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Material Shell - Some nerds need me, some nerds use me

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And I think that's ok. Because I am a material nerd and I live in a material ... shell? I guess those should have been the lyrics of the iconic 80s song. But no matter. We will discuss technology regardless. Specifically, I want to talk about Material Shell, a Gnome desktop extension that transforms the default Gnome desktop into a multi-layer tiled interface, intended to be productive and fun. One of the stated goals also says: getting rid of the anarchy of the traditional desktop workflows.

Well, I'm not sure what anarchy we're talking about, but I was intrigued enough to have a go and see what gives. Perhaps Material Shell can indeed improve the Gnome experience, which I find quite restrictive, especially the lack of perma-visible application launcher shortcuts. Now, tiling is normally the domain of window managers, not so much full desktops, and ultra-nerd domain, so there's another angle right there. Begin to test, we shall.


Thus endeth the journey of the Material Nerd. Overall, I found the experience with Material Shell somewhat bi-polar. I liked the novelty, but I found the workflow weird and not as optimal as it can be. The variety is definitely nice, but I'm wondering if there's a real-life need to create these two-dimensional buckets of application workspaces and their different (associated) programs, mostly because workspaces with panels, like in other desktop environment, already do this. Say Plasma or Xfce, each workspace can have its own set of applications, and they can be completely different from the other desktops. Also, in a way, this is just like workspaces, only tilted 90 degrees.

Material Shell does add flexibility to Gnome, so in that regard, it is useful, and if you like to experiment, there's no harm in trying it. 'Tis but a click away. On/Off, and you're done. What would make it even more useful is if Material Shell allows the user to perma-pin workspaces and application groups. Then, one would have neatly organized, themed desktop workspaces. Furthermore, the ability to minimize applications should exist, especially for detachable layouts like Float. All in all, not bad. Avantgarde, one would say. And we're done here.

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