Let’s look at an actual user of computers: me. Here’s what I do with my computer on a daily basis:
- About 15 websites are always opened as pinned tabs in Chrome: gmail, google reader, Nirvana, evernote, and a bunch of work sites (e-mail, wiki, tickets, Zenoss). The bulk of my day is spent inside a browser window: reading and responding to e-mail, being all organized n’ stuff, taking notes, research, etc.
- The terminal. Among my less douchy duties, I’m a network/systems engineer, and so I spend a chunk of time inside SSH.
- Do is pretty much how I launch everything. Seriously, why screw with menus when I can just hit CTRL+SHIFT+Space and type “eclipn” and have it do what I mean. It’s like bash’s tab complete for stuff that it’s dumb to keep a controlling terminal for. And yeah, I know that the keyboard just feels faster than a mouse, mice are consistently faster. That’s not really relevant to my point.
- Taskbar/workspaces. Though this kind of sucks because after a while you’ve got 15 calculators open and can’t tell what the hell is what anymore.
- Eclipse. Yeah, I really wish this was higher on this list too.
- All the silly status things that seem locked in a constant battle to either beg, borrow, or steal my attention from whatever it is that I’m trying to accomplish: package updates, Empathy’s blinking icon and whoever’s IMing me right now, the clock, the weather, the battery meter and attending paranoia, Skype, Dropbox file updates, whatever.
Otherwise, things are organized so that I’ve got as much of my screen real estate available to the application as possible. That means one panel, at the top, with as little as I can get away with in there (currently there are 11 status icons, BTW).
To summarize: most of my computer time is spent inside a maximized application, and the stuff that isn’t is either a distraction, or typed into a key-completing form that pops up on a keystroke.
To put it another way, I actually use my computer to do actual work, rather than using it to faff off about the computer itself. From that perspective, the problem with the Shell is that it doesn’t go far enough. I’d like to see about 80% of the notification OSDs go away, and the other 20% get integrated into some kind of a unified task list of some kind. Yes I know I need to update packages. No, I don’t want you to break my concentration to tell me that or Yes I know you’re playing Reznor’s version of In the Hall of the Mountain King, duh.
I’d like to see Do-like (at least) functionality, and I think Zeitgeist is fairly awesome as well. But I don’t care about Applications/Places/System or the big always-on taskbar or whatever. Hide all that crap behind a keystroke because I honestly don’t care about your launcher. Unless it’s a search box too, then it’s kinda neat (but also not something I need onscreen all the time).
Also, the whole tile-windows-by-dragging thing? Definite win.