Re: Proposal for reducing the number of unremovable apps in GNOME Software

Bastien Nocera <hadess hadess net> wrote:
I don't think that applications such as Calendar, Contacts, or finding
and reminding apps should be removed from the requirements for a well-
rounded, default desktop. How they're installed is a technical question
that's not relevant to the fact that they're needed.

That's certainly true. I'm mostly coming it this from a direction of a) trying to figure out what the user experience will look like on a flatpak-based system and b) having done some digging, feeling somewhat dissatisfied with the current use of <mandatory_for_desktop>. Particular issues that I see:

1. <mandatory_for_desktop> is only respected by Software or other "app centers", so you get different behaviour with the command line, which lets you install and remove apps that Software doesn't. This adds complexity, makes testing difficult, and introduces bugs. It also creates ambiguity; I don't think anyone is really sure what the experience is supposed to be.

2. In Software, <mandatory_for_desktop> is used to hide apps that belong to other desktops. In part I think this is motivated by the desire not to end up with identical apps (because stock apps tend to use the icon theme and often have identical names). However, it has the side-effect that applications that could easily be installed can't be. This is because it equates something being essential to an environment as meaning that it shouldn't be available outside of it, which I don't think is always the case - we might well say that Photos is essential to GNOME 3, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it shouldn't be installable on a non-GNOME system.

3. I guess I just find it strange that this mechanism is so decentralised. Can anyone use <mandatory_for_desktop>? Who makes the decisions about what's included and what isn't? How is that monitored and managed?

Relying an the ostree/flatpak split to determine which apps are removable has some advantages in relation to this - it would remove a layer of configuration, you'd get a consistent experience and GUI tools would be transparent in how they operate, it would be the OS builder who decides what forms part of the product, and projects could decide what to make available as standalone apps simply by making them available as flatpaks or not.

Maybe there are issues with this approach - and I certainly take the point about updates - but maybe it's also illustrative of what we ought to be aiming for.


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