posted by Thom Holwerda on Thu 3rd Sep 2009 12:31 UTC
IconHave you ever been bitten by accidentally loading multiple instances of the same application in GNOME? When you click on the launcher of an already-running application in GNOME, it will load up another instance of the same application, instead of switching to the already running one. This can lead to bugs and other unforeseen behaviour, which of course isn't desirable. In GNOME 3, this issue has been resolved.

In a lot of cases, this behaviour is rather harmless. If you launch two instances of Calculator, you'll end up with two gcalctool processes, but this won't cause much damage or problems. However, if you try this with more complex applications, you may run into problems; for instance, they may overwrite each other's data or configuration files. Or, if you launch XChat twice, you end up being logged in twice.

The GNOME 3 Shell will be application-based instead of task window-based. Consider the Calculator example: currently, launching Calculator twice will leave you with two entries in the task list - an entry for each window. In an application-based environment (for example, Mac OS X), you would have only one entry for both instances of the application.

Since GNOME 3 Shell will be application-based, this is exactly what will happen. An important aspect of the GNOME 3 Shell is that the "window list" and "menu" are combined into one (similar to the new taskbar in Windows 7, or the Dock in Mac OS X). The distinction between "running" and "not running" is no longer the focal point; if you click a launcher, and the application is not running, it will be loaded for you. If you click the launcher of an already running application, you'll be switched to it.

But what if I want to load multiple instances of the same application? Applications for which this would make sense can implement a "New window" option, and this new window could then be run in the same process, or in a new one.

As minute as this change may seem, it is a very big shift for GNOME. I personally thoroughly dislike the current behaviour, but I do know that many GNOME users prefer things the way they are, and they see true benefit in having launchers open new instances instead of switching to already running ones.

What are your thoughts on this? Which concept do you prefer, application-based or task-based?

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