Enjoy Some Desktop Improvements With Gnome 3.4 [Linux]

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gnome desktopAs it is now April, what I like to call the “Linux spring release season” has finally begun! This is the time frame, usually during April and May, where most of the popular distributions have their new releases. These dates are ideally picked so that other projects complete their own cycle and the distribution developers have enough time to implement it into their distribution before issuing a release as well.

Quite recently, Gnome 3.4 was released, just a few weeks before distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora roll out their latest releases.

At the end of the day, Gnome is still the most popular desktop environment currently among Linux users. No matter if you’re using Cinnamon, Gnome Shell, or Unity as your desktop shell (although I personally prefer Gnome Shell), the backbone is still provided by Gnome, and this new release updates everything that has to do with Gnome. So, what exactly is new in this release and should you upgrade?

Default Wallpaper

gnome desktop

What? The wallpaper is actually a feature? Well, kind of, but it’s still pretty cool and worth a mention. The Gnome developers have changed the default “drapey” wallpaper to be more dynamic and change along with the time of the day. If your time is currently noon, the wallpaper is bright. If it’s midnight, it’s quite a bit darker. As it’s one of the very first things a user sees, it may make or break first impressions.

Web Browser

gnome desktop environment

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Now, on to the good stuff! If you look around for a while, especially through the applications, you’ll see that Epiphany, the default Gnome browser, no longer exists. Instead, it’s replaced with a program simply called “Web”. This program has a ridiculously simplified user interface, so using it should be a complete piece of cake.

It also uses the WebKit rendering engine, the same one used in Google Chrome, so the browser will be modern enough to run all of the latest features on your favorite sites.

Menus

gnome desktop environment

In case you wish to find an application’s menus but can’t, don’t worry! Click on the application’s name at the very top of the screen (while using Gnome Shell), and a consolidated menu similar to Chrome’s appears.

While most applications currently do not offer support for this feature, you can test it out with some of the redesigned Gnome applications, such as Web.

Gnome Suite Applications

gnome desktop

Speaking of which, Contacts and Documents are new applications in the Gnome suite, while Disks got a redesign to fit in with the rest of the Gnome suite. All of these make use of the new hidden menus (which is also the way to close the applications, in case you were wondering).

Additionally, Gnome 3.4 now includes an application named Boxes, which is an interface created to make connecting to remote or virtual machines a lot easier. I wasn’t able to try it out and see just how well it works, but it seems like a promising idea.

Try It Out Now

You don’t have to wait for a distribution to release with this new version of Gnome. Instead, you can get it right now. Simply head over to this page and download the available ISO image (in 32-bit flavor only). You can then burn it to a CD or USB stick, or open it in a virtual machine. The ISO is based on Fedora, so it should work very well with most configurations.

The ISO may be slightly unstable because of other components and not Gnome, as the ISO is based off the next development release of Fedora.

Conclusion

So should you upgrade to Gnome 3.4? Most definitely! Not only are all the changes I mentioned included, but there has been a massive amount of bug fixes and greater hardware support added to this release as well. Additionally, this is now the third overall release of Gnome 3, which means that it will be even more stable than the initial release. So, there’s little reason not to upgrade to Gnome 3.4.

How are you liking Gnome 3’s progression? What features would you remove or like to see added? Let us know in the comments!

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