Yes, it really is a horror. No art has been drawn in almost 4 weeks now. Everything has been Linux testing, experimentation, and abject frustration. From my posts over on David Revoy's Blog you know that I demand a clean, consistent, and professional DE for my work environment. I also demand that it be current and well maintained. Well I will tell you what isn't a good DE for me: KDE 4.8, Mate', Cinnamon, Gnome 3 -shudder-, Unity -wtf?-, nor XFCE. Each DE failed to deliver for different reasons and a few I am actually watching for the future. Let me break a few points down so you understand where I saw failures.
KDE 4.8 - A good desktop for your average user, classic metaphor, eye-candy everywhere. But the QT4 is a disaster of layout. There is not enough consistency and window behaviour and drawing can be strange. Frankly I find the interface distracting. Of all the ones here this one is "most functional currently" as a future home. If you MUST move forward now, move forward to KDE 4.8.
MATE' - Another good DE. Even more so because it really is Gnome 2. Classic Metaphor -which I like-. However it is extremely new. As such it is missing many of Gnome 2's basic and honestly, essential, features. I will be keeping a VERY close eye on this as it ranks up as most likely future home. What worries me is the size of the dev-team. A DE is no small thing to maintain, and GNOME even more so. The codebase for Gnome 2 was at a critical stage when the Gnome team rolled into Gnome 3. They knew it was coming and made moves to deal with it. I don't agree with their moves but that is neither here nor there. If Mate's dev-team has what it takes I will be a very happy Mate' user in the future.
Cinnamon - Based on GTK3, Mutter (now forked!), and Gnome-Shell. This fork of Gnome 3 is the best of the Glitzy new GTK3 based DEs. I tried it, I thought it was nice. I think it was a little over-fancy but not in a KDE and Distracting Way. However, like MATE', this DE is in it's infancy. It needs time to grow to a fully usable state. Being backed by Mint's Team gives this one a bit of a leg up over MATE'. I would rather MATE' was the future but of the Classic Desktop Metaphors but this one is the "futuristic gnome2" version that I think will win. Between the two I would take MATE' but if MATE' fails to keep up Cinnamon is a great home to look forward to. It will be a little more fancy that I like but it will be more like the system we all love and need. It isn't there yet, but it is fast heading that way. Mint's team is building up quite the head of steam behind this DE and it is spreading into nearly every Distribution. That tells you something about this DE's future if they don't go off the rails.
Gnome 3 - Are not a professional? Are you a consumer freak and love all those nearly useless "gadgets" that get spewed out from slave labour factories? Do you buy the new iPhone or iPad on release day every time? Well this Application Centric Desktop Metaphor is FOR YOU! If I had the time and legal ability I would go to the Gnome Dev leads and put them in a blender and serve the results up to all the angry Linux Users who you guys screwed over because a non-profit organisation decide it needed to follow the for-profit antics of modern consumer driven grind machine corporation. This isn't just useless- it is a train wreck. I don't know what "professionals" you interviewed to decide on an Application Centric Desktop Environment but in all my years as a professional, I have NEVER SEEN EVEN ONE USER UTILISE A SINGLE APPLICATION AT A TIME IN A WORK ENVIRONMENT ... on desktop! When multi-monitors became an option they appeared all over the Professional world because.. we needed them! My average day involves 3-5 screens on one desktop running at least 8 applications that I utilise and move between constantly. There is no "it will get better in time" for this DE because it's core, central, ideology is WRONG! The behaviour of the Gnome 3 Team was so unconscionable because it sent ripples through the Linux World and threatened over a DECADE of progress and penetration into new users. Ever since Gnome 3, the Linux World has been in CRISIS. If your new DE Version causes the entire world of your Operating System to fly into a state of Armageddon then you did something wrong.. very wrong. However they are so arrogant as to believe that they are right and we should use their shiny new pile of dog crap. You stabbed us in the back. We should return the favour and abandon Gnome on all distributions and render the Gnome 3 Team a sad part of history and their heads on pikes as a warning to the next ten generations that pride of that nature always comes before a fall.
Unity - So bad even Canonical is rethinking using it, and they developed it! That is all I need to say here about Unity. See Cinnamon as a default installed option -Unity will remain there this round- in 12.04LTS
XFCE - Hey look, it is a Gnome 2 Look-Alike. There is a ton going for this DE. In fact if you can't stand the fancy-pants of KDE 4.8, XFCE is an option. The downside is XFCE is loose as a goose. It will happily hybridise with KDE or GTK componentry. This freak if nature gets it on with everything and everyone. That isn't a bad thing if you do it right. However, in the end, my brain felt as scattered and random as the DE. Too chaotic. This isn't a bad choice for those it works for. It just wasn't for me.
And all of this is why I am still on Linux Mint 11 and Gnome 2. Though my version is currently very current and my system runs all kinds of PPAs to keep it current. I am on Linux Kernel 3.3 under Mint 11. How about them apples! When the time comes to move into the new LTS series I am pretty sure I will be happy with the MATE' and Cinnamon of that time. Looking forward to both DE's and wish the devs the best and fruitful coding. You guys are our future, since Gnome Team screwed up so badly. Help us MATE' and Cinnamon you are our only hope...