GNOME 2.2 Gains Muscle and Polish

Open-source desktop environment adds app launch notification function, improved font handling.

One of the cardinal virtues of open-source software is its penchant for preserving choice. Its no surprise, then, that theres more than one good option available when it comes to the desktop environments through which users interact with Linux and similar operating systems.

Among the best and most actively developed of these desktop options is GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment), which is the default interface for Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux and which is set to replace the Common Desktop Environment as the default interface to Sun Microsystems Inc.s Solaris.

In eWeek Labs tests of GNOME 2.2, we found that with the addition of details such as application launch notification and improved font handling, GNOME has grown thicker with features and more polished while maintaining the simplicity for which many value it.

GNOME sets out to give Linux a simpler and—so the thinking goes—more usable interface than open sources other main desktop environment, KDE (K Desktop Environment), which we reviewed in its 3.1 version last month.

Whereas KDE places a large number of options and preferences close at hand, GNOME presents only what are considered to be key options up top. Other preferences are either unavailable or tucked out of site in its GConf editor, which resembles the registry in Windows (see screen).

We recommend that users give both environments a try and decide which they prefer; most Linux distributions ship with KDE and GNOME, and users can always change their mind.

GNOME 2.2 was released at the end of last month, and its source code is available for free download at, but most users will be better off waiting to receive GNOME 2.2 as part of a vendor release. GNOME runs on Linux, Solaris, HP-UX, BSD and Apple Computer Inc.s Darwin.

We expect that GNOME 2.2 will form the basis of a new GNOME-based desktop interface from Ximian Inc.—the companys current offering is based on GNOME 1.4.