posted by Maynard Kuona on Mon 16th Jun 2003 18:27 UTC
IconXimian Desktop 2 came out of few days ago and I gave it a go. This is not a usability experts review, and probably more of a first impressions thing than a review. I consider myself an intermediate user, (probably advanced intermediate). I installed Ximian Desktop on the following computer:

Please excuse any grammar/syntax errors found in this article.

AMD Duron 1.2GHz
512MB PC133 SDRAM
40+80GB 7200 Western Digital Hard drives
NVidia GeForce 2MX 200 64MB
Creative SBLive 5.1
Genius KB-18M Multimedia Keyboard
AOpen Optical mouse (dual USB/PS2 – used on PS2 right now)

Installation

Click for a larger view I will start with the review of the install process. It is not going to be glowing at all. I have this suspicion they tested it from their own offices and their own network because it is giving too many problems they seem to not have anticipated. The idea was very good, but it lacked in the execution department. Here is to hoping for a updated installer for the masses.

Strike 1. It tried to download packages which would have been available from the Cd's. And to tried to pull them from the Ximian servers which were absolutely swamped. It should have asked for the user to locate the packages if he had them already(such as Redhat Packages), and then downloaded them as a last resort if they were unavailable.

Strike 2. The installer had a local packages section, but this did not work You could have copied the files to the cache so that it skipped downloading them, but the installer is never supposed to assume users know to do that.

Strike 3. Even after copying the files to the cache to install them, it failed to install again. In fact I never installed it using their installer. It would quit without giving reason why, even though I had manually made every package I was installing available. I had to be very creative to install XD2 at the end of the day.

I success they did not try to install it from outside their own network, maybe from across the world and see how it could give problems in the real world.

So my installation was nothing like the recommended. I ended up installing red-carpet 2 first, and then installing the rest of the packages from red-carpet. It had its fair share of problems, but I will not review THAT installation route since it was (clearly) not the intended way to install XD2, although it did work and was easier in that regard.

So what happened now, how is XD2.

Industrial

On first logging in it asks you whether you want to keep your old settings or use the ones prepared for you. I chose the latter and was presented with the new Industrial theme and a very nice looking desktop.

I must say, a lot of thought went into creating the 'default' settings.

Click for a larger view By default you are given a menu panel and a normal panel at the bottom of the screen. The menu panel has the menu, or course, a clock, three apps (Evolution, Writer and Galeon) if you installed them of course. The bottom panel has the windows list, the 'Show Desktop' button and a workspace switcher. Some people do not like using two panel as it “hogs” screen space, but I like it. I will not consider that a scoring point anyway, although it probably does give me a better impression of the whole desktop.

It uses large icons in the menu which make it instantly look much better. The menus are also kept reasonably short hence the large icons do not make menus hog all your screen. This is a simple yet very effective trick. Other theme makers would do good to follow this.

You also have a nice default wallpaper for good measure. The wallpaper changer is slightly changed from the one that comes with Redhat. It allows you to add wallpapers to a list and simply select wallpapers from a list. Nice touch!!

Openoffice.org

The changes to openoffice.org are mostly to the icon theme to make it look more integrated with the desktop. Unfortunately, its still openoffice.org, which means it uses its own widgets to draw its menus and such. I hope it can be made to play better with Gtk in the future. I do not have a printer so I could not see the printer dialogs to review them. It does seem to still use its own printer dialog which is a bit off though. And its printer dialog does not have the print to pdf option ion the GNOME print dialog too.

What I already missed is oopadmin which gave me an easy (somewhat) way to install fonts from other sources. It seems I now have to really learn where the fonts are kept for openoffice.org and copy them there manually. This is for my Microsoft fonts though, it uses the ones that Ximian came with just fine. What is necessary here IMO, is to give a fonts path, or fonts paths in the options where openoffice.org can pick up its fonts.

Everything else about openoffice.org is as expected. That means it is stil a resource hog (I caught it eating 219 MB of my RAm in System monitor). Their work is most welcome though. Openoffice.org just feels nicer to use now and is better on the eyes.

Evolution

Which brings me to the Evolution release. It looks like a port of 1.2 to Gtk2, which is fine by me. There does not seem much difference with 1.2, which probably explains not giving it a 2.0 release number.

Evolution was the last big non-gtk2 enabled app I used frequently. It does start much faster than 1.2.2. It takes about 3 to 5 seconds on first start up. On a 1.2 GHz Duron with 512 MB Ram, it seems reasonable. Outlook takes much longer to start up on this machine anyway under Windows 2000. Evolution finally looks very good and I found it snappy. I have never had reason to be unhappy with its performance here too.

Table of contents
  1. "Ximian Desktop 2 Review, Part I"
  2. "Ximian Desktop 2 Review, Part II"
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