Gnome Shell on Touchscreens

May 19, 2013 by Noah
For once, this is actually not going to be a rant about Gnome Shell. It actually runs decently on a touchscreen!

I recently got a Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook which has a touchscreen on it. After having trouble getting Windows 8 how I want it on this laptop, I installed Fedora w/ XFCE across the entire disk. I got motivated to try again with Windows 8, though, because it's a shame having a touchscreen and no software that knows how to use it properly.

XFCE doesn't work well with a touchscreen. I can't move windows around on it by touching and dragging their title bars. I can't highlight text.. when I touch and drag over text, it selects it, but it immediately de-selects as soon as I let go. About the only thing I can do on XFCE is click on things, and scroll a window by touching and dragging the scroll bar.

Before dealing with repartitioning and getting Windows 8 back on there, I decided I'd yum groupinstall "GNOME Desktop" and see how well Gnome Shell works with this touchscreen.

The first thing I tested was dragging windows around. It works. I opened Firefox and dragged inside a web page, which highlighted text (don't remember if the text stayed highlighted though). Dragging the scrollbar worked.

I opened Nautilus and navigated to /usr/share by touching the icons. This folder had a scrollbar. I could drag the scrollbar just like in Firefox, but I could also scroll the window by touching anywhere else in the window and swiping, just like you'd expect on Android or iOS. It supported acceleration too, where you could swipe quickly and let go and the window would continue scrolling and eventually slow down.

Dragging windows around in the Activities view worked exactly how you'd expect, too.

Gnome Shell doesn't support multi-touch, though. But I think this is the fault of X11 in general not supporting it, so you can't blame them for that. If you try a multi-touch gesture, it just gets confused and tries to treat all your fingers as one and you get erratic mouse movements or something.

I still don't like Gnome, but I am impressed that this actually works, for all the propaganda you hear from the Gnome devs about making it a tablet interface. I was expecting it to be as painful to use as XFCE on a touch screen.

Now, to install Windows 8 and then put Fedora XFCE back on. ;)



There are 3 comments on this page. Add yours.

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Bzou posted on May 26, 2013 @ 05:51 UTC

How does KDE work with a touchscreen? While we're at it, what is your general opinion on KDE?

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Noah (@kirsle) posted on May 28, 2013 @ 01:09 UTC

I haven't tested KDE on a touchscreen. In general I don't like KDE. I'd only used it for small periods of time in both their 3.5 and 4.0 versions, and wasn't particularly impressed with either one.

Complaints I had that I can still remember are: their window manager theming didn't seem to support pixmaps in 3.5, and I was used to this in Metacity. For a while I wanted to use a Windows XP style window manager theme, and the best that KDE could do was a vector based theme that loosely resembled Windows XP, but it couldn't get it to be pixel perfect.

I also wasn't much of a fan of all the special effects; I like my desktops to be simple. And KDE having built-in support for a Mac OS X style top panel with a menu bar made the desktop feel overly bloated (especially because this option was buried deep in the settings GUI, but seemed to be supported well anyway).

One huge nitpick I had was that I didn't like the Konsole at all. I like my terminals to at least default to 80x22 character dimensions, but the Konsole wouldn't default to this, and whenever you manually resized the window, it would remember what size you left it at and all new windows would default to that size. It's like Konsole thought of itself like a text editor, where the dimensions of the window aren't important. The gnome-terminal and XFCE terminal were much better in that regard.

These are just my opinions from using it for never any more than 2 or 3 weeks at once, so ymmv. :)

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Rob posted on May 22, 2014 @ 13:08 UTC

Gnome 3 fails if you don't have a keyboard.... If you do, touching the screen is a questionable luxury. Most of the failure has to do with the fact that the on screen keyboard is extremely poorly implemented. The lack of hand detection on Wacom- enabled screens is awful. I tried to use it for about 4 hours after actually MISSING windows 8, and that is probably the worst thing I can say about an OS. That is probably because at the lock screen I'm being asked for a password, unlike gdm, which has the osk for the pass, the lock screen doesn't. Just a warning: unless you are experimenting, have lots of patience, don't mind being logged in as admin with no password, etc... it is a fail.

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