Anyone interested in a "GNOME 2 look and feel" remix?

Liam Proven lproven at
Mon Oct 28 16:23:15 UTC 2013

On 28 October 2013 11:39, Tom H <tomh0665 at> wrote:
> AFAIK, MATE's working on a transition to GTK+ 3 but Liam thisnk that
> they've given up and you don't think that they're doing it, so we'll
> see.
> I tried MATE for the first time about ten days ago and felt that I'd
> gone back in time to some retro universe. So if MATE disappears
> because of its reliance on GTK+ 2, I won't be shedding any tears...
> I'd forgotten that LXDE was merging with Razor and transitioning to QT.
> There's currently a flame war of sorts on debian-devel about GNOME and
> systemd and default dekstop and defaulkt init, and one of the
> anti-XFCE points that's been made is that upstream's not very active.
> So "slowly" seem accurate; some people might not agree with the
> "surely."

If you'll forgive me posting a modified blog post, I've tried to
address these points here:

I think the more significant long-term question is to ask which of the
various Gtk2-based desktops are going to successfully transition to
other toolkits.

If LXDE is switching to Qt, that leaves the question of how easy it
would be for Xfce and Maté to move.

Perberos did talk about a possible move to Gtk3 long ago, but Maté has
really only gathered momentum since then:

This is my half-assed effort at translating the Spanish part:

Many people ask me: if the goal is to port MATE to Gtk3, then wouldn't
it be better to just take the GNOME 3 programs and include them, as
they are already based on GTK3?

The truth is that many applications have been ported to GNOME3 Gtk3,
breaking Gtk2 compatibility. Besides that, they have been modified to
make them easier to use: "easy" and "cleaner" in terms of usability
means giving them dumber interfaces, which greatly limits intermediate
and advanced users, as well as those used to the Gtk2 versions.

Also, if we only use GNOME 3 applications, then this fork of GNOME2
would be meaningless. But I hope that everyone can choose which
applications they want to install.

It's a complicated discussion and does not lead anywhere, so let's avoid it.

He might change his mind.

I think he has good points.

It's quite easy to put both Maté and GNOME 3 on the same install of
Ubuntu - now Maté has renamed all the packages, there are no clashes
and they co-exist cleanly.

His point about dumbed-down apps is a good one. Some GNOME 3 apps look
near-identical to their GNOME 2 versions, but most have no menu bar
any more, just a single one-word menu with all the options collated
onto that. I have mixed feelings about this: yes, it's simpler. As an
old Acorn RISC OS user, I am perfectly comfortable with apps that have
a single global menu, just divided into sections - there's less
hunting around.

But GNOME 3 apps still have a menu bar, and that being so, I don't see
any benefit.

Some apps have dropped features. That's a general trend of GNOME
development and I don't like it. Yes, simplification is good,
generally, but wholesale feature removal isn't the best way to do it.
Making a fresh start (a la iOS or Android) is better, I suspect.

Bottom line:

I think Gtk2 is dead. I suspect Maté and Maté's developers are both
too wedded to it and that means a vast project: the whole GNOME 2
desktop, plus all its applets, plus all of Gtk2. I don't think that
can be kept going, but a move to Gtk3 would, as he implies, remove
much of the desktop's reason for existing. So I think Maté will stay
on Gtk2 and eventually die.

For a flexible, modular, componentised desktop that you can
reconfigure how you want - top panel, bottom panel, both, menu
launcher, dock launcher, both, etc. - then Xfce 3 is a better bet.
GNOME 3 does not try to be or do this and I doubt it ever will. GNOME
Classic and Cinnamon don't try to be either, they just try to
reproduce the default Windows-style taskbar-and-start-menu experience.

Xfce is looking at adopting Gtk3:

But Gtk3 is not yet stable and each release (3.4, 3.6, 3.8…) has
apparently had major revisions - 3rd-party users are struggling.

Other projects are allegedly evaluating Gtk3 and deciding "not yet":

As I said above, Gtk really is the GNOME Toolkit now, not the GIMP
Toolkit. Gtk3 is the GNOME 3 Toolkit and it's not good for anyone
else. GNOME 3 is still young and maturing. It has a long way to go.

So for now, I think Gtk2 has a modest future. Lots of projects use it
and they won't all move to Gtk3 any time soon. It will survive for a
few years yet and it is still safe enough to choose and deploy
Gtk2-based solutions. Merely being based on Gtk2 is not reason enough
to avoid any product.

But in time, yes, I think Gtk2 will die.

For now, though, Gtk3 is not mature or stable enough for widespread
adoption among Gtk2 users. This is because Gtk3 is part of GNOME 3 and
GNOME 3 itself is not yet mature or stable enough for widespread
adoption. It may never be.

Perhaps, in a few years, GNOME 3 will survive, grow up, mature and
settle down into something stable and consistent. In that case, Gtk3
will too. If GNOME 3 dies, then Gtk3 may well split off and itself
become mature and stable, and then, the many Gtk2 projects will
migrate to it.

My impression is, though, that it's too soon to move to it yet. Of the
notable Linux desktops using Gtk2, I suspect that Maté will soldier on
will Gtk2 and never make the move. As long as Gtk2 is supported, that
will be fine, but eventually, Gtk2 will die and Maté will die with it.
LXDE will switch to Qt and might merge with the Razor-QT project. Xfce
will switch to Gtk3 but probably not for a year or two at the earliest
- it's a much slower-moving project than GNOME 2 was or GNOME 3 is. As
such, if you want a customisable desktop like GNOME 2 was, my
recommendation would be Xfce, and if you just want something simple,
lightweight, clean and vaguely Windows-like, go with LXDE.

If all you want is a vaguely Windows-like window manager and you don't
want desktop icons and file managers and all that, then IceWM and
Fvw95 are still around and then all this stuff won't matter to you.

Liam Proven • Profile:
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