GNOME Adds Document Reader, Improves Graphics

Version 2.12 of desktop for Linux and Unix is released with two new applications, a new theme engine and improved multimedia performance.

GNOME, one of the most widely used desktop faces for Unix and Linux computers, will release version 2.12 Wednesday, culminating six months of work by members of the project. The latest edition boasts two new applications, a new theme engine, and improved multimedia access/performance, clipboard management and authentication, according to project member Davyd Madeley.

Overall, Madeley said, the look and feel of the desktop is vastly improved, he said, thanks to the new Clearlooks-based theme engine.

"GNOME 2.12 is clearer and better looking," Madeley said in a pre-release "tour" on the GNOME Web site. "All of the screenshots have been done in Clearlooks. (This is) a theme that we hope will be the default choice of every GNOME vendor, giving GNOME a unified face, no matter which vendor you choose."

The GNOME project provides not only the GNOME desktop environment but also the GNOME development platform, a framework for building applications that integrate into the rest of the desktop.

Point-by-point on whats new

  • Evince: This new document reader replaces GGV and GPDF and uses the sharp new Cairo vector rendering throughout, Evince offers full text searching, text copying, thumbnailing, document bookmarks and a variety of scrolling modes. Evince handles PDF and PS documents and soon will handle DVI and TIFF files, in addition to Impress and Microsoft Powerpoint presentations, Madeley said.

"While there is not incredibly widespread use of Cairo throughout the desktop today (there is no magic way to switch from the old stuff to Cairo, you have to do it by hand; however; they can coexist together happily) there is already a high rate of adoption," Madeley told in an e-mail. "Developers will benefit from having this new available technology earlier so that their next software projects can use it without having to wait."

  • Keyring Manager: GNOME has used a keyring for an ever-growing number of authentication tasks since its addition just over a year ago. The new keyring manager offers an interface to inspect personal keyrings, make changes to keys or remove sensitive keys. "It is one of the first applications completely developed by the GNOME Love project, and were proud to finally have it on board," Madeley said.
  • Totem: GNOMEs multimedia player sports a new playlist sidebar. The GStreamer backend now has full support for DVD menus and other DVD features.
  • Sound Juicer This app imports CDs into your computers music library, using any format for which you have a plug-in. Sound Juicer now also allows users to preview songs before they import them. Lastly, Sound Juicer can play CDs on machines with no analog audio, such as some Dell and Apple laptops.
  • Nautilus: GNOMEs file manager now sports a spatial tree file view, popularized in the original Apple Macintosh operating systems. In addition to the thumbnailing of video and previewing of audio in past releases, Nautilus now offers drag-and-drop capabilities from audio CDs and the ability to play a track simply by double-clicking. The browser mode in Nautilus now has a sidebar that shows your bookmarks.
  • Search Tool: The Search Tool now shows file previews.
  • Epiphany: The default browser has new features and more extensions, including the ability to share bookmarks. It also has extensions to provide support for popular Web technologies like Greasemonkey.

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  • Evolution: The mail client developed by Ximian/Novell sports a cleaner interface and a number of extra productivity features. The new Evolution also has new plug-ins, including the support for inline PGP handling—a long-requested feature—and the ability to do inline media playing. Additionally, Evolutions mail talking library libcamel has been moved into Evolution Data Server and made available to developers.

Evolution in Red Hats most recent release showed some security vulnerabilities. Were these fixed in GNOME 2.12? "I had to do some research on this," Madeley told "The patches were slipped into the current branch and the GNOME 2.10 branch nice and quietly in August, long before the CAN announcement had gone public. Evolution was ready and fixed before too many people knew there was an issue."

  • Control Center: A new configuration applet (or capplet) in 2.12 is the About Me dialog. This dialog does not send any personal information to the Internet; instead it simply stores a vCard in Evolutions data server that is accessible from applications on your desktop. Users can beam it to a phone via Bluetooth or simply attach the data to e-mails when asked for contact information.
  • System Tools: This now includes a tool to configure startup services as well as giving users the ability to start and stop services on demand.
  • Graphics: Integration with the Cairo vector graphics library allows for smoother edges, RGBA translucency and better looking, more flexible theming.
  • Clipboard Management: New clipboard management allows for objects to persist in the clipboard longer than the lifetime of an application. "This means that if you cut or copy an object and then exit that application, the item you put on the clipboard will remain until you replace it," Madeley said.

The GNOME Desktop is available for free download here.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...