You should seriously take a look at freya-beta1. A lot has been improved since Luna.
It feels awkward because it just feels like a tray full of apps. I am unlikely to browse through those apps - the most useful piece of that view, the categorization for new users, is not on by default. As such, it feels like a clickable equivalent to the list of apps on a smartphone, except on a smartphone swiping feels natural, but on a desktop clicking on the multiple tabs feels weird.
That's fair. I personally prefer the grid of icons approach, but I totally get the fact the categories section isn't the default. That said (at least with freya), I typically find myself just typing Win + Space to launch Slingshot, start typing the application and click enter when it pops up. Less and less is it about going to a particular icon or category then application and more about quickly typing out the name and clicking enter to launch it.
I would argue though that the general quality of aesthetics in terms of icons on Elementary feels sub-par...they are just not striking.
Just to put things in to perspective, the quality of aesthetics for the second release of Ubuntu, ever, was horrible. It comes down to iteration and improving throughout each release. I think if you took a look at freya-beta1, your opinion might be different about the quality of aesthetics. Just keep in mind that Luna was the second release of elementary OS (first was Jupiter).
we need more of that on Elementary, not 1990ish flat, boring icons.
cough* try freya-beta1 cough*
Geary is nice, but too simplistic IMHO.
No filtering options or GPG integration eliminates the possibility of using Geary for me, personally, so I stick with Thunderbird. That said, I like the look and feel of Geary as well as the utilization of GTK3 / Vala.
Maybe, but I think something on the dock could be more logistical, but what do I know.
I think you might be looking at it from the perspective that the "dock" on Unity is on the left side, where the launcher will appear when you click the Ubuntu icon, so it works for Unity. But with the dock on the bottom, having the launcher from there would interrupt your workflow more than necessary and most likely block more content on the screen.
I totally get why they ship the Ubuntu SDK, but this is why I would like to see the Elementary team focus more on building a rocking ecosystem around apps (maybe partnering with Ubuntu, as much of the work is happening there too), rather than iterating on the desktop, which has less relevance these days.
elementary has been spending a lot of time doing developer relations stuff lately and if you go to the Google+ community, the developer part of that is pretty lively. I just recently bought elementary's "elementary Developer Guide" to learn how to dive into GTK development and learned Vala as well, so I'm starting to make GTK applications.
That said, I agree that Ubuntu's focus on developer experience is better than elementary's, but it really just comes down to resources, which elementary just doesn't have a whole lot of.
In terms of partnering with Ubuntu, I'm not entirely sure how that'd work out. Ubuntu is moving towards using Qt-based applications (as you and I both well know), while elementary is firm on GTK. They might be able to share some of the backend stuff, but it is really up to both teams to decide if they want to work together and to what extent.
it is with accessing my email, my calendar, creating documents, syncing content...the nuts and bolts of the modern worker...sadly much of it isn't there.
I access my email through Thunderbird, create documents with WPS Office (formerly Kingsoft Office), sync content via BitTorrent Sync, and manage my calendar using Microsoft Outlook's web calendar stuff. elementary doesn't ship with an office suite because there isn't a decent GTK based one and elementary OS only really ships with stuff that works with their HIG. Geary works for most people's email needs (just not people like you and I that need more advanced features) and once Freya stable is released, the Calendar (Maya) will be able to suit people's needs as well.
The syncing content "issue" is sort of mute at this point. There isn't really a one-solution that fits all needs. Most people use a mix of storage solutions, none at all, or non-common ones. It wouldn't make sense for them to ship with Dropbox, Copy, BitTorrent Sync, links to Google Drive, etc.
It could be made to work, and I think the potential is there to build it, but it feels to me the team need to think about those challenges more than iterations on the desktop.
That's fair. I'd argue they are focusing on those challenges. If you take a look at their freya-beta2 milestone, you'll see there is a lot that is being focused on that isn't strictly related to Pantheon and more focused on improving the core apps.
hell, I might disagree with me soon too.
Try freya-beta1 and you might