GNOME 3.34 released. Not much news, but more questions

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There was a premiere of version 3.34 of the GNOME desktop work environment. Although this is an evolutionary edition, without major news or new icons (changed in the previous 3.32), it is significant for chronological reasons. Since then, there have been more releases from the 3.x series than the highly-regarded line 2. Many GNOME users have quite fairly accepted the changes introduced in GNOME 3.0. To the extent that version 2.32 has been forked and developed independently as part of the MATE project (we will return to this thread later). It is therefore a good time to sum up and try to assess how far GNOME has come in almost 9 years after the revolution. Let's first look at what's new in 3.34

Thessaloniki

The most noticeable change from the UI perspective is the introduction of application grouping support in the GNOME Shell summary view. This change came amazingly late. Contrary to appearances, the GNOME Shell is not a "tactile" interface. It was designed to work with the mouse and touchpad gestures and was intended to be a variation on the Launchpad view in macOS. His fingertips for the first few years were incomplete, even unpleasant. Therefore, many "purely tactile" functions were absent, although some design decisions would suggest something a bit different.

Browser

GNOME is also modeled on macOS in other issues and strives to provide a collection of "sufficient" applications for the most common applications. Most changes took place in the embedded Web browser, known in the Polish language version as "WWW". Colloquially its old name is used: Epiphany. There are rumors that someone is actually using it and for those few people in the world the ad filtering support has been updated and the card pinning option known from Google Chrome has been added.

Other changes

Other improvements include retro gaming support and saving options saving the game (yes, retro games support is part of the GNOME environment modules and is apparently a priority job). However, the more interesting change is the Music application update. Since everyone has long given up on attempts to repair the Rhythmbox player and its latest version comes from 2016, Music is theoretically its replacement and default choice in GNOME. So it's nice that in an environment that has been offering file indexers for years as part of a great tool Tracker, just a few dozen months after its creation, the music player has learned to actively respond to changes in the multimedia library. It has also become possible to add other directories than ~ / Music to the library, which is a rather useful, elementary function. Perhaps thanks to this the group of users of the Music application will expand and match the number of ranks of at least a group of people browsing the Internet with the program Web. Who knows – you have to set brave goals.

What's next?

Little is known about the plans for version 3.36, except for the publishing calendar. It was also quiet at 3.34. The answer should have been sought rather in the gnome-announce-list and the GNOME CI table on GitLab. Migration of the code and BugZilla to Gitlab and modern tools close to the current generation of programmers increased the responsiveness of search engines and the "discoverability" of topics on which they are working. Thanks to this we can find out that among the epics on the wallpaper there are currently (apart from the absurdly large number of changes in the Geary email program) such issues as:

  • Parental Control
  • Better cloud disk support (please, yes)
  • Transferring the code to the GTK 4.0 library

These are undoubtedly needed, interesting and beneficial changes, but they are a continuation of the evolution of GNOME 3, and not something groundbreaking. About the fourth version, nothing new has been heard for years. But that's pretty good. The specifics of working with computers has changed over time since the release of GNOME 3.0. It will not be easy to attract new users with curiosities in the graphical environment. What counts today is working on many devices and (usually proprietary) applications supported by the cloud.

It's hard for me to figure out what a new GNOME would have to offer to reduce the lack of Microsoft Office suite, especially the OneNote application. I often hear the argument that I could work differently, use other cloud disks, put presentations in Beamer, and make notes not by hand, but … what? Vim? At TexMaker? He doesn't convince me. The whole world would have to stop, adapt and postpone the convenience of making Linux desktop a competitive offer. But we're not about that today.

Did GNOME 3 succeed?

A lot of things from the original GNOME 3 project, both the implementation and the promises themselves, have become outdated. The built-in communicator is dead, and its networks and protocols are depopulated. The rape on the system tray and notification mechanism has already been made fully. The tray has disappeared (unfortunately), and notifications are harder to miss, but it's still too easy. The application menu from the top bar has been removed and replaced with icons in the style of Android 5. The Universal Search Engine all survived, works better and got the same ailment as the search engine in Windows 8: it forgot how to use the technology underneath and despite a good index, searches for files with … different performance.

Applications very mature. With the fact that Linux is not macOS: you do not have to insist that the environment must have a browser, email program and game center. On a Mac taken out of the box without them there would simply be nothing else, while in the Linux world there are alternatives such as Firefox and Thunderbird. Indeed, the argument raised is that these applications are incompatible with the style and functional assumptions of the environment. Although if all applications, apart from a few built-in ones, are incompatible with these assumptions, but maybe the problem lies elsewhere …?

GNOME is an extremely mature, stable and quite (as for Linux) managed graphical environment. Well supports the latest solutions, such as Wayland. It is also becoming more efficient, also causing less and less trouble to its composite window manager. By default, it still stubbornly does not contain a taskbar or a pinned dock, but for both issues there are appropriate extensions available in Fedora anyway (just select the classic session on the login screen).

However, have the work on the "GNOME 3 idea" been completed? No, there are plenty of things that remain to be cleaned or removed. New support for icons on the desktop has appeared, for example, quite recently. Some built-in applets have obvious deficiencies and are developed very unevenly. But also the initial assumptions have changed, because today we work in a different way. GNOME probably won't come up with anything new in this connection, just getting better from version to version.

What about GNOME 2? The MATE project has also slowed down. You can naturally argue that, as in the case of XFCE (by the way they finally released 4.14!) Simply in the classic desktop nothing is missing and there is nothing to change. Anyway, MATE arose because of clinical stubbornness on removing all old interfaces and halting the development of fallback sessions for devices without 3D accelerators.

Interestingly enough, the GNOME Panel is being redeveloped! In addition, the removal of GNOME Shell-dependent components from GTK has made all applications work just as well with Shell and with the Panel. So if you want to try out the latest GNOME and main versions of the application, not the rolled-up versions, you can do it today using the good old Panel. Everything can look like centuries ago.

GNOME 3.34 will come to the latest Fedora 31. The next release will be completed in March. In turn, classic panels and applets can be added using the yselkowitz / gnome-flashback repository. Do you use GNOME? If not – why? Let us know in the comments!

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