I've written here a little about the problems I have with the options for user interfaces in linux, and while for me Awesome goes a long way toward s fixing these issues, particularly/even on smaller screens, but I continue to think that paying more attention to user interface issues will be a very good thing for the platform. This new laptop is the second linux install I've done recently (third if you count the VM on my mac, and fourth if you count the multiple attempts it took me to get my desktop to working order) and the expereince has--I hoped granted me some useful perspective on some UI concerns. And since this is my blog... I bet you can see where this is going.
While I think as far as non-tiling window managers go, OS X/quartz/aqua still is the leader of the pack, I'm not longer as appaled by everything that is GNOME, but it took me a while to realize this (which is a huge barrier for new users, and a big problem, but not a problem I'm quite equipt to suggest.) If you're new to gnome, and geeling a little offput by it's "clunkyness," here are some suggestions to make things a little less painful (espically if you're the Awesome type).
- Tweak and change the system fonts. As near as I can tell sub-pixel rendering is turnned off in GNOME by default (it's on in KDE), which is what makes fonts look smooth and pretty. Turning this on, and making the fonts smaller, made a world of difference for me. Adding in good fonts for screen reading (like the forbidden MS Verdana font, and the Google Andriod Fonts) really added something to the experience. I think it's easy to forget how much a really good, really readable font can affect the way we interact with a computer. First order of business.
- Do something about the GNOME panel. The GNOME pannel (that would be all the status bars and such) by default takes a huge amount of screen space (particularly on smaller screens). For starters, I turn off "auto-expand" and move the top panel into the right or left corner, though there might be some advantage to moving it to the bottom left-or right corners, as we tend to have more horizontal space on our screens than vertical, but that depends a lot on your personal prefrence. My second move is to ditch the bottom pannel, and move things like the "multi-desktop" chooser, and a drop down list of open windows to the top pannel. Move things that you use every day to the pannel and take away things that you don't need to see. One of the reasons that I like OS X so much is that it does a pretty good job of focusing the UI on "content" inside the window, rather than the UI of the window/system itself. GNOME can do this too, but it doesn't automatically.
- This is an elaboration of the earlier too points, but tweak the theme settings, which--at least in Ubunut--are cartoonish by default. I've found that the "Mist" interface buttons tend to take up a little less room, but try your hand at desiging something new. My M.O. of late has revolved around "making everything smaller" because I don't like UI bloat, but no matter what your goals are, I think everyone needs to spend some time customizing the finer aspects of their UI.
It's a start in the right dirrection at any rate.
Onward and Upward!