Rewritten around a new graphical interface tool kit, Version 2.0 of GNOME stands as an attractive and important upgrade for sites that have standardized on GNOME as their desktop environment for Linux- and Unix-based systems.
However, although GNU Network Object Model Environment 2.0 boasts many improvements over Version 1.4, such as support for font anti-aliasing and overall speed and accessibility gains, eWeek Labs found that GNOME doesnt yet match its primary rival, KDE (K Desktop Environment), in usability or completeness.
For example, we found KDEs configuration utilities, collected in the KDE control panel, more convenient to access than those in GNOME, which locates its utilities in different spots throughout the interface.
GNOME 2.0 was released at the end of last month, and its source code is available for free download at www.gnome. org, but most users will do best to wait to receive GNOME 2.0 as part of a vendor release. GNOME is the default desktop on Red Hat Inc. systems; Sun Microsystems Inc. has pledged to do the same for Solaris; and Ximian Inc. puts out an excellent distribution of GNOME.
GNOME 2.0 is written with Version 2.0.5 of the Gtk+ (the GIMP Toolkit, so named because it was first developed for use in GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program), to which GNOME owes several of its new features, including font anti-aliasing.
Version 2.0 has a feature called GConf, a system for storing user preferences that functions somewhat like the registry in Windows. We found it relatively easy to adjust settings using GConf, but it will likely be a while before GConf becomes widely usable because applications must be ported to the new tool kit.
Likewise, other current GNOME applications will not work with GNOME 2.0 unless the 1.x libraries are installed on a given machine. This situation is similar to what KDE is going through in its transition from KDE 2.x and its Qt2 tool kit to newer, 3.x versions.
In tests, GNOME 2.0 started up faster than Version 1.4 did on the same hardware, and overall performance is a bit faster as well—something we couldnt say about our experience when moving from KDE 2.x to 3.0.
Another nice capability is a tabbing feature for the GNOME terminal application, similar to that in the Mozilla Web browsers and in KDEs terminal application, Konsole.
Technical Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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