Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fedora 20 is out

I've been looking forward to using GNOME 3.10 for a while now. I've previously commented on GNOME's poor usability, but GNOME 3.10 claims to feature an improved user experience ("UX"). These UX features include:
  • A new "Paginated Application View" when selecting programs you can run, rather that a scrolling list (this seems similar to an iPad, for example)
  • A customizable lock screen
  • Changes to scrollbars, so it's easier to move small distances
  • Fixes to the Settings application, including changing Date & Time, easier to configure Displays, integration of chat accounts into Online Accounts, combining all features of Universal Access into a single page, and allowing the user to set their background via their Flickr account.

As a major player in the open source software desktop, GNOME is often the focus of usability reviews. Calum Benson, Matthias Müller-Prove, and Jiri Mzourek included GNOME among their 2004 findings about Professional Usability in Open Source Software (see my other post). Similarly, Nichols and Twidale link to GNOME in The Usability of Open Source Software webpage. GNOME brings attention to usability, as suggested by their Usability Testing Suite wiki.

So with GNOME 3.10, I'm hopeful that the project has addressed the usability issues I mentioned previously.

However, I prefer to wait for developers and beta testers to shake out any bugs in this initial release. So I have been waiting for Fedora 20 to come out, which promised to include GNOME 3.10. Fedora is a mainstream Linux distribution, generally well-regarded by Linux users. But most important for my purposes, Fedora prefers the GNOME desktop.

Well, the wait is over - the Fedora Project released Fedora 20 today! Check out the release notes for details. Quoting from the release notes:

3.1.4. GNOME 3.10

3.1.4.1. GNOME Overview

Fedora 20 features GNOME 3.10. This latest version of the GNOME desktop will have a number of new applications and features:
  • Fine grained scrolling when dragging the scroll bar handle, or scrolling while holding the shift key.
  • Support for login and authentication with Smart Cards.
  • Header bars merge title bars and toolbars into a single element, giving more screen space to window content and improving presentation of application controls.
  • Improved Magnifier with caret tracking, press F7 to activate caret.
  • Lock screen background customization.
  • A new geolocation framework allows features like automatic timezone updates when traveling and location detection in Maps.
  • GNOME Documents support for OwnCloud
  • Drag and drop files between your computer and a Boxes guest. Windows guests will need http://spice-space.org/download/windows/spice-guest-tools/ installed, and Linux guests will need an updated version of spice-vdagent.
  • Boxes gains support for importing filesystem images.
  • Improved user interface for Contacts
  • Improved automatic scaling for high pixel density displays.
  • Improved application selection in the shell Overview.
  • Flikr integration with GNOME Online Accounts allows access to Flikr content in GNOME Photos.
  • Improved, integrated system status menu.
  • Redesigned gnome-tweak-tool, with improved design, extension integration, and expanded functionality.
  • A new application, GNOME Maps, brings a simple map application to the GNOME Desktop.
  • GNOME Music, a streamlined application for playing and sharing music.

I'm interested in the changes to scrolling, "header bars," and the other user interface improvements.

This is perfect timing; my M.S. capstone project (working title: "The Usability of Open Source Software") starts in January. I hope to refresh the usability study I conducted previously with GNOME on Fedora 17.

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