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Labeled by some as “unintuitive” and “a usability nightmare,” GNOME Shell used to be crap. Not anymore.

GNOME released version 3.12 of its popular desktop environment recently, and it refines the Gnome Shell concept GNOME 3 Beta - Welcome To Your New Linux Desktop GNOME 3 Beta - Welcome To Your New Linux Desktop Read More yet again. It managed to pass the “usable” threshold a few releases ago and hasn’t stopped improving since.

It might take a while before this new version is packaged into your favorite distribution’s next release, but here’s a preview of what changes you can expect.

Applications, Sorted

gnome312_folders
Searching through the Launchpad-like list of installed applications wasn’t the best experience. Although you could choose from categories, you couldn’t put apps in custom folders, and scrolling took a while. With GNOME 3.12, you can now create custom folders  to make finding things easier. You can even create these folders while you’re installing applications from the GNOME Software Center, making it possible for you to immediately put an app wherever you want it.

Additionally, the list doesn’t scroll like a webpage anymore; instead, it scrolls as if you’re flipping a vertical page. It’s a small improvement, but useful nonetheless.

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Renovated Applications

Some popular GNOME applications were revamped for this release. Gnome Videos, formerly known as Totem, received a complete makeover. It includes a new playback view as well as floating HUD controls that appear on top of the video, allowing the video itself to take up more room in the Gnome Videos window. The app also has new support for various online channels.

gnome312_gedit
Gedit also got a major revamp, making its interface much slimmer and allowing more room for the content you’re editing. Despite the minimal look, Gedit packs all of the features you’ve come to use regularly. It’s a win-win.

Finally, the GNOME Terminal also received some love. It now has the ability to wrap text after resizing, a dark theme as default, and an included color palette (for color-coded output) which you can enable in the Color Settings pane.

Improved HiDPI Support

gnome312_hidpi
Another important highlight in this release is the improved support for HiDPI displays. Before, high-definition displays such as the MacBook Pro’s Retina display suffered from a tiny UI. In other words, GNOME wouldn’t account for the increased amount of pixels and scale UI elements so that they appear the same size on the screen. Alternatively, it would scale the UI elements, but they would appear blurry and pixelated. These new improvements change all that, so UI elements are appropriately-sized on your HiDPI display. As a side effect of HiDPI support, text rendering is also improved.

Please note that this applies to GNOME’s interface elements – it’s still possible for applications to lack support for HiDPI displays.

Improved Software Center

gnome312_software_center
GNOME 3.10 came with a brand new software center, which gives users an easy way to search through their repositories. While it was functional then, it was still missing some key features such as screenshots, a rating system and repository management.

The 3.12 release offers all this, and it’s definitely a more useful tool because of it.

Improved Cloud Integration

Cloud integration has also improved with GNOME 3.12. For example, when you add your Facebook account to your list of Online Accounts, you’ll be able to see all of the photos you’ve uploaded to Facebook within the Photos app.

If you haven’t done so already, it’s a good idea to add all of your online accounts to GNOME in the GNOME System Settings – it’s just one step you need to take to configure all of your online apps including email, instant messaging, and photos.

Theme Fixes

gnome312_tabs
The default theme looks better now. Changes include updated tabs, softer separators, button backgrounds, floating toolbars, and pop-over menus. Ultimately all of these changes are very subtle, but they give an extra touch of polish to the desktop environment.

Getting Closer to Official Wayland Support

Last of all, GNOME 3.12 comes with improved support for the upcoming Wayland display server. If you’re using a distribution that already comes with Wayland for testing purposes (such as Fedora), you can test out GNOME’s support for it by running the command gnome-session --session=gnome-wayland.

This is only a tech preview, so don’t consider it to be a stable feature just yet.

Conclusion

GNOME has been continually improving, and slowly winning back fans who were devastated by a controversial initial release. If you’d like to give it a spin right now as a Live environment, you can download the latest ISO image of Fedora Rawhide Be On The Bleeding Edge of Linux with Fedora Rawhide Be On The Bleeding Edge of Linux with Fedora Rawhide Don't wait around to try the latest versions of software – try Fedora Rawhide instead. Read More (check for the latest one that has createLiveCD – rawhide, Fedora-Live-Desktop-x86_64, 20140329 – as the description) and write it to a USB stick Linux Live USB Creator: Easily Boot Linux From Your Flash Drive Linux Live USB Creator: Easily Boot Linux From Your Flash Drive Read More or run it in a virtual machine What Is a Virtual Machine? What Is a Virtual Machine? Virtual machines allow you to run other operating systems within your current operating system, but why does that matter? What are the pros and cons? Read More .

What are your thoughts on GNOME 3.12? Is it getting good enough for you to use, or are you still unhappy with the ground concepts of the desktop environment? Let us know in the comments!

  1. Steve
    August 8, 2014 at 6:20 am

    Thank you for your article; however, I must respectfully disagree: GNOME 3.x is a horrible experience:

    1) I need an extension to lock the screen? It's supposed to be under the user name; however, in 3 out of 5 installs, not there; when I contacted the team, they sent me to the extension... which DID NOT WORK!

    2) No transparency for the terminal; not even a way to set a custom size anymore;

    3) GNOME Classic runs on top of GNOME Shell, the resource waste is tremendous;

    4) In GNOME 2.x I can, after initial setup, open my email with one quick flick of the wrist and click; I timed my wife, who runs GNOME 3.x and I was consistently able to open my programs with less hassle and faster;

    5) Related to number (1) above: The Developers, in their infinite wisdom, have decided on a course and come hell or high water, they will continue doing business their way, without regard to users' input.

    I understand that some people like GNOME 3.x; however, for anybody that is even remotely concerned about security, I cannot fathom why a person would choose this DE.

    To be completely honest, it is not only GNOME who has abandoned common sense; KDE 4 lead the way; Windows 8 is the epitome of ridiculous interface; and Unity might just be worse than Windows!

  2. name
    May 11, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Gnome 3 is terrible. It's touch/tablet oriented and absolutely naff all use to a normal desktop user - unless all you care about is girly pretty crap on your screen - in that case use kde 4. I'm sticking with gnome 2 for now.

  3. Silver Moon
    May 6, 2014 at 5:44 am

    nothing like KDE

  4. WinterSoldier53
    April 26, 2014 at 1:47 am

    I used to love Gnome , now i use Cinnamon and is so much better.

  5. Denis
    April 17, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    In my experience Gnome 2 + Synapse (or Gnome-Do) launcher is superior over that shell nonsense in almost every way. The only thing I would like to see in Gnome 2 is big Alt+Tab icons groupped by applications. I fear the moment when panels will stop working: neither Gnome Shell, neither Gnome Shell Classic are really usable. Period.

  6. Robert B
    April 17, 2014 at 12:04 am

    As far as I am concerned there is absolutely no reason I would ever use Gnome 3.x. I used to be a long time user of Gnome but when the developers came up with version 3 as far as I am concerned they ruined Gnome. I would not use Gnome if you paid me to no less upgrade to the latest version. I personally hate everything about Gnome now and the only other Linux UI that I hate even more is the abortion called Unity that the Ubuntu developers came up with. That was when I stopped using Ubuntu. The only good thing I can say about either of these interfaces is they are not as bad as Windows 8. All of these guys must be smoking some serious weed or something if they really think that it is an improvement over the earlier version. They all suffer from a common malady that is all too prevalent today and that is the mantra that we have to change it. Change is not always for the better and as far as I am concerned these new desktop UI's fall into this category. To me the primary role of any UI is to make it easy and seamless for the end user to interact with a program this holds especially so with respect to interacting with your OS. A good UI is not an IN YOUR FACE experience, if a UI is exceptional then the end user should not have to even give it a second thought. To me that is how Gnome v 2x was, it was just there and very functional and did not get in your way of doing real work with your computer. When developers make radical changes in how you interact with your OS then this defeats the whole purpose of using the OS because now you have to devote to much time in just learning how this new thing works just to get something accomplished. Windows 8 UI is the worst offender with Unity a close second and almost tied with Gnome 3.

    Other reasons why I now hate Gnome, well the 2x series for one just worked and was efficient to get work done. When version 3 came along it is just too much in your face and takes a lot more mouse clicks just to get something to open or to find something same thing with the new version of KDE but just not as bad as Gnome. I am in the process of building my own desktop UI, just have not decided on if I will use Fluxbox or Enlightenment E17 for my window manager. The sad thing about all of this is the end user should not have to even contemplate having to do this but given the alternatives I feel I have little choice.

    • Reconix
      May 6, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      How can you hand on heart say this ? You can customise those more then you ever have before, yeah I get it, personally, I don't really like gnomes new approach but that was only because I was stuck in the old school drill through a huge Start like menu to find what I want. Once you get out of that mind stead and accept a little change, it soon becomes apparent why and how those changes have taken place.
      Going on your windows approach, today I still hear people saying. WIN7 is better than 8, I mean, seriously ? My jaw kind of drops and goes.. duhh um.. bah... ok. They have no idea of what's going on in the background, they don't care that it's actually faster for them but it all comes down to what ever they're used to and can't stand change.

      Gnome and unity a like are taking great steps forward in trying to make things easier, that if you actually use them for a little while, they are faster and easier, a log of snags along the way but that's where we step in, report the problem and help encourage the projects into something better.

      As for how much time the new interfaces take up on a learning curve.. seriously... over all, you spend more time doing what you want to do rather than drilling through menu's or going.. hmm, where was that directory I placed a month ago. Yes, there's maybe a little bit of work on how it's actually presented to you but this is some thing that's easy to change or customise to your needs, this would not of been as easy to do in early developments.

    • Robert B
      May 6, 2014 at 6:11 pm

      Well your comments certainly proves one thing when it comes to human nature and that each one of us is different. Everyone likes things for different reasons and that does not make the people who prefer a more traditional style of interface wrong any more than those who advocate change at the expense of everything just for the sake of being new. It is the same thing as some liking the color red when others favorite color is blue, we all have our personal preferences. With respect to the new Gnome 3 and their shell UI I personally PREFER any of the other Linux desktops(except Unity) including some of the older window managers over Gnome 3. I am glad I have the right and freedom of choice when running Linux. If a pole was taken I to determine what desktops were being used by Linux users I bet the results would be close to these figures, 40% would be running Gnome, 40% KDE and the remaining 20% a mix of all the rest, older window managers in a custom desktop built by the user, LXDE or
      XFCE. According to your opinions and comments that would make all the non Gnome users as being wrong because they prefer something different. As far as Windows 8 and the direction Microsuck is going in that you obviously do not have a problem with has more to do with than just their gad awful UI and I could care less how the rest of their OS performs. I will never run another MS product mainly out of protest to their strong arm tactics in forcing the whole PC OEMs to implement secure boot on all new PC's sold that will only allow you to install Windows 8 and no other OS. All their BS concerning the supposed benefits of secure boot is a smoke screen for the real reason it was forced onto everyone. Microsuck is not stupid, they want to lock out everyone but them selves including our right to run say Windows 7 on new hardware if that is what we want or perhaps even Linux. They will never admit it but they see Android mobile computing as a major threat and the millions who are discovering that they do not need Microsuck and their BS to do what they need and as a result more and more are willing to also try out Linux as a viable alternative to keep their older hardware alive in place of going out and buying a new Windows 8 only machine. I also fear that in the not too distant future any apps you want to install on Microsuck OS's will have to be purchased from their store. Microsuck is in business to limit every ones freedoms unlike Linux.

  7. radium share
    April 16, 2014 at 5:06 am

    I love gnome shell and converted a few friends to it. Will definitely have a look at this new version! Thanks for sharing

  8. x
    April 15, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    i love gnome 3 shell very much.

  9. jymm
    April 15, 2014 at 11:52 am

    I used to love Gnome. Now I use Mate.

  10. Zhong J
    April 15, 2014 at 2:56 am

    Did they also change the login screen?

  11. dragonmouth
    April 14, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    Can the New and Improved Software Center batch actions like Synaptic or does it still force the user to process one package at a time?

  12. likefunbutnot
    April 14, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Laugh if you want but I use Afterstep on Linux for my Window Manager. I don't mind having a 20-year-old+ UI and it's nice that my environment is entirely consistent across systems.

    • Robert B
      May 6, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      Isn't Linux great!! We all have the freedoms to pretty much do anything we want with it. I personally prefer Fluxbox or E17 and will try out some variations in building a custom desktop when I build my Gentoo system.

    • BrianEss
      May 8, 2014 at 11:04 pm

      You guys (linux guys (and gals before I get into any trouble))...
      are just great! You make fiddling around look so easy.
      This AfterStep sounds good and so does Robert B's FluxBox and E17.
      Unfortunately I'm one of those people who has only got past navigation, office work and surfing. I do know that super user exists but the command line still terrifies me.
      Any way, I just wanted to say I'm still trying!
      Thanks for givings us dummies hope...

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