The open-source GNOME desktop is being updated this week, with the new 3.10 release providing users with an enhanced interface, new menu systems and improved software.
GNOME is one of the primary open-source desktops in use on Linux desktops . The GNOME project benefits from a large and diverse community of developers who contribute to its success. For the 3.10 release more than 30,000 changes were made by almost 1,000 individual contributors, Matthias Clasen, member of the GNOME release team and supervisor and software engineering at Red Hat, told eWEEK. From a corporate perspective, there are a number of companies that participate, including Red Hat. Clasen noted that Red Hat is deeply involved in all areas of GNOME development, from design, planning and development to release engineering.
The GNOME 3.10 release notes list as the top item Wayland, a display server protocol that is replacing the X server that had been used by GNOME. Clasen said he's hopeful that with the move to Wayland, regular GNOME users will not see much of a difference at all.
"There will be improvements in the details—such as smooth resizing and pixel-perfect animations," Clasen said. "But the main benefits will be for developers—the Wayland protocol has learned lessons from 25 years of X, and things that are hard or impossible to do with X will become a lot easier."
One example that Clasen provided will likely be particularly useful for enterprise users. With Wayland, proper sandboxing of applications will become easier to do. A sandbox provides a degree of isolation between an application and the rest of a system.
"With X, every application has full access to your display, and it is very hard to provide any meaningful isolation," Clasen said. "Under Wayland, applications are not allowed to interfere with each other's surfaces or input."
Those getting new software or updating existing software on a GNOME desktop will now benefit from the aptly named "Software" application. The app will become the tool that users use to find and install new software.
"With Software, we will for the first time have an opportunity to really present available applications to the user before they are installed," Clasen said.
Clasen cautioned the while GNOME developers have worked very hard on producing a usable first version of the Software tool for GNOME 3.10, many things that are planned won't make an appearance until in the future GNOME 3.12 release.
"We want to present screenshots, ratings and other additional information, so you have a basis to decide whether you want to install and try this application or not," Clasen said.
With the GNOME 3.8 release, the project introduced a GNOME Classic mode. The Classic mode was intended to provide users with a more traditional desktop menu system as an optional alternative to the GNOME Shell system that debuted in GNOME 3.0.
"GNOME Classic is GNOME Shell, just with some adjustments to make longtime users of traditional desktops feel more at home," Clasen explained. "Having a unified stack was an important motivation for us in developing GNOME Classic, and it is paying off—all of the improvements that have gone into GNOME Shell this cycle will automatically benefit users of GNOME Classic as well."
The next major release for GNOME will be GNOME 3.12, which is currently planned for March 2014.
Clasen noted that continuing to work on Wayland will be a key focus for GNOME 3.12, as well as continuing to improve the Software application.
"We need to keep improving our application story—GNOME Software is an important component there, but writing an application for GNOME is still too hard," Clasen said. "We should make it easy and fun."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.