In 2010 I made a decision which I have never looked back on – to adopt Linux as my main operating system. Although I can still boot into Windows and occasionally have to do to access a few programs I use in the office, for all my personal computing tasks I use Linux.
At first I went with Ubuntu, but when they switched to their new desktop “Unity”, I had to bail out. At the moment, I am using LInux Mint, “Mate” edition and for as long as Mate desktops are supplied, it looks as if I will be stuck using this somewhat old fashioned environment. The reason: because Mate – and it’s predecessor Gnome 2, contains what for me is a “killer app”.
The definition of a killer app is one whose usefulness justifies the platform it runs on and this is the case of the tiny little applet Character Palette. If, like me, you occasionally work with foreign languages and need special accents or letters, this little app, which sits on one of the panels, is so incredibly useful and yet… you can’t get anything like it on the new Gnome 3 desktop, on Unity (I have discounted the fiddly AppIndicator apparently available for Unity – but not via the repository – and it does not seem to be being developed), or on Mint’s “Cinammon” desktop. I’ve also checked and as far as I can tell, there’s nothing like it on Windows or MacOs either.
What is particularly good about Character Palette is the fact that you can customise it to your needs. I only need Serbo-Croatian characters and a euro sign, so those are the only characters that sit on the palette. This keeps my Gnome desktop panel neat and uncluttered.
The lack of a viable alternative to Character Palette just goes to show, that when someone comes up with a brilliant idea and simple and useful piece of software, the world does not necessarily pay heed.
It’s a sad reminder that things do not always get better, even in the midst of all of today’s computer innovation. The Apple store and Google Play are bulging with useless apps that only a few people will download; Linux enthusiasts spend hours creating esoteric distros that few people will use or self-indulgent forks of perfectly good software, and yet nobody has thought “wow, character palette is a really useful app. Let’s recreate it for the x, y and z desktop.”
I don’t know. Maybe there just aren’t enough people who like to type foreign language characters.
What I do know is that until some wonderful person comes up with an alternative to Gnome 2’s old applet, I will praying that the Mate desktop, Gnome 2’s successor, stays alive.