GNOME 2.5.3 Shows Improvement but Still Trails KDE

As with the Linux kernel, the odd-numbered GNOME release.

Whenever the KDE project ships a new release, you know the next version of the Linux worlds other dominant desktop environment, GNOME, cant be far behind. This time was no exception. In the same week that KDE 3.2 began shipping, the GNOME crew made available Version 2.5.3 of its desktop interface software.

As with the Linux kernel, the odd-numbered GNOME release denotes a development version of the software, meant for bug-squashing and for giving users and developers an early look at what will be in GNOME 2.6.

eWEEK Labs compiled this release from source, on a system running Red Hat Inc.s Enterprise Linux 3, using the Garnome distribution software to help automate the process. Ximian Inc. also provides GNOME 2.5 packages in its Red Carpet service. These GNOME 2.5 packages include Ximian-specific modifications to the 2.5 code. In addition, the first beta release of Fedora Core 2, which became available this month, includes GNOME 2.5 as its default desktop environment.

The first thing we noticed about GNOME 2.5 was a tweak to its Nautilus file manager that the GNOME Project team calls spatial Nautilus. This basically launched a new Nautilus window that lacked standard tool bars each time we clicked to open a folder on our system. We found this default annoying, and it wasnt clear how to switch it off, short of launching Nautilus with the command "nautilus —browser" or right-clicking on a folder and choosing "Browse Folder," both of which launched Nautilus in the manner to which were accustomed.

We liked the new gnome-keyring application, which enabled us to save our user names and passwords from network resources such as Samba and WebDAV shares. We could save our authentication data either for the current session or permanently. However, unlike KDE 3.2s nice KWallet feature, there didnt appear to be a graphical applet for managing saved passwords.

We were also happy to see the demise of one bug that had really bugged us: GNOMEs system monitor used to hang when we tried to end a root-owned process while logged in as a normal user. This flaw has been fixed in the version of the system monitor that ships with GNOME 2.5.

We also were pleased to see significant improvement in GNOMEs file selection dialog, which is now better laid out than the file dialogs in previous versions. This had been an area where GNOME lagged well behind KDE.