I’ve said somewhere else (here), I’m an enthusiast Gnome Shell user and now I tell you why and maybe I can convince you to give it a try. I’ve been using it since its 3.6 version and some weeks ago it reached version 3.22.
First of all, the evident changes from version 3.20 are few, most of the work has been done under the hood and I save the technical details because it’s not the case.
It’s clean, nice and modern and it’s true. Gnome Shell is very beautiful, modern and essential. You have everything you need in the top bar: the current open window, the clock and the calendar, information about the battery, the volume and the internet connection as well as the “main menu” (but I think it’s incorrect to call it menu). Clicking on the date & time you open a popup displaying the monthly calendar, with your appointment highlighted, the most recent notifications and the current media playing. Clicking on the top right corner (where there are the battery, the connection and the volume icons) you open a menu where you can set the volume, manage your network connection, enter the settings menu and turn off or suspend the pc. Finally, clicking on “Activities” you enter the dash where, by default, you have a left bar showing the open apps and your favorite ones, a search box, the list of all the apps which is android like (you have a wall of icons) and, on the right, the available virtual workspaces.
That’s it. No distractions, no useless stuff, just what you need, as a modern desktop should be, especially for productivity purposes. Of course, a modern DE requires a quite modern computer: you can’t expect to run Gnome Shell on a 10 years old computer: if this is your case, try LXDE or XFCE.
It’s almost perfect out of the box. That’s what I’ve just said. What I described is Gnome Shell out of the box, it’s what it looks like the first time you turn on your pc. You almost don’t need to change anything. Ok, maybe you need a ride in the settings menu to do some fine tuning, for example for the default apps, the notification, the accounts to be connected (to have both calendar and evolution synced).
Gnome enhances productivity. This is the consequence of having a modern desktop well done where everything works out of the box. I’m saying that, in my opinion, Gnome Shell is a DE oriented towards Linux beginners and don’t have a clue on how to solve problems that should not be present in a stable version or just want something that you install and works without massive editing of files and settings. This is a plus, because you can start working as soon as you turn on your pc, you don’t have to lose precious time.
Gnome is reliable. Unless you’re using an unstable version or a pre-release (marked by the odd number: the next one is 3.23, while the next stable will be 3.24) or a uncompatible video card, you will experience no crash. It’s a serious DE, it makes no jokes. On the other hand, and this is my personal experience, In KDE (I’ve used it until version 4.8), anytime I updated something I experienced something new, things not working properly, strange behaviors.
If you don’t really like how Gnome Shell looks like out of the box, if you feel you’re missing something, there’s a built on purpose website from where you can download and install a lot of extensions to make your Gnome experience as much satisfying as possible. For example, I’ve always dreamed of a DE with a top bar and a bar with the apps on the bottom: Dashtodock extensions is what I needed. Also, Adwaita theme is nice and clean, with an optimal contrast between black and white which doesn’t make you need an eye doctor. Well, if you like something different, Gnome Looks provides you with tons of themes both for gtk3 windows and the shell itself. You can do whatever you want but to a lesser extent than in KDE where you can actually customize any pixel of the desktop; anyway I deem it as a right compromise for a stable desktop.
Gnome is well-integrated with both gtk+ apps and Gnome Apps. In other words, the desktop is coherent, all apps look like each other in terms of decorations, title bars, scrolling bars, either gtk2 or gtk3 apps. Of course, if you’re using a pice of software using qt libraries it will look ugly, but it’s plenty of gtk apps, while, during my two years with KDE I couldn’t find a sound recorder written in qt.
What’s more, Gnome is the most advanced DE in terms of supporting Wayland, the future of display servers, but in Wayland Gnome is not yet perfect. For example, Guake (the drop-down terminal) doesn’t show up when summoned through the hotkey unless you set a global keyboard shortcut in Gnome settings. Redshift doesn’t work on Wayland because this latter doesn’t support gamma management yet, or at least is what I understood. If you use a touchpad, in Wayland you will wind out that it is extra sensible, in the sense that it looks much faster than in X and you may find some difficulty to click in the exact point you want to.
Another drawback of using Gnome is that it requires a certain amount of resources to run properly, I’d say at least 2 gb of RAM and a decent and supported video card, otherwise you’ll be catapulted in the flashback session, which is the fallback in case your video card doesn’t support the shell. Ok, maybe you have a great video card and you don’t want te flashback mode but, listen to me, if something breaks, the flashback mode will save your life.