Ever since I started to use Linux as my operating system, I have used a plethora of desktop environments and tools to get my work done. After experimenting and spending countless hours tweaking, switching desktop environments, distributions and tools, I will share with you my “endgame” desktop setup and maybe that will inspire you to pick one and stick with it. Before I begin, here is a screenshot of how my desktop actually looks like.

Obligatory Screenshot

Pretty cool eh?

Fedora Workstation

Like many, I too was a distro-hopper when I started to use Linux. After a while, I found that I always came back to the one distro or rather, I stuck with one distro for quite some time. When you have a lot of free-time on your hands and you’re introduced Linux, you end up hopping between distributions, trying different desktop environments, exploring tiling window managers and in the mean time, learning a lot of cool new things. The problem is, once you start to do serious work or anything that requires focus, you can’t afford downtime. So I’ve been using Fedora for the past year or so as my main distro and it has been excellent. There was never a time where I felt like I should switch to another distribution.

So why did I pick Fedora? I could write an entire article on why I use Fedora but here are a few points:

  • Easy to install, get’s out of you way very quickly and delivers a great out-of-the-box experience.
  • DNF is a great package manager, it is not only powerful but also very robust (dependancy resolving).
  • Up-to-date while being relatively stable.
  • Great GNOME experience but other “spins” (desktop environments) are also quite good.
  • Packages are very close to upstream.

I want my desktop, operating system, tools to just work. Switching between displays, audio-inputs, reliable suspend/sleep and a cohesive UI are all things I want from a desktop environment. Like anything, I’ve made my setup work for me so I can get my work done as efficiently as possible. Why do I use the GNOME Desktop?

The workflow.

Whatever setup you have, each desktop environment caters to a specific workflow. I’m not going into the specifics but it is very apparent that GNOME has a certain “workflow” (at least out-of-the-box) than something like KDE Plasma or XFCE. It is understandable that not everyone wants to adopt a different way of using their computer and rightfully so, if you have been using a traditional taskbar for 10 years and then you use GNOME, what happens?

I used to modify GNOME with a ton of extensions to get it to work the way I intended but there were many papercuts along the way. Some extensions were broken or offered limited functionality or the shell performance was suffered due to a poor implementation. I discovered that people would use GNOME with little to no extensions and I was truly amazed. A vanilla GNOME install would look very painful to use but after trying it out, I was amazed at how much I could get done without a mouse. Critics often comment on GNOME and how it is an interface for tablets and devices with touchscreens and they’re not wrong but ironically, GNOME is also very “powerful” desktop environment.

Initially, it all looks spartan and alien but once you start digging around for the shortcuts and little features it has, the desktop environment becomes EXTREMELY convenient. For instance, the “hot-corner” in GNOME is something that has become a part of my workflow. Flicking your mouse to the top-left corner to activate the “activities” window is so useful and effortless, it really is a joy to use.

For example, flicking your mouse to the top-left corner brings up the overview. I personally love this as it allows me to switch between workspaces or applications all without touching the keyboard. Of course, a traditional taskbar could do the same but this allows you to see all your open windows at-a-glance.
Extensions are awesome!

By default, GNOME has a very specific design philosophy. Because it strays away from the traditional desktop paradigms, it is the most controversial desktop environment. That said, if you dislike the way GNOME behaves by default, there are extensions which improve the usability and overall experience when using GNOME.

There are times where I wish some of the extensions were actual features part of the GNOME shell but having extensions regardless is good enough.

Polished User Experience

Perhaps this is the real reason why I always come back to GNOME. Despite having tried many other awesome desktop environments, the polish in this desktop environment for me, is simply unmatched. Maybe I’m OCD and I care too much about little quirks in the user-interface but these “quirks” accumulate and end up being hundreds of paper cuts.

Does GNOME has papercuts? Of course it does, nothing is perfect. But for me, GNOME is definitely more enjoyable for me.

One would argue what’s the point in using GNOME if you need to add extensions to make it usable, well to that, I say that the polish in GNOME applications and the shell (alt-tabbing), workspace switching is just something I cannot find on other desktops.

Customisation

There is a gargantuan amount of GTK themes but after trying many of them, I hop between Adwaita and Arc theme. As for icons, I went with Papirus icons as it scales extremely well and supports almost every icon imaginable. My user-interface font is Roboto and for monospace, I use Cascadia Code.

As for the extensions, I only use three. I used to have a dozen but I realised that not only does it make GNOME more prone to breakage, it just made the whole experience too cluttered. I like to keep it simple but super effective.

  • Dash to Panel – An extension I cannot live without. It adds so much functionality and improves the usability, it makes GNOME the best desktop environment in the world, for me. Development is also very active.
  • Sound Input & Output Device Chooser – Useful when you want to change between different audio inputs and outputs.
  • User Themes – I use this extension to change the shell theme. I don’t really need it but Mojave-dark makes for a solid GNOME shell theme.

Link to wallpaper: https://unsplash.com/photos/5A06OWU6Wuc

That’s all for now, I hope to write more articles on my workflow and computing in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!