

  5. Make the icon selection smoother (Bug link)
    If you’ve been using Gnome long enough, you know that to select the icon, you navigate to the folder and click Open, at which point, the contents of the folder will display. Why don’t the contents just display immediately? That’s how all the other open dialogues work.

I’m not bashing Gnome. I don’t agree with Linus Torvalds that Gnome developers have dumbed down Gnome to the point of being unusable. I do, however, think that these five points are huge usability bugs that should be fixed in the next release of Gnome. These points could really confuse or frustrate new users.

How do I choose what pictures I want in my slideshow screensaver?

Well, Dad. You don’t.

I don’t?

No, you don’t.

I love the pictures from your wedding. They’re beautiful, and I’d like to see those when I’m not working on the computer.

Well, you can put those in the pictures folder in your home directory.

I have a pictures folder already.

The pictures folder has to be capitalized… and only the wedding pictures can be in there. The other photos would have to be somewhere else.

That’s the only way to do it?

No, you could symlink to /usr/share/backgrounds or install xscreensaver instead…. Dad? Dad?


  1. Three (five?) cheers! I’d also like to see Linux Mint’s Xorg Editor included by default, and the Control Center as well.

  2. And yes GNOME should also have a front end for setting the text color and effects on the panel. Currently, it is achieved by editing .gtkrc-2.0 in the home folder but it is tedious.

  3. Man, I agree with you completely. I’ve thought about every single one of these before.

  4. Sincerely, all of this are minor bugs, you can perfectly run your PC without all those fixes. Yes, it would be nice to have the “restore from trash”, but this is nothing, believe me, with the absolutely counter-intuitive Aero interface. My father has bought a Vista-box yesterday and it’s terrible… we’ve had lots of problems to order the desktop, the new Start is horrible… I stick with Ubuntu & XP.

  5. Seamless Desktop should be included in Ubuntu/Gnome for beginning users simple migration to linux. If its not there, you can virtualize it next to Gimp.
    Its not a bug, but it can be accomplished, and I would like to see it be accomplished. And its possible because I’ve done it before. Then Ubuntu would be a better Windows than Windows. Especially if you got a virus, you could just either restore an older backup of the VM or just reinstall without losing any data.

  6. I know you’ve used KDE, do you feel these/other issues apply to it? I personally use KDE and have never run into any of these, but it may just be a difference in usage.

  7. Actually with F-Spot installed, you can select Favorite pictures in it, and then set your screen saver to F-spot and it’ll use those pictures as a screen saver slide show.

    Not sure how many people know of this functionality.

  8. Yeah, leech. I just figured out myself how to do this. It’s not the best solution, but at least it is a solution, and a GUI one at that.

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