The other day I had a Fedora install handy to try out (through no fault of my own), and it mainly left me wondering who thought Gnome's current state was a good idea. If I were stuck with the GUI, I'd actually rather use Win8. My complaints with it have mostly been covered elsewhere, so I won't bother ranting about it specifically, but it got me thinking about the state of DEs in general:
Gnome: Absolutely unconfigurable, ugly, janky, terribly slow1
POS that was obviously designed for a touchscreen. 0/10
Cinnamon: Still terribly slow, but a bit more configurable and the defaults make a touch of sense. 3/10
MATE: Might actually be good. I should try it some time. ?/10
KDE: Polarizing, but good if you like it. 6/10
Unity: At least it isn't Gnome? (I don't know how good it can or can't get with configuration.) ?/10
Xfce: Generally good, but has laggy menus on mechanical hard drives. 7/10
LXDE: Doesn't suck. High praise, eh? 8/10
For comparison, I'd give Windows 7/8.1/10 an 8, a 2, and a 6, respectively. Old-school Gnome and KDE were in the 7 or 8 range, from what I recall.
Anyway, how do so many designers of these things manage to screw up so badly?
We've been doing desktop UX for, what, around three decades now, and people still mess it up all the time. I get that sometimes they're not designing solely for the traditional desktop, but that's no excuse for some of the garbage that has shipped (including Win8). What really gets me is how the junk somehow gets shipped as default on big distros. Gnome might or might not work well for some users with touchscreens, but who exactly at Fedora had the bright idea to make it the default for everyone? The same complaint applies to Ubuntu and Unity, though slightly less so.
This stuff does hurt Linux's reputation with those who don't know otherwise. People may find this point contentious on its own, but I often enough set up Linux (usually with Xfce or LXDE) on old machines for users who aren't tech-savvy, and it works out great (far better than Windows). Many DEs are intuitive and/or similar enough to other OSes that people find it easy to handle. Gnome is so far from being alright in that application, it's not even funny. I think this is even worse than when someone catches a glimpse of my desktop with terminals everywhere and hardly any GUI, because (a) I can explain that I'm a power user with an odd config and use it to hype up the customization aspect, and (b) my config doesn't lie about having a bit of a learning curve.
I scanned the top of Distrowatch's list the other day and was surprised at the number of distros with their own DEs. How much work gets wasted on that stuff because the people who have been doing this for a decade plus insist on doing it wrong?
I'm doubly annoyed with that crowd right now because they broke my mouse. Arch switched to libinput by default, evdev is going to be depreciated at some point, and libinput makes systemd and pulseaudio look unquestionably sane (I'll probably rant about that too after I figure it all out tomorrow). So I'd just tell the new-age Linux crowd to get off my lawn and leave me to CLI in peace, but they're not going away very well, and my lawn is getting increasingly crowded. 1 When I say slow w.r.t. Gnome and Cinnamon, I mean they can't even hold a consistent 60 fps on the desktop on an AMD E-300 or Westmere IGP at 768p, much less respond quickly to user input. (Yes, graphics drivers were set up right.) Meanwhile, LXDE feels downright fast on that Westmere system.