GNOME 2.0 a Worthy Upgrade

New release of GNOME Desktop Environment includes various improvements, including support for anti-aliased fonts and accessibility gains

Rewritten around a new graphical interface toolkit, 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, the 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, 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 systems, Sun has pledged shortly to do the same for Solaris, and Ximian 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 the toolkit 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.

GNOME 2.0 includes 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 since applications must be ported to the new toolkit before they can be used with GConf, itll take a little while before GConf will be widely usable.

Likewise, other current GNOME applications will not work with GNOME 2.0 unless the older, 1.x libraries are installed on a given machine. This situation is similar to what KDE is now going through with its transition from KDE 2.x and its Qt2 toolkit to their newer, 3.x versions.

In our tests, GNOME 2.0 started up faster than version 1.4 did on the same hardware, and overall performance seems to have improved—something we couldnt say about our experience when moving from KDE 2.x to 3.0.

Another nice feature that we noted in our tests was a tabbing feature for the GNOME terminal application, similar to that in the Mozilla web browsers and in KDEs terminal application, Konsole.