Given my position on gnome-shell (I really don't like it) I decided to give a go to something lightweight, so I downloaded lxde nightly build. Aah, it was a disaster. Whatever display manager was supposed to start was crashing, so I had to log in to
startxmanually. That worked, luckily. I didn't like the booted desktop environment one bit, but lots of other bits so I installed it to hard-drive. Of course, it haven't fixed the booting issue.
So I tried to set it up as I'd like, but eventually gave up. Few weeks after that, I downloaded Desktop live and booted. My impression was: "have my PC turned to next-gen TV, err home multimedia center?" Still I decided to install it (to replace the lxde try), but no luck – due to a bug in anaconda, it thinks it's not live image…
So I've done it the harder way. Reboot to lxde, log-in, update, group-install gnome, install system-switch-displaymanager-gnome and set display manager to gdm. Nice, after that I finally got working graphical log-in, although during boot error message appears, that something cannot find root, but apparently it works. Let me add a little side comment here: the boot sequence is totally useless. Even if I escape from the graphical plymouth progress indicator, not boot messages appear. Whatsoever. How the hell am I supposed to tell that the booting actually is still in progress and not hogged up on some service?
But back to the main theme. So I logged in to gnome-shell (to my disappointment same looking as on desktop nightly) and tried it to use for a while. And I have to say, what was bad is even worse and the most important things I wanted (useful and quick way to switch between windows in one concrete task) are still not there. Desktop/task visualisation got small with no windows indicators on it whatsoever, so how the hell am I supposed to tell to which task do I want to switch? If I had to summarize my impression of gnome shell, it would be probably disappointment with trying to make PC from work tool into a tool for consuming, i.e. gnome shell would be awesome if it was a user interface to next-gen home media center or tv, but it's irritating when you actually want to work using it.
Next, not succeeding in finding a way to switch back to the old-school gnome, I group-installed xfce. I'm pretty impressed how fast and responsive these light-weight things are. On the flip side I had to get rid of gmixer to have only one sound-controlling applet in system try (why the hell do they still ship gmixer when pulseaudio mixer is now superior to it in more than one way?). Next I had a little trouble with configuring the panels – no spacing thingie, desktops do not show in two rows until next log in, there's no way to make them transparent… Texts bellow icons on desktop have some weird solid color background and there seems to be no way to turn it off, I cannot resort window buttons in "Window Buttons" panel applet, there seems to be no way to turn on compositing… But overall xfce seems to be usable.
I even switched, for the time being, to sylpheed mail client, which was installed by default on lxde spin. Even though its icons are rather ancient, the user interface is clean and easy to use and it seems much faster than evolution. But there still seem to be applications from gnome that I need like empathy, nautilus (yes I got addicted to two panel mode pretty hard), rhythmbox.
So in short, unless gnome-shell is postponed again, so long and thanks for all the fish and count me as new xfce user :-D
Oh, and btw. despite being still pre-alpha, rawhide is actually working pretty well (apart from annoying occasional graphic errors, new black&white gnome try icons [see the picture bellow] and unfinished gtk3 theme)!
EDIT: Actually I just found that compositing is possible with xfce so I have the bottom panel transparent again and windows have shadows :-)
EDIT 2: And now I have found how to rid myself of the weird looking frame around system try and how to add expansible space into panel so I have the bottom panel spanning whole screen again. Nice, I'm starting to like xfce more and more.