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Living Down to a Low Standard

By Nicholas Petreley
May 10, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - I recently spent the better part of a week working with the latest version of the open-source GNOME graphical desktop environment on Linux. I've decided that the only way to explain the regression of GNOME over the years is that Microsoft and/or SCO moles have infiltrated the GNOME leadership in a covert effort to destroy any possibility that Linux could compete with Windows on the desktop.
To paraphrase the humorist Peter Schickele, who was describing what it was like to discover a new music manuscript by the (fictional) inept composer P.D.Q. Bach, "Each time I get a new version of GNOME, there's this feeling of anticipation and exhilaration -- a feeling that this new version of GNOME can't possibly turn out to be as bad as the last one. But so far, each new version lives down to the same low standards set by the previous one."
By the time a software project gets to Version 2.6, a user might reasonably expect that he wouldn't have to adapt to yet another paradigm shift in basic user-interface design, especially when it comes to something as fundamental as how you navigate through desktop folders. Yet this is precisely what users will have to relearn with this latest version of GNOME.
The GNOME file manager, Nautilus, no longer allows users to navigate through folders as one might use a Web browser or Windows Explorer. You no longer browse with all your options accessible in a single window or a split window with a directory tree on the left and icons on the right. Instead, each double-click on a folder icon opens a new window on the screen. If this sounds familiar, it's because this was the default behavior of Windows 95, OS/2 and early versions of Mac OS. The fact that this isn't the default behavior of any mature desktop operating system might have served as a warning sign to GNOME's developers, but never mind that.
Having used OS/2 for years, I found GNOME's retro approach to be a rather pleasantly nostalgic experience. But now that I'm used to navigating folders the way one does on virtually every other desktop, however, I decided to tell the file manager not to open a new window for every folder. But it turns out there is no preference setting that tells Nautilus to use a single window to browse folders.
The only way to change the default behavior of Nautilus is to set an obscure registry key via the command line or the registry editor. Not even that abomination of operating



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