Programs that freeze the whole desktop (UX)


My experience on GNOME is that programs running slowly can completely freeze all other desktop windows.
For example, if I load a very large file in gedit everything may freeze up pretty rapidly.

I’ve had many more subtle cases of it though where one program is doing spiky processing and the whole desktop is unresponsive.

Other desktop environments like MacOS or Windows seem to cope with the situation much better. For example on MacOS the program’s windows would freeze, but other windows would continue to function. Obviously the program could continue to use up system resources until everything hangs, but that takes a while to happen, and the user can force close the application before that happens.

I honestly have no idea what discussions the Linux community is having on this topic, but it seems very important. It was an issue when I used Linux desktop 10 years ago and still is. My objective is to try and foster a conversation around making Linux better, not ragging on Linux.

The kernel must be handling multi-tasking well. No doubt multitasking optimization is something kernel devs put a lot of work in to. Servers I manage don’t really have a problem unless I trigger a much more explicitly bad situation (i.e. creating some kind of I/O bottleneck in MySQL that results in locks that results in queue explosion that results in process explosion).

I’m sure there must be some complex problem to solve here, but I don’t know what it is, and I think we need to make progress on solving whatever it is.
Who can fill me in?

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Am I seeing it right there has been no follow up to this topic for more than a year?
Does really nobody experience Gnome freeze-ups? Opening anything non-trivial in Gedit is a hazard that is likely to cost a few minutes of life.
I struggle with it several times a week (Ubuntu 18.04 here) and would love to understand what the reason is and how to avoid it.

This is a very old GNOME bug: Bug #505765 “gedit problem with long lines” : Bugs : gedit package : Ubuntu that needs to be fixed by GNOME developers. You’ll see it in every Linux distribution. It isn’t something that Ubuntu developers can fix.

Unfortunately the Gedit FAQ which gave GNOME’s explanation as to why this issue is still current after so many years has now been deleted but some fairly recent upstream discussion can be found at:

So GNOME developers are aware of the problem. They just haven’t found a way to fix it.


While it’s true that Gedit could be more efficient, it’s not the only possible cause of such issues. I/O schedulers, as in choice of kernel, can be a big factor. Also Gnome Shell itself (and/or extensions) could be the problem (and has been in the past) if it is blocking on I/O somewhere too often.

If anyone experiences such problems then please open a new bug by running:

ubuntu-bug gnome-shell


ubuntu-bug gedit

and keep the discussion in the bug.