Ubuntu/Gnome Wishlist

Every once in a while I get angsty about the lack of certain features that I wish I had in my preferred distribution and desktop. Instead of bitching about them on irc, I decided to open it up to a more public forum.

The first thing I want to say is that these are things that I want to see, and don’t necessarily reflect the opinion of anyone else. I’m not slamming anyone for these lack of features, but thinking aloud what I would like to see while I consider what effort it would take on my part to make it happen.

gnome-terminal
I am a slave to my terminal. I typically have at least a dozen terminals active, half of those connected to different machines and the rest assigned to various tasks. I have the single-task terminal, usually to monitor services on specific machines. For that I typically use aterm. For the rest I’ve recently been using konsole. It’s tab support works better than anything else I’ve tried and the keybindings, while not perfect, are at least customizable. That is generally the only KDE app that I use and I’d prefer not to simply for the additional resources required.

There are some interesting ideas floating around about how to improve gnome-terminal. One of them is the integration of gnome-terminal and screen. This is an intriguing idea, but I don’t know how well it would work practically. Like my favorite light-weight, aterm, a good terminal doesn’t need contain an exhaustive feature list. It just needs to do what it does do very well.

Here is my wishlist:

  • Customizable keybindings. I’ve got a certain workflow. I’m flexible enough to change that when warranted but keybindings are one of those things that I’m very particular about (see next).
  • Customizable tabs. Tabs are on top, and you can navigate to specific tabs by “Alt + #”. Completely functional for occasional use, but that interferes with the same keybinding that irssi uses to change windows. I also like to have my tabs on the bottom of the window.

Metacity – The default window manager of Gnome.

Metacity strives for simplicity. It has a limited number of configuration options, aimed more at the new Gnome user. While that’s not a bad thing, I would love to have some more advanced features, such as window memory. There are tools like devilspie that will achieve what I’m after. What sucks is having to hunt down extra software to extend basic functionality.

Language Bindings

There’s been a debate recently about adding [programming] language dependancies to the Gnome desktop. By and large these debates are split across philosophical lines. We tend to take our programming languages very seriously and there is no shortage of opinion about who’s preferred language is the best. Personally, I have no problem with Mono, Ruby, Python, Perl, or O’Caml being added in as a dependancy, as long as the reasoning is sound. Does the dependancy ultimately make for a better user experience? In the case of Mono I would say absolutely yes. Applications like Beagle, Tomboy, Banshee, and f-spot should make that an easy decision to be made.

Now that I’ve bitched, the real question that comes to my mind is, how do you go about making change happen? It’s easy to jump on the soap box and say how you think things should be. Real men and women make things happen. The burning question in my mind is, even if you write a patch to add your pet feature, will it even be accepted? How do you go about working with “upstream”, aka, the people in charge of deciding what should and shouldn’t be, to ensure that your efforts aren’t wasted?

I’ll put my money where my mouth is and write patches but I don’t want to waste my time, either.

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