Recently ubuntu has switched to a new shell called unity which is built on the top of gnome 2. x series while the traditional gnome has migrated to the new incarnation of gnome called gnome 3 and it sports a different shell from the traditional gnome 2 series and unity. Actually there is not much difference between the user interface of gnome3 shell and unity.
But unity uses compiz as window manager while gnome3 relies on mutter. Ubuntu wanted to use compiz but gnome developers preffered mutter. That is the reason why ubuntu developers has created unity based on compiz. Currently I’m using Linux Mint 10 which is based on gnome 2. I have not installed ubuntu based on unity or gnome 3 in my computer. I have installed an old version of gnome 3 shell which is available on Linux Mint 10/Ubuntu 10. 10.
It is very different from the latest version of gnome 3 shell. As I have told you earlier, the latest version of gnome3 shell is a bit similar to unity. So it is clear that gnome developers are inspired and motivated by the unity interface and developed it according to it by using mutter. From my readings and experience of using both gnome3 shell and unity, I feel that currently ubuntu is leading the innovation in linux desktop. I have tried unity using the ubuntu 11. 04 as live usb image and tried gnome3 shell in fedora 15 beta which comes with gnome3 shell as default interface. Unity is all about usability. Mark Shuttlerworth, the founder of ubuntu has made it clear that ubuntu is focused on users and they have done a terrific job of making unity easy to use. The gnome3 shell desktop is a class apart.
Even though gnome3 shell looks like unity in usage the docks, it looks more elegant and beautiful. But they have sacrificed the usability for the beauty. I’m not going to review about the gnome3 shell or unity here. You can read it else where.
Here is my opinion about unity and gnome3 shell:
“Unity is created by developers for normal users while gnome3 shell is created by developers for themselves.”
That’s all about it. Unity is easier to use than the current gnome3 shell. Gnome3 shell looks elegant and it is a class apart while it has sacrificed it usability. There is a reason for the sacrificing the usability. Gnome3 shell makes it difficult to switch between the open applications.
Thus it is removing the distractions and helping users (developers) to focus on their current tasks.
This is not ideal for a normal user and it will not be ideal in a working environment where they have to switch between different applications to do the work. But it is really helpful for artists, programmers and developers where they want to reduce the distractions to minimum and focus on the work at their hand. Gnome3 do this by making the desktop clutterless (it does not allow placing any thing on desktop and it even removes the right click functionality on the desktop).
That is why I have told gnome3 will suit you if you want a distraction free desktop which allows you to focus on your work. For normal users ubuntu’s unity desktop is ideal which gives at most important to users by making it easy to use.