A lot has been said already about gnome shell and unity but I am yet to see a detailed comparison of both with specific details. Here I am trying to compare the various features of gnome shell with that of ubuntu unity.
Part 1: Panel
The panel forms an important part of the interface both in gnome shell and unity. In unity most items were already present, but for gnome shell there are radical changes.
A word of caution: This is my personal view and you may not agree with all of it.
A second word of caution: As it is a review of work in progress products, features could change within no time forcing to change opinions.
Shamelessly copied different images from various websites with the help of google.
Now for the specifics,
1) System indicators vs System status
Gnome shell status indicators work more or less same way as in ubuntu with scrub feature and only left click support. So credit goes to ubuntu here for the novelty and usefulness. Ubuntu indicators still looks more like a bland menu but gnome menu looks more exciting. Gnome separated the clock from the right side to the center. Also, the ubuntu system indicators when clubbed with application indicators could lead to a lot more clutter. So, Gnome earns my preference for simplicity and looks.
2) Me+logoff/restart/shutdown menu vs User menu
Gnome shell looks like strongly influenced by ubuntu me menu, (combining two menus in ubuntu) and slightly modified it. Again ubuntu gets credit for the idea. But I prefer gnome way of clubbing both together into a user menu and have less clutter in the panel. A me menu with just status updates is not that important to have a separate menu and ubuntu one looks out-of-place in that menu. A user menu with all the user related actions clubbed together makes more sense, my preference is gnome here.
3) Calendar indicator vs DatenTime
Apart from the look and feel, there are two things I like about the gnome clock/calendar. One, its positioning on the panel. The center looks like the perfect place to show the date and time and makes me wonder why no one thought about this before. Second, the schedule for the day and week is available for easy review and this is a really good choice.
4) Global menu vs application menu
When I first stumbled on the news that ubuntu moving on to global menu, I instantly hated. Why on why they do this; a pure,dump imitation of Mac. But later, I started to like the idea of saving vertical screen space. Last week when I was testing the gnome 3 shell and playing with firefox in full screen on my laptop HD screen, I really missed the global menu’s. Gnome shell wastes a lot of space in the panel with only the name of current focused application is displayed in the panel. I never thought I will like the global menu’s, and I don’t know why but I really prefer them now. Credit goes to ubuntu unity here.
PS: My preference is only for full screen applications, and of course even now I hate the global menu for a small chat wondow and the like. But may be I will get used to it later.
5) Window controls on the panel vs on the application itself.
The window controls on the panel is a better idea than the global menu, at least I liked the idea from the beginning. But alas, the current implementation is not something I would dream of and in my opinion, leads to confusion and clutter. The position of the controls could be away from the window borders or not depending on the state of the dock. Again combine this with the already cluttered panel with application name and global menu. We get a complete mess. Anyways, as for now, I prefer the ubuntu way.
PS: An easy solution will be to remove the ubuntu icon from the panel. This will be more easy on the eyes. The dock anyways act more or less as an independent dock. There really no need to have a button on the panel to get to the dock. But I don’t think this is going to be implemented (anytime soon, if at all).
As for the looks, the panel itself is not something very attractive both in gnome shell and unity shell. Gnome shell have a clutterless panel and ununtu have a space saving panel. But when it comes to menus, as already said, gnome scores well and looks pretty attractive where ubuntu follows a bland menu view. Obviously, gnome is my preference for the looks.
Gnome apparently took ideas from ubuntu, but as I said earlier bettered those ideas thus raising the bar. As for ubuntu, it never stops to innovate, including controversial changes. I think it is high time they spend time on presentation. All in all I prefer the gnome shell panel for now, even though I prefer some features from the ubuntu panel.
for Part 2: Messages and notifications, check tomorrow..