Why Did They Take My GNOME Buttons Away?

by Susan Linton - Mar. 01, 2011Comments (31)

gnomeWith the latest GNOME 3 development snapshots came a lot of disappointment. Several blogged and dozens commented about the missing minimize and maximize buttons. Folks had grown used to using those buttons and wondered how to cope without. Mostly they just wondered why were they removed? Where did the buttons go?

To answer this, Allan Day, GNOME Marketing Contractor, has offered his explanation. For him, there are a number of factors for the removals. First he says that the minimize button is no longer of any use in GNOME 3 as there is no dock or window list. Where would a window minimize to? GNOME wants to focus on the new rather than trying to make the old work in some logical manner. Overall, he thinks this makes for a more streamlined experience.

Since GNOME 3 features the "snapping" of windows by its placement and given that double-clicking the title bar also maximizes windows, the maximize button is no longer needed or desired. It clutters up the works. However, his assertion that dragging and snapping is more "satifying" and "enjoyable" could be argued against, but he's probably not alone in that amongst GNOME developers and managers.

Lastly, Day thinks that a cluster of buttons on one side of the title bar distracts from the center window title. The removal of these buttons gives the experience a consistant pattern of operation.  And probably the most significant, he thinks the button removals will open up that space for other functionalities down the road.

Day points to Owen Taylor's post concerning this as well. Taylor is a longtime Red Hat employee that has worked on things like GTK and is now leading the GNOME Shell project as well as sits on the GNOME board. So, if anyone would know, it'd be him. Taylor's post goes into quite a bit of detail of his thought process and even shares the results of behavior testing of the removal before it went public.

Basically, Taylor believes that sending windows to other desktops serves the same purpose as minimizing windows. That purpose being to tidy up the desktop. Both of his test subjects found little effort was needed to adjust their workflow to use other virtual desktops instead of minimizing buttons. Then he concludes that the minimize function is still present through the right-click window menu, alt+right-click, and alt+F9. His feelings about maximizing mirrors Day's in that double-clicking the title bar instead of single-clicking a button isn't that big of an adjustment.

Of course feedback is desired.

Mark Walker uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


Bye KDE. Bye Gnome. Hello LXDE.

1 Votes

Buttons and titlebars don't serve any purpose at all. Juste make the name of the focused window appear on the upper bar, move your windows with super+left key drag and maximize by super+doubleclick anywhere on the window. Done.

What Gnome is doing is great even if they still keep the titlebar and close button.

0 Votes

I like the "subtraction" too.

Now, please, take the menu bar and make it a button in the window bar, like Chrome does, but not into the window, directly in the title bar.


0 Votes

Well... I am one of the last holdouts, I think, of the old style of double-click maximize behavior... that being that double-click on the title bar maximizes vertically _only_. Gnome still should remember its roots, and service us old terminal, simple editor, and simple web-browser guys. If I'm working on presentations, then, yes full maximize is essential, and then I use the maximize button to maximize to full screen. I really like the maximize only in one direction feature, and I use that more often than the maximize to full-screen feature.

0 Votes

I originally switched away from KDE because of the changes in 4.x (If I wanted my computer to look like Vista, I'd be running Windows), now I may have to do the same with Gnome (If I wanted a netbook ... etc.). I've no idea why the Gnomes in the Ivory Tower feel everyone needs to use a mobile phone interface on desktops with 30-inch plus monitors, but it's insane. And the Unity interface is no better. Tell you what I'm hoping for: the option in Gnome 3 of using the old 2.x interface so I can continue to get work done *my* way, and not the way some dev who blisses out on eye candy thinks I should do it. Linux is about choice, after all.

Hopefully, by the time my Long Term Support version of Ubuntu goes EOL, I'll have a better choice than KDE 4, Gnome Shell, or Unity, because those aren't very appealing.

1 Votes

The problem with removal is it makes it harder for the average user.

Windows, Mac OS, KDE, XFCE, Fluxbox, Openbox, Enlightenment, etc, all have a maximize button. It is a default standard. Anyone who has used a gui knows what it is there for. The fact that a single click activates it means even a novice can notice it is there, can experimentally click on it and discover what it does.

So my first complaint is GNOME is removing a standard feature that everyone knows how to use and is about as intuitive as anything on a computer can be. This will make it harder for casual gnome users to use. It would make just about as much sense to do away with title bar clicking as well and go to a keyboard shortcut, most users just would not know the feature is there or how to discover such a feature.

My second complaint, is that XFCE, Fluxbox, and many other window managers use the double click on a title bar to shade the window/roll the body of the window into the title bar. Which makes it very unnatural for those users to use it as a method to maximize a window.

This is akin to removing the Enter key from the keyboard because CTRL-M does the same thing. It's usage is so ingrained there had better be a very compelling reason to remove something that users of every computer, from every culture and language accepts as an unconscious default.

I have always complained that we are in a rut and do not try new things that may actually work better. The only way I know to try, is to put it to use. Is it a revolutionary productivity and workflow enhancer, or is it an evolutionary dead end? We will see in the next year how it actually works out.

1 Votes

Bye KDE. Bye Gnome. Hello XFCE :D

1 Votes

@Michael, @Tom Maybe you'll have to refuge in LXDE or XFCE.

The desktop has been changing a lot since KDE 4, and it will continue changing.

Aversion to change is what makes most people stick on windows instead of linux.

I'm in favor of changes, as long as there are compelling alternative ways to do the same things better.

In this specific case, however I'm not 100% convinced that the maximize button should be removed. It's easier than double clicking or dragging to top.

Anyway, I'm probably not going to use Gnome 3 anyway (prefer KDE or Unity)...

0 Votes

Personally, I don't use the buttons much myself. Though, not being able to minimize at all is not sitting well with me. I like to minimize stuff. Removing that feature is a bad move, IMO. As for maximizing, I usually just double click on the title bar anyway. However, a lot of people get set in their ways and there's nothing wrong with that, so they shouldn't just remove the buttons altogether. There should be a way to put them back on if you like them. Also, there should be a way to minimize a window.

Personally, I don't like anything I've seen about Gnome 3. The interface is bloated and nasty looking, it reminds me too much of Unity, Ubuntu's craptastic netbook (and soon to be desktop) interface. I know why they're doing it, they're trying to appeal to tablet users (both Ubuntu and Gnome) but they need to not leave us loyal desktop users high and dry. Oh well, if it becomes too much of a pill, there are always XFCE and LXDE.

0 Votes

Yep, time to ditch Gnome along w/ KDE. XFCE and LXDE are very useful and consistent. Heck, Enlightenment is better than what I've seen of the new "improved" look for Gnome.

0 Votes

I usually keep four different programmes running for work, and it's far quicker and more convenient to manage them all running full screen using virtual desktops than to have to constantly resize them, so this seems sensible to me. Having said that, I would probably use a tiling window manager if I had enough screen real estate to display them all simultaneously.

0 Votes

Gnome 3 was founded on usability principles, while Enlightenment must have been founded on some kind of visual psychosis. Those who think Gnome 3's clean and minimalist UI is bloated, must be smoking farfel.

0 Votes

Well, removing the buttons won't matter. No one will complain. Heck, I bet you could change the order of the buttons AND put them on the other side of the titlebar, like a Mac has, and no one would complain about that...right?


0 Votes


Quote: Gnome 3's clean and minimalist UI. Endqoute

I will give you that. As for bloat, Bloat is in the eye of the beholder, and on lower powered hardware, Gnome 3 is bloat. Mutter requires a 3d video card, what about the rest of us?

And minimalistic does not necessarily mean easer to use. It does not matter how many usability studies you pull out. The workflow on a 10 inch touchpad is different than a 9 inch netbook, is different that a 24 inch desktop workstation. One size does not fit all.

This clean UI also does not take into account user preferences. We all have tastes, most folks may prefer a house painted tan over a house painted blue. But if my personal taste is blue, it should not be a problem. In UI terms, GNOME 3 is shoving tan down my throat and leaves no room for me to have blue. Even though as a GNOME 2 user I have had blue for the past decade.

I am tired of elitist programmers telling me what is best and I am wrong if I would prefer something different. They have the right to implement the UI however they want. They have the right to ignore me if they don't want to change things. They do NOT have the right to tell me I am wrong for wanting something different.

No minimize and close buttons. 3d video card required. Buggy and slow mutter performance. A new metaphor for how virtual desktops are used. Most end users are going to want something different than Gnome 3.

0 Votes

I've got It! Remove the buttons. Remove the title bar. Remove the upper bar and the side bar. Make all menus pop-ups. Run one program at a time. Maybe from a command line. Make it a graphic color command line so there's no mode switching. Viola! Simple, uncluttered desktop.

0 Votes

The new UI sucks. It's an exercise in frustration, and I refuse to continue. I've switched to XFCE - it actually works, rather than being someone's artistic endeavor.

Form over function is not desirable.

1 Votes

I do think change for the sake of change is foolish. I see that a lot of computer changes are just done to do "something different". If it is useful and helpful, fine, if it is just to change what was done before, stupid! Make progress, not change. Make it more intuitive, not different. Make it useful, not something new. That is my opinion as an oldtimer in computers.

1 Votes

This is ludicrous. Take my buttons over my dead body. Here is a good analogy that describes my argument. I would suspect most people here support Net Neutrality, I may be wrong but for the sake of argument lets assume you do believe in it.

ISP’s analyze web traffic all the time, they know what patterns and ports are used and what patterns and ports are used by what percentage of people.

Most people only use the Internet to browse websites, collect mail and might use Pandora or Itunes. Cool. What would you do if ComCast came out tomorrow and blocked all ports except 80, 443, 25 and 587 (http, https and mail).

Immediately all gamers are screwed because they use different ports and cannot easily switch. They may only be 10% of the households using those ports but ComCast knows best. I am a sophisticated user, I use Linux, Windows and Mac, I use VPN, SSH and other tools that the average user does not even know exist. I am probably in a group of maybe 1% of users out there. But I immediately lose access to my corporate site, I also use ssh tunneling to get into my servers at home (RDP and VNC) that would be gone as well because ComCast is always right.

Sure this may work for the majority of people, but from someone who is in the extreme minority eat scat and die. I do not fit in your nice little box and I personally resent you trying to fit me into it.

I want my buttons and my freedom to work with my windows anyway I want.


1 Votes

What's the big deal, really? I can understand people are used to a certain kind of UI, but c'mon... Technology is changing and so is the way we communicate with our PCs. In dwm there's not a single window button whatsoever, and you even don't notice that. Maybe it's worth giving a new option a go, say, for a couple of weeks or a month and see, without a prejudice if possible, if the experience is really that negative? Gnome 3 is going to be different, not a simple rework of 2, and if it really doesn't suit you there're plenty of variants to choose from (all the *box zoo for instance). Cheer up, nothing has really died. ;)

0 Votes

@chrunos what if your keyboard does NOT have a “Super” key. And even if it does, I have never used it...lmao (at myself) ran into that in a help forum, the solution mentioned the “Super” key, what the heck is the “Super” key. While I am not a noob, I am not into skins and interfaces all that much, I like function...I like the command line and the terminal window, I like the buttons that make my life easier.

I agree that change it good, so are options...like giving me the options to keep the buttons. I had a Nokia N800 (may find a root-able Android one day) and might get a Kno Tablet one day, but still like the functionality of those buttons....as I read through the comments, more than one person gave their specific use case for either the minimize, maximize and/or close buttons. All valid in my humble opinion. Here is my use case for the Title bars...I depend on them every day in my many work flows in addition to the minimize, maximize and close buttons...

Title bars tell me what I am looking at, where its stored and helps me to load it up with whatever application I am using.

Take working with images...when looking at a file directory of pictures, since I use the date in the name of the subdirectory, that title bar tells me which date I am looking at....convenient considering every camera offloads the pictures by date. It also helps to jog the memory when I am trying to figure out which month and day a picture was snapped. When you overlap the windows you have information you would not have any other way and I have incorporated into my work flow.

For instance when working with Gimp, I have the subdirectory, Image and Gimp up at the same time, thanks to those title bars, I use very little screen space to provide the information. For instance from the Subdirectory I get (Date of Folder, i.e. 2011_01_03) So I know I am looking at images from January 3, 2011. From the Image Viewer I get the name of the photo, most cameras number them sequentially....so if I keep the date and the number in the name of the image, I will always know where to go, to get the original should it become necessary. Often I need to crop and image differently or focus in on a specific area, so it makes sense to work with the original. Finally the Gimp app itself. I typically search through my folders (subdirectories) and find the image I want to work with, by overlapping and by having that title bar, I do not have to memorize the name of the photo. For me that is convenient. When I work more than a few images, the last thing I want to have to do is memorize each image's filename, thanks to the Title bar I do not have to waste brain cells on that when opening it in Gimp (PhotoShop, PaintShop Pro, Blender, etc...).




*** - start of image

see 110103-7949-poolnbeach-400x200.png

*** - end of image

Oops, did not load...oh well I tried to show it to you...

Another lame use case, but useful to me, when a comment form does not have a spell checker, I use google to check the spelling of a word, term, etc.., the search term I am looking for appears in the title bar...convenient and quick.

While change is always good, giving users OPTIONS is even better. Its a sound way to maintain your user base. To not allow options, choices, is a sure fire way to lose your user base and seems short sighted.

And as far as screen real-estate, have you seen the double Kno Tablet, opens like a book, plenty of room. I wonder if its root-able, I hope so or I will not buy it.

Some have asserted that the reason for this change are tablets and hand-held devices, perhaps, but I plan to get a 55” LG LED monitor/TV put that on my desk and create my own Monitor Wall. Use one of those two open source projects to dedicate a core to specific virtualized sessions and a set of those monitor windows. I fully expect to have 4 windows (window manager via Compiz Fusion or such tool) per screen on that 55” screen. Will I get only a 2 X 2 or 2 X 3 or 3 X 3 or perhaps a 3 X 4 on that 55” LG LED TV that I turn into a monitor? Regardless it will be better than my 22” LG Monitor. And one day I will have synchronous FTTH...I can imagine 10Mb – 1GB upstream bandwidth, can you?

I hope to minimize my crashes caused by excessive web markup and cable broadband throttling of my bandwidth, especially my upstream bandwidth in addition to sand-boxing and virtualizing my system. I can see a need to flush memory or apps from one session that try to dominate my system for wrong reasons (ie. futex_wait_queue_me, uninterruptible, etc...) and load them in another window and keep on trucking..., all the while my system does not stop running “completely”, thanks to segregating and sand-boxing the cores. Worst case scenario is I have to reboot a core or set of cores.

Imagine two 55” LG LED TV/Monitors...add a couple more and you could have your own simulator. I wonder if I can mount one on the ceiling ...or is that just silly?

I still want the minimize, maximize, close buttons and Title bar however on whatever interface I am using.

One thing is for sure, if I can not grab a window by the menu bar and move it with my mouse, I will NOT use that interface. More than one of us have had our Linux (usually Ubuntu) desktop, laptop, notebook, boot up with the minimize, maximize, title bar missing and the windows are stuck in place where they open...talk about a PITA!

Thank you @ElderGeek for listing viable options if Gnome continues down this path without giving us a valid option (ie. Many of us want minimize, maximize, close buttons and the title bar thank you very much): Here are those options repeated: Windows, Mac OS, KDE, XFCE, Fluxbox, Openbox, Enlightenment. Though I admit I feel “dirty” mentioning Windows....ugh....I really hate Windows so that will NEVER be an option for me in the future. Nor do I think there is any plus in a Linux application looking more like Windows. Its Windows looking more like Linux, just look at their function calls, namespaces, etc... Windows is stealing more from GNU/Linux, without giving anything of true value back, than any Linux could ever steal from them. Compiz Fusion also lets you click on the title bar and roll it up to free up screen space like XFCE and Fluxbox.

And I echo what others state, I doubt I will ever use Unity or Wayland anytime soon if ever. I will be leaving Ubuntu in 2011 because of them. Going to check out Debian, CentOS and Arch for starters.... I will probably look back and thank Ubuntu for giving me the shove away from them, however I do like Gnome, or if no option is offered, I did like Gnome...sad, very sad.

To have or not to have the minimize, maximize, close buttons and title bar will be on Gnome, based on their choice, I will make my choice. So say we all.

0 Votes

At least Linux Mint is keeping the standard "old" Gnome interface for Mint 11. I, for one, will NOT use the new Gnome, just as I left KDE several years ago. Unity, the less said about that, the better.

1 Votes

Nobody but me ever removes buttons from my Fluxbox windows :D

0 Votes

Most of the angry comments here are from the old-timers. Relax. Seesh, some of you swear they're taking your pensions.

It just two buttons!

Lets give Gnome 3 a chance. If after a few months you still don't like it, then make a switch to and another DE. It's open source, you have a choice.

0 Votes

Looks like I'm finally moving to Mint. Have been with Ubuntu since 4.10

0 Votes

I didn't like the direction Ubuntu was going with Nautilus, and some of the other things they were taking away, so I went to mint, figured out how to put things back where I could find them... I've got the LTS version of Mint 9, and would most likely go to LXDE or XFCE if Gnome is turns out to be something I don't care to use. - I've put 10.04 on my netbook, just to see how Unity looked and felt. And, switched back to the Gnome Desktop.

Sure, if I had a computer that had a touch screen, and that, maybe I'd like these changes, but I don't. So I don't. Will some good come from these changes? I don't know.

What I HAVE stopped doing is recommending Ubuntu to a someone coming from Windows. I suggest Linux Mint now. - But Mint lacks the support that Canonical gives Ubuntu. That's where my disappointment rests, and my lack of enthusiasm to promote what was once one of the best Linux Desktop experiences for someone new to Linux, IMHO. Ubuntu and Gnome.

0 Votes

Will it still be possible to put them back, and where they are wanted, via the gconf-editor? Or is that gone too?

0 Votes

It's this kind of attitude on the side of GNOME, Canonical & KDE that had me buy and install Microsoft Windows for the first time in over 10 years. If I'm going to be manhandled by penny-ante software dictators it might as well be Microsoft.

0 Votes

I've no idea why the Gnomes in the Ivory Tower feel everyone needs to use a mobile phone interface on desktops with 30-inch plus monitors, but it's insane. And the Unity interface is no better.

0 Votes

Of choosing my preferred desktop !!!!!!

Please . . .

Pretty please ?

Just as I HATE having windows (yes i have to use it . . .) change UI things just for the sake of change, I have the same reaction here too.

Give the users the CHOICE!!!

Please ?

I actually like Gnome the way it is now . . .

0 Votes

"enjoyable"? what the hell? An emotional response to using a feature? What's wrong with these people?

Computers are and always have been a tool to get work done. With this new change to gnome, how the hell does this make working easier? Especially when I have to do multiple things to accomplish what before was one thing! Click and drag everytime I have to open something? That is nuts!

The min/max buttons have been a GUI staple for 30 years, it works well, it's easy, it's well understood! Why the hell are you fucking with it?

If there is no docking bar or windowlist , how the hell am I going to find windows that were moved to other work-spaces?

I've tried the Unity Interface, IMO it's the stupidist interface for a desktop I've seen in over 30 years. It's nice for a touchpad, just plain insane for a desktop.

Gnome should have a requirement of having spent at least 1 year working in a "real-world" environment before being qualified as a Gnome developer.

Pleasure via using a feature? Does this mean they're asking the Morphine dripper to drip more? Or have they watched "Minority Report" a few too many times? This is pathetic!

0 Votes

Change is inevitable, change is good. I will whole-heartedly embrace the change, to XFCE.

0 Votes
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