Is Gnome user-friendly?

One of the often seen comments on this forum, and across the web is that Gnome is considered to be user-friendly.
Being a scientifically minded person, I have the annoying habit of questioning things, especially assumptions. I question claims that are made - and repeated, most often when they fly in the face of Evidence.

Gnome, as a base D.E., lacks the user-friendly features that other D.E.s have. To this end, independent developers create Gnome-Extensions in order to restore functionality. How is this considered to be user-friendly?
Most interesting: Gnome Developers intensely dislike gnome-extensions and are moving to put a stop to their existence.

Unlike other D.E.'s, Gnome hides settings. It is not unusual that new Gnome Users visit the forum looking for how to change settings, not something complex or coding-intensive. Yet, it is far less often we see such questions from Other D.E. users. How is this user-friendly? How is it user-friendly that the GUI settings often lack the settings found in gsettings or dconf?

@swarfendor437 clearly remembers when I migrated from Windows to Zorin Core. It was a constant struggle. I complained often and often wished I could return to Windows. I was often on the forum asking question after question just to get the simplest things configured. I was constantly fighting this bug or that bug - known bugs, years old - unfixed.
Then, I switched to Zorin OS Lite, and all that changed. The struggle, the constant bugs... gone, I began to actually Enjoy using Linux. Now, while my anecdotal experience is just One, I am certainly not alone in this.
Gnome was the most difficult and unfriendly D.E. and it took other D.E.'s to restore my confidence in Linux as a whole. How is this user-friendly to new users?

Even longtime and regular Gnome users state that they avoid Gnome-Software because it is so buggy. They state that it is the Gnome-Extensions that make it usable, without which Gnome would be far less usable - and reminder: Gnome Development Group wishes to put a stop to Gnome-Extensions...

Gnome is remarkably inconsistent in function and in appearance. Open Gnome-Boxes, then open nautilus and then open Gnome-Sound-recorder: They all have different sized titlebars. The corners on some will all be rounded, whereas on others, only the titlebar top corners are rounded and the bottom square. On some apps, the entire titlebar will be rounded but the window will be a square window stack with no rounded corners (A very strange appearance) causing gaps between the stack and the titlebar. This is not user-friendly.
Open gnome-terminal: It has a menubar. Open any other gnome-app - it does not have a menubar.
Such inconsistencies are confusing to any user, much less a new one.

When unstable, Gnome tends to crash without giving an error that says why like other desktops do. Gnome is harder to troubleshoot.
And remember those Gnome-extensions? They interfere with gnome apps, gnome-shell and with eachother... and the only way to troubleshoot them is to disable them all, then go one by one on each extension enabling it and hoping it is the one causing the problem. And when it is... your only course of action is to either try reinstalling it... or remove it entirely. How is that user-friendly?
On other desktop,s if a plugin goes wrong, you know which one it is right away.

So how do users justify the statement that Gnome is User-Friendly? What are the reasons? What does Gnome offer that makes it so?


I think it depends on one’s usage.

I migrated, a little after you. I barely change things - even used the default Zorin background, appearance, etc., for a year or more. My main usage is gaming - hence PlayOnLinux & Wine. I suspect (only suspect, no evidence) that the rare freezes I got may have been due to Gnome, so I now use Xfce. The frequency of these freezes was so low that it will take several months for me to determine if indeed Gnome may have been the culprit.

All that said, I found Gnome easier get acquainted to than Xfce. The settings were simpler for me (YMMV). I had some minor struggles with Xfce - but note that this was after I was already pretty comfortable with Zorin. And I still don’t find it as easy (as “Apple-ish?”) as Gnome. As a Windows refugee who doesn’t change appearance much, I liked Gnome better.

Keep in mind that you tweak a lot more than others, that you have way more skills than others. I may be much closer to the average Zorin user, while you may be closer to the average Linux user.


So, the idea is that User-friendliness is based on the user having the desktop as configured out of the box?
Out of the box, much of what I said about Gnome above still applies. The inconsistencies, the extensions many distros include... and if they did not include them, the users would find it less usable.

Many users post trying to find the gear icon to log in to a different desktop on Gnomes GDM3 Gnome Display manager. On LightDM, SDDM, etc, the desktop switcher is in plain sight. With Gnome Display Manager, users struggle to find it even after we give instructions on how to make the invisible thing appear.
I'm just saying - that is not user friendly. Nor is it working well for the user without configuration and out of the box.

If the idea is that Gnome is user-friendly because it works out of the box without any configuration needed then... This statement applies to any and all distros Desktop Environments. Every Single One. I mean, that stands to reason... No distro aimed toward new users would put forth a desktop environment that the user must assemble... I think this definition of user-friendliness falls down, since it is nowhere near exclusive to Gnome.
In order for it to be the basis for it being the user-friendly environment, it would need to be different in this.
XFCE can be used out of the box with no configuration needed as shown by Zorin OS Lite.
KDE, Cinnamon, Budgie, all usable without additional configuration needed.

Gnome is interesting in that it does require additional configuration - in fact a great deal of configuration. Gnome-Extensions. But these extensions are generally added by the Distro, rather than the end user.
Consider how long it takes to release Zorin Core... then the much much shorter time it takes to develop and release Zorin OS Lite.

So if it is considered user-friendly only if no additional configuration is needed, then it pales against other Desktops, which can be used with no additional configuration; but if you do want to do additional configuration, is easier to act upon than Gnome is.


Consider just the ones offered by Zorin - Gnome or Xfce. These are the only ones I have experienced. I tried Bodhi and Puppy, literally for a few minutes, so I can’t opine on their DEs, nor are they relevant to Zorin.

On Zorin, I have struggled with Thunar. Truly horrendous file manager. I loved your suggestion for Nemo. Xfce requires some configuring to switch from Thunar to Nemo.
On Gnome I loved Nautilus - comes preconfigured.

PS - just giving an example of my perspective, not disagreeing with you.


A valid point. I find Thunar to be "okay" and I use it on rare occasions where it has a leg up. But over-all, I prefer a different file manager.

However... It is also valid to point out that Thunar may not do Certain Things you wish it to... It still works out of the box without any needed configuration for most users. And changing to Nemo does require additional configuration, because due to your specific needs and wants, you opted to install and default to a different file manager. This is not the same thing as Zorin OS Lite not working OOB or needing additional configuration. It is evidence that any user, even one who prefers to use things without additional configuration, can find themselves needing to configure something specific to them, sometimes. And when you do, you probably would prefer that to be user-friendly.


My Nemo transition has not gone perfectly. So, I cannot say that Xfce is more configurable. The problem may be that I’m not smart enough to configure it properly but that begs the question, what is the IQ of the user to deem Xfce reconfiguration user-friendly?

OOB, I did not need to do anything to Gnome. I did have to do so with Xfce - Thunar may be great but it does not even show basic folder properties or have a search feature OOB. To me, that is not user-friendly for Zorin which is offered as a beginner-friendly first stop for Windows refugees.


XFCE uses the software "Catfish" for file searching.

Right clicking on a folder in Thunar has Properties - which are missing?


I can not like your post enough.....

I can not justify how Gnome is anything but unfriendly, and a convoluted buggy mess.

The notion that it is good for people who don't want or need to change anything, is valid for all the other DE's as well then as you pointed out. That's not a really good argument IMO either, when you could use another DE out of the box less all the bugs.

And with where the Gnome dev's are going, I can only see this situation getting even worse not better.


That is the thing I wish to address: Not whether Gnome is good or bad... (I like some of the things about Gnome) or not whether people like Gnome or not (Which is perfectly fine - diversity in choice.)
Rather: Gnome is being purported as

  • Polished
  • User friendly

And so on and I find these claims to be mythical.
They are myths because they are commonly said or repeated without evidence and when evidence is examined... Gnome does not measure up to being Polished or being User-Friendly.
A Polished Desktop would have consistent titlebars, not applications that some use titlebars and window and some use titlebar and stack, others that use right and left headerbar and some that don't - as you see in Gnome, but not in most other mainstream D.E.'s.
Gnome is the least polished desktop. Yet, this word is constantly used.
Anyone who has tried creating a Theme for Gnome knows how unpolished it is and how theming Gnome is much, much harder than other D.E.'s due to how many gnome apps must have their classes isolated in order to create some semblance of consistency.

I really think that these claims need to be confronted or supported.

Carmar has made some good points.


Pic from the web (I’m on my phone now). The folders all show 4kb. Sorry, that’s what I meant by properties. Incorrect word choice.

As for the search, yes I finally figured that out. But with Nemo and nautilus there was no extra work needed.

I’m inherently lazy. I prefer something that I do not have to additionally configure. I suspect that many Windows refugees are like me. That is all I mean by user-friendly, minimize the chance of me having to do extra work as long as one is willing to live with OOB.

For you, user-friendliness is that when one wants to customize a DE, which one is easier. I may have misrepresented you but that’s what I grasped.


I think it applies evenly to both and there is no reason why it shouldn't, honestly. As I outlined in my O.P., as a Windows Refugee who was just trying to get Zorin to work, I struggled with Gnome heavily. It was buggy. I spent a lot of time troubleshooting. That ended on my switch to XFCE. It is good that your personal experience differs from mine,a s that provides balance.
I did not try out theming and customization until much later.
And that has been and remains a learning curve, I can tell you. I consider myself finally promoted to "Novice" as a themer.

I just checked this in mine with Thunar on List View... and get the same result. I agree, this is poor. (I use Icon View, so I never noticed this before. I thought you meant the Properties dialog.)


I think the biggest issue here is what do you expect from your desktop .... when I first started using Gnome I was totally unhappy with the set up .... I dislike the mouse settings (single click .... pointer size etc) ..... the font size ..... changing various programs and many more smaller changes many that I was comfortable in Win 10 .... I can remember spending hours trying to set it up my way ....

Now if I didn't care how Gone looked or acted I guess I could be happy with the Plain Jane version .... but for someone who is on the computer for 8-12 hours a day I would find it almost impossible .... unless I was using Gnome for 1 specific reason like I believe carmar said for gaming .... or maybe just surfing the web or watching videos ....

But for a well rounded experience and use of a desktop I chose Cinnamon or maybe even FXCE .... they worked much better for me ..... but that is just me ....


This is the reason why i stick with gnome, i dont do much with it then gaming and using firefox :sweat_smile:. Cinnamon is indeed a nice option, used it with mint 17 back in 2014 and loved to customize it back then. Now i dont really care about it anymore. If it works then i am happy :grin:


The Zorin modification of Gnome is the only version of gnome I use. Gnome is for me a bag of the proverbials. I hate it, I hate the underlying ethos of the gnome project, I think it is basically an ugly, technically garbage, disempowering DE.
The extensions that Zorin have made make Gnome actually usable and nice.

I'm certain that there are reasons Gnome has been designed this way, much like the reasons Microsoft have for disempowering and limiting user-input, given their political leanings.

1 Like

Plenty of users ask on the forum for access to Settings within Gnome. This prompts us to find the right gsettings for it, often necessitating using the terminal.
Customization does not necessarily mean theming. It can mean increasing workflow.


Great to have you back ..... I trust all went well at the shop .... now if we could just find FrenchPress and get her to return .....


I also think I need to remind... IF the argument is that Gnome is User-Friendly as long as the user isn't looking to do any customization... whatever that customization may be... This does not validate the assumption that Gnome is The user-friendly desktop.
Rather, it seems to be less than than other D.E.s that work fine without customization or with customization.


My preference for Gnome in the past has been the fact that it's accessibility applications were far better than KDE but times have moved on. Devuan for example has created a fully accessible friendly installer that caters for users with no sight at all. And every DE I have tested (did not bother with xfce or Cinnamon or MATE) LXQt, KDE, gnome flashback all the menus worked with the screen reader which is Gnome"s Orca functioned perfectly. I am just having issues with it reading documents in LibreOffice. Apart from Gnome one also has to take into consideration the long term aims of Red Hat, IBM, and Canonical are to be the next Microsoft of the Linux world. Adding to this debacle is allowing M$ to commit code to the Linux kernel which from my point of view should not be allowed to happen. People like Lennart Poettinger have not helped by forcing through an inferior and bloated init system with systemd plus pulse audio which is even more bloatware doesn't help when it gets embedded in the system so much that when you wish to remove such elements it takes the system with it. You might as well make it closed source and then users will notice that they might as well as have stayed with a proprietary OS.


I have long noticed that whenever this issue is raised, the systemd supporters begin with the Excuses and Explaining it all away...


Here is why I consider GNOME user-friendly and the best DE for new linux users:--

Gnome DE is by far the most simple DE to use and understand. It comes configured with an elegant UI and a beautiful setup. What I think is that Gnome is more focused on productivity than on functionality. DEs like KDE (my favourite) and XFCE provide a range of functions and options. Not only can this be overwhelming to Linux novices but it can also distract the user into tinkering with the desktop environment rather than focusing on their work (I am saying this because I know). New Linux users would want to see if they can get their work done in this new alien OS and not how much they can customise their new OS.

I am certain that we would be seeing more new XFCE Users visit the forum looking for how to change settings, had there been more of them. Majority of the users here are Zorin Core users (I can bet on that).

I found a lot less number of bugs than you when I came to Linux and had gnome as my first DE.

That might be because tech-enthusiasts like you and me like to configure their computers and XFCE provides that freedom.

Not true! I found all gnome-softwares very intuitive and stable; except the software-store itself.

The size of the titlebar might be different everywhere (I don't know) but the targeted users i.e productive users will not find that bothering...At least I did not find much inconsistency in Gnome.

I agree with this.

I agree with this also but I don't see how this is Gnome's fault. Gnome-extensions are created by independent developers so it is there fault.