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GNOME 3 vs Unity: Which is right for you?

With so much controversy surrounding the recent release of GNOME 3 and Canonical’s Unity, there’s only one way to resolve things: a head-to-head battle royale. Gareth Halfacree investigates which next-generation desktop environment might suit you better to set the record straight once and for all…

GNOME 3 and the GNOME Shell have their fans, who castigate Canonical’s Unity – and vice-versa. There are also those who decry both, claiming that a move to icon-based launchers represents a dumbing-down of the classic GNOME user interface. Worries over compatibility and extensibility cause further concerns, until nobody is quite sure what’s going on any more.

It’s time to set the record straight, and we here at Linux User think the best way of doing that is with a good old-fashioned head-to-head challenge. We’ve taken the reference implementations of both GNOME 3 and Unity – the official Live CD and Ubuntu 11.04 respectively – and given them a good going over, ranking them on familiarity for existing GNOME users, performance, compatibility, features, and extensibility.

We’ve also spoken to those in the know to get the insider view on matters. For GNOME there’s Federico Mena, co-founder of the project and GNOME 3 developer. Fighting for Unity we have Neil Patel, Canonical’s technical lead for desktop experience. Both will be offering their own insights and opinions to help settle the matter once and for all…

We’ve broken down the feature into the key areas of usability GNOME 3 and Unity move away from the GNOME 2.x (not to mention KDE) ‘norms’. You can use the links below to jump through sections…

Familiarity – Both GNOME 3 and Unity are very different beasts to GNOME 2, but which takes the most learning?
Performance and Compatibility – Having a whizz-bang user interface is great, but not if it comes at the cost of performance…
Features – With the problems out of the way, which of the two offers the most feature-rich user experience?
Extensibility – Devs and advanced users will be pleased to hear that both offer possibilities for customisation – but which wins out?
And the winner is… – we’ll round-up the pros and cons of each, but there’s got to be a winner. This is it…

Continue to Page 2: GNOME 3 vs Unity – Familiarity