Ximian Desktop 2

The GNOME 2 desktop environment was released over a year ago, and during that time version 2.2 has seen the light of day. The Ximian Desktop, a heavily modified version of GNOME for corporate and casual users, has been rebuilt for the GNOME 2 environment. In this column, I’ll offer some first impressions of the new desktop.

Installation

Installing Ximian Desktop 2 (XD2) is easy if you already use Ximian Red Carpet (www.ximian.com/products/redcarpet) — just subscribe to the new Ximian Desktop 2 channel. Once subscribed, follow the recommended updates to install XD2.

If you don’t use Ximian Red Carpet, in order to install XD2 you must open a shell and become the superuser using the ‘su’ command. Type the following into the shell:

$ wget -q -O - http://go.ximian.com |sh

Installing XD2 over the Internet involves a fairly large download — 200-300MB if you install most of the packages.

XD2 installed smoothly on my Red Hat Linux 9 system. The Red Hat version of GNOME 2.2 was completely replaced by XD2, as were some Red Hat administration tools, particularly those concerning printers. XD2 uses the same CUPS printer subsystem on which Red Hat Linux is based, so no printer reconfiguration was needed.

First impressions

After logging in and starting Ximian Desktop 2 for the first time, I was given the option of preserving my old GNOME settings or letting Ximian install its defaults. I decided to use the default settings. XD2 imported my old KDE3 desktop and made it available under an icon.

The basic XD2 desktop is very clean and consistent in appearance. Ximian has given every application its own Industrial theme, which is very comparable to Red Hat’s Bluecurve in attractiveness. The Industrial theme is unintrusive and includes a set of very professional-looking icons. Sharp AA fonts are present across the entire desktop, most notably featuring in Evolution 1.4 and OpenOffice.org.

Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Ximian Desktop 2 has clearly been designed with business and casual users in mind. The desktop conforms to the GNOME Human Interface Guidelines (http://developer.gnome.org/projects/gup/hig/1.0). Small touches, such as limiting the visible options available in menus to fewer than 10 items, make navigating the desktop for the first time easy. Configuration options are very basic in XD2, but they are all sensible and useful.

This can be contrasted with KDE, which prefers to give users as many options as possible at all times. More advanced users may prefer the KDE approach, but for an easy learning curve, it’s hard to fault Ximian Desktop 2.

Consistency across the desktop is very impressive. The look and feel of each included application is in line with the overall desktop theme. Most notably, OpenOffice.org has been extensively modified, including undergoing a complete face lift, bringing the UI into line with the rest of the desktop. The office suite now uses Microsoft file formats, a change that will suit most people.

Desktop users connected to a network will appreciate the SMB and NFS network browsers included with XD2. For the first time, navigating file shares on a network is now as easy under Linux as it has been under Windows for years. Shares are also accessible under OpenOffice.org.

Problems

When I initially installed XD2, I neglected to install some core components of the desktop — the Galeon browser and version 1.4 of Evolution. As a result, I experienced some problems, because XD2 clearly expected these applications to be installed. Most notably, I could not find a way to reconfigure the default browser in XD2 to Mozilla, so I was forced to install Galeon. This was an annoying price to pay for the tight integration of the desktop.

XD2 also sometimes encountered problems when restoring sessions. I found some applications were restored on the wrong virtual desktop and others could not be saved for restoration at all.

Conclusions

It’s been a long time coming, but Ximian Desktop 2 is certainly the best version of GNOME yet. The desktop is very easy to use and the consistency and integration between each application is impressive. Ximian Desktop 2 is freely available for download from www.ximian.com. A boxed version is available for $US99 and includes commercial software such as browser plug-ins and extra fonts.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Alastair Cousins

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?