GNOME 40 early release

By Scott Hamilton

Senior Expert Emerging Technologies

It has been a little while since I did a software review of an open source platform. March 24, 2021, marks the first public release of the latest desktop computing user interface from the GNOME project. This is the first in a series using a new number scheme to differentiate between the new and older system. New number schemes in open source software mean two important things. The first is that there are major changes, usually meaning new features that we all have been desiring. The second is a new base source code, which means a cleaner start and usually fewer bugs and faster operation.

I have not gotten the opportunity yet to install the system and give it whirl so I cannot speak to performance changes, but I will cover those long-awaited features and improvements. It has been over a year since the last major changes to the popular free desktop, and I suspect it will create both excitement and disappointment, much like the switch from Windows XP style start menus to the new Windows 10 block style interface shocked the Windows’ world.

Though GNOME 40 looks very different, it does not really change the way you work from the desktop much at all. The opening screen that used to be blank now greets you with the activities overview, providing rapid access to your most recently used applications and documents. The multiple workspaces, which used tombs hidden until you exposed the control, are now readily available at the top of your screen. Workspaces are like having multiple monitors without losing the desk space. Open applications are displayed as small icons on each workspace when they are hidden from view, making it easier to tell what applications are running on which workspace, and finally you can use features with your touchscreen to change workspaces.

Older GNOME systems had workspaces on the right-hand side of the screen and the dashboard controls along the left. The dash is now at the bottom of the screen and shows both favorite and running applications, it reminds me of the Mac OS system layout, but a little cleaner and more user friendly. The other major visual change to GNOME is the rounding of the corners on windows and dialogs to make the desktop look less harsh and more artistic.

GNOME 40 comes with an improved file manager utility with more ability to search, sort, and find files. It also includes on of the best weather applications for Linux with options to display hourly forecasts for 48 hours or nine-day forecasts. The new GNOME Maps application took a lot of notes from Google Maps, based on OpenStreetMap and adding local information from Wikipedia and others.

The final piece of the puzzle is the new software installer interface with improved logic to reduce the number of update notifications, a featured application carousel allowing a quick look into new and improved applications and a version history allowing one to look at recent changes to the most used applications. All in all, I feel like there are a lot of things for which I have been looking forward to for a long time in Linux desktop software, mostly the vast improvements to touch screen gesture support.

Until next week stay safe and learn something new

Scott Hamilton is a Senior Expert in Emerging Technologies at ATOS and can be reached with questions and comments via email to scott.hamilton@atos.net or through his website at http://www.techshepherd.tk.