Why Did They Take My GNOME Buttons Away?

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 01, 2011

With the latest GNOME 3 development snapshots came a lot of disappointment. Several blogged and dozens commented about the missing minimize and maximize buttons. Folks had grown used to using those buttons and wondered how to cope without. Mostly they just wondered why were they removed? Where did the buttons go?

To answer this, Allan Day, GNOME Marketing Contractor, has offered his explanation. For him, there are a number of factors for the removals. First he says that the minimize button is no longer of any use in GNOME 3 as there is no dock or window list. Where would a window minimize to? GNOME wants to focus on the new rather than trying to make the old work in some logical manner. Overall, he thinks this makes for a more streamlined experience.

Since GNOME 3 features the "snapping" of windows by its placement and given that double-clicking the title bar also maximizes windows, the maximize button is no longer needed or desired. It clutters up the works. However, his assertion that dragging and snapping is more "satifying" and "enjoyable" could be argued against, but he's probably not alone in that amongst GNOME developers and managers.

Lastly, Day thinks that a cluster of buttons on one side of the title bar distracts from the center window title. The removal of these buttons gives the experience a consistant pattern of operation.  And probably the most significant, he thinks the button removals will open up that space for other functionalities down the road.

Day points to Owen Taylor's post concerning this as well. Taylor is a longtime Red Hat employee that has worked on things like GTK and is now leading the GNOME Shell project as well as sits on the GNOME board. So, if anyone would know, it'd be him. Taylor's post goes into quite a bit of detail of his thought process and even shares the results of behavior testing of the removal before it went public.

Basically, Taylor believes that sending windows to other desktops serves the same purpose as minimizing windows. That purpose being to tidy up the desktop. Both of his test subjects found little effort was needed to adjust their workflow to use other virtual desktops instead of minimizing buttons. Then he concludes that the minimize function is still present through the right-click window menu, alt+right-click, and alt+F9. His feelings about maximizing mirrors Day's in that double-clicking the title bar instead of single-clicking a button isn't that big of an adjustment.

Of course feedback is desired.