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Gnome logo
GNOME 3.32 desktop
Gnome 3.32
Basic data

developer GNOME Foundation , GNOME Project, GNU Project
Publishing year August 15, 1997
Current  version 3.34.7
( June 4, 2020 )
operating system GNU / Linux, BSD operating system
programming language C , Extensible Markup Language , C ++ , C # , Hypertext Markup Language
category Desktop environment
License GPLv2 +
German speaking Yes

Gnome ( proper spelling GNOME ) [ ɡnoʊm ] is a desktop environment for Unix and Unix-like systems with a graphical user interface and a collection of programs for everyday use. Gnome is released under the free GPL and LGPL licenses and is part of the GNU project .

Gnome is, among other things, the standard desktop for Fedora and Ubuntu . Some Gnome components have been ported to Windows and MacOS , such as Evolution or GStreamer , but some of them, as in the case of Evolution, are no longer maintained.

Goal setting

The Gnome desktop is designed to emphasize simplicity and ease of use ; the software should "just work". Therefore, the following things are particularly important:

Gnome should be usable by everyone, regardless of whether the user is less technically savvy or has a handicap . For many governments, accessibility is a mandatory requirement for using software.
It ensures that the desktop and applications are in many languages.
Coherent, coherent surface design
Starting with version 2.0 (since 2002), Gnome provides a guideline for the design of the interfaces ( Human Interface Guideline ). The user interface of the applications should be easier to use.
Regular publications
The release cycle of six months for major updates is firmly planned. This is intended to increase acceptance among industrial and non-technical users. Version numbers with an even number after the first point mark stable releases that are suitable for end users, version numbers with an odd number after the point mark development versions.
Help for the user, not just from the Gnome community .

Origin of the Gnome Project

The Gnome project was initiated in 1997 by Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena and was conceived as a response to the K Desktop Environment . This built from the beginning to the then only without free software license available Qt on. Because at that time the company Trolltech (the manufacturer of Qt) saw no need for action to change the licensing, members of GNU brought two new projects into being: "Harmony" should produce a replacement for the Qt libraries, while the Gnome project To create a desktop that was not based on Qt and was entirely free software .

In November 1998 Trolltech announced the licensing of the Qt libraries under the QPL , but the discussion about compatibility with the GPL lasted until September 2000. Finally, Trolltech released the Linux version of the Qt libraries under the GNU GPL, which removed most of the objections to further use. However, this did not apply to the Windows variants, which have only been available under a dual license system since June 2005 .

It was decided to use the GTK (GIMP Toolkit) used in the GIMP for Gnome , which is licensed under the LGPL and thus allows the programs to be run with a much larger selection of possible licenses. GTK uses the C programming language instead of C ++ , which is used in Qt . By using C one promised an easier and higher portability , as well as an improved connection to other programming languages. There are now so-called language bindings for all common programming languages. The Gnome project itself advertises the languages ​​C, C ++, Python , JavaScript and Vala on its developer portal for application developers .

The name "GNOME" was originally an acronym for "GNU Network Object Model Environment". This acronym was later dropped and is now considered obsolete, but the project is still capitalized.

Course of development

Gnome 1.x

Gnome 1 (March 1999)

Version 1.0 of Gnome was released in March 1999, which still contained a few bugs. Version 1.0.55, which was released in October of the same year, contained the necessary corrections.

In the same year the companies Eazel and HelixCode were founded, which dealt with programs and services around gnomes. The Nautilus file manager was developed at Eazel , while HelixCode mainly worked on its own Gnome distribution and the Ximian Evolution personal information manager . However, Eazel Services , a commercial add-on service to Nautilus, did not prove profitable enough to financially secure Eazel. Eazel was able to raise a total of eleven million US dollars and went into bankruptcy on May 15, 2001. HelixCode was later renamed Ximian (current name: Xamarin ) and was sold to Novell in August 2003 .

Version 1.2 (Bongo Gnome) was released in May 2000 - the version mainly contained improvements in usability and was fully binary compatible with version 1.0.

In August 2000, the Gnome Foundation was formed, which companies such as IBM , Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard joined to increase their support for Gnome.

The Gnome version 1.4, which came out in April 2001, contained the file manager Nautilus and the new component framework Bonobo for the first time as official versions . In the movie " Startup " (original title "Antitrust") by Peter Howitt from 2001, version 1.4 of the Gnome desktop can be seen in action several times.

Gnome 2.x

Standard Gnome 2.22
Gnome 2.30 desktop customized with Avant Window Navigator , widgets and icon set

The underlying GTK + has been greatly expanded, and some libraries have been removed from Gnome and integrated into a new GTK + version. The Gnome version 2.0, published in June 2002, was based on this, and at the same time brought about a turning point: many simplifications were made and a number of configuration options that had been included until then disappeared because the developers found them unnecessary. Sensible settings should be selected when the user interface is started for the first time and design errors should not be concealed by adding supposed configuration options. This development attracted a lot of criticism, but now the clear usability is one of the main characteristics of Gnome.

Gnome version 2.2 was released in February 2003 and again contained a number of improvements, particularly in terms of ergonomics and user guidance. With this version, the previously used window manager Sawfish was replaced by Metacity . In addition, the publication cycle has now become semi-annual: all extensions and improvements that have been fully implemented up to the respective point in time are then included.

In September 2003 the Gnome version 2.4 was released. Above all, the usage options for people with disabilities and the Nautilus file manager were edited, as was the Gnome panel and the Gnome control center. Furthermore, it was Epiphany (a spin-off of Galeon integrated) as a Web browser.

In March 2004 the Gnome version 2.6 was available for download. Above all, the file manager Nautilus , which has a new spatial interface , has been improved, which means that each folder is represented by its own window. With this release, the switch to GTK + 2.4 also took place , which also resulted in a new file dialog. The Yelp help system has also seen some improvements and, above all, has been significantly accelerated.

Gnome version 2.8 was released in September 2004. New features included the full integration of Evolution , the automatic integration of data carriers and improved management of file types .

Gnome version 2.10 was released in March 2005. There were programs Sound Juicer (a CD - Ripper ) and Totem (a media player that either on GStreamer or xine can be based) integrated. Were further usability and stability improved, and the panel - applets greatly expanded or partially rewritten.

In September 2005 the Gnome version 2.12 was completed. The most obvious innovation was a new theme engine called Clearlooks as standard, under the hood the GTK + toolkit was updated to version 2.8, which now enabled the extensive use of vector graphics by the Cairo library. The previously largely neglected browser mode of the file manager Nautilus and the media player Totem have also been improved. In addition, Evince was introduced as the standard viewer for PostScript and PDF documents, replacing gpdf and ggv.

Version 2.14.1 was released in April 2006. In addition to some speed improvements for the terminal, increased emphasis was placed on better integration of the individual components. The most important innovation, however, is Ekiga , a new version of the VoIP software that can now also handle SIP calls.

Version 2.16 was completed on September 6, 2006. Probably the most significant - but also highly controversial - change is the inclusion of the mono project as part of the desktop. There are also improvements for people with disabilities (accessibility) and the direct support of AIGLX by the window manager Metacity .

Version 2.18 was released on March 15, 2007. It contains the new games glChess and Gnome Sudoku as well as network support for Nibbles , Iagno and Connect Four . Seahorse , an application for managing GPG and SSH keys as well as the passwords in the Gnome keyring, is now part of the desktop . The user interface of the interface designer Glade has been restructured and the program has been rewritten from the ground up so that all the tools required are now combined in one window.

With version 2.20, which was published on September 19, 2007, the Nautilus file manager in particular was revised. The program can now use a desktop search ( Beagle or Tracker ), read the Exif data from images and access other PCs via SSH. Various configuration programs have been revised or merged for this purpose.

Version 2.22 was released on March 12, 2008. New features are extended multimedia capabilities, improved network file systems ( GVFS replaces GnomeVFS), built-in desktop effects (window compositing) and numerous other small improvements. The new programs include Cheese (for taking and editing photos and videos) and a viewer for remote desktops.

Version 2.24 was released on September 25, 2008. It contains the chat client Empathy and improvements to the file manager, which now also supports tabs and a compact list view. The support of sound themes is also new.

Version 2.26 was released on March 18, 2009.

Version 2.28 was released on September 23, 2009.

Version 2.30 was completed on March 31, 2010.

With Gnome 2.32 the last version of the 2.x series was published on September 29, 2010.

Gnome 2 is now being further developed as the MATE Desktop Environment .

Gnome 3.x

The Gnome window overview

After criticism of the Gnome desktop, the stagnation, the lack of vision of the project and the resulting discussion, the Gnome release team announced the development of Gnome 3.0. To ensure the stability of Gnome, the release of the final version 3.0 should be postponed to September 2010. At the GUADEC in The Hague, however, the release date was postponed by a further 6 months to April 2011. As originally planned, version 2.30 was released in March 2010. In contrast to KDE Plasma Desktop , Gnome 3.0 should be an incremental further development and not a major revolution. However, significant changes have been made so that parts of Gnome 3.0 are no longer downward compatible with Gnome 2.x. The primary changes in Gnome 3.0:

  • Gnome Shell willreplacethe Gnome panel, desktop and window manager with an activity-based interface. The previous window list and docking concept is thus abandoned. The previous window manager Metacity is being replaced by a “ mother ”, a Metacity fork , which was originally developed as part of Moblin ; Gnome Shell is developed using the JavaScript and C programming languages.
  • New software libraries and technologies such as geolocation via GeoClue and libchamplain or Clutter , an OpenGL -accelerated GUI toolkit .
  • GTK + 3.0 takes over many functions from external libraries like libgnome , removes old and little used functions and interfaces and provides new and improved functions, for example animations or CSS-based theming.
  • Greater integration of technologies such as D-Bus and Avahi , which should ensure better cooperation between the applications and with other open desktop environments such as KDE Plasma Workspaces .

Some of the innovations (such as the Gnome Shell) have been available as options since Gnome 2.28, but not yet with full functionality.

Gnome 3.0 was officially released on April 6, 2011, and version 3.2 was released on September 28, 2011. The latter enables a simpler connection of GNOME to cloud services, since accounts with various providers are combined with the help of the Gnome Online Accounts program. Version 3.4 was published on March 28, 2012, and version 3.6 in September. Version 3.8 was released on March 27, 2013.

On September 25, 2013, version 3.10 was released, which offers experimental support for Wayland for the first time . In addition, the Gnome Shell has been changed so that a number of menus have been combined into a single one. In addition, so-called "headers" have found their way into the system, which connects the typical title bars at the top of a window with the toolbars of the respective program in order to be able to offer more space for the actual application. Some new applications were also presented, e.g. B. Maps, photos and notes. Many existing applications have been updated and improved. The so-called "optimization tool" has been completely revised to make it more user-friendly. For the first time, since GNOME 3.0, a separate background image can be set up for the lock screen.

Version 3.12 was released on March 26, 2014. The initial setup wizard has been made more user-friendly and now offers a larger map for selecting the time zone. Furthermore, the language and region are now set separately and an avatar can be added for the user account. The software application has been revised and, according to the GNOME developers, now runs more smoothly. The possibility to revise software sources was added and the program entries were supplemented with screenshots and ratings. The video application has been revised and, in addition to local files, online services such as The Guardian and can also be searched. The text editor gedit got a new, more compact look and the settings menus were redesigned. The interface has largely been supplemented by functions, so wired networks are now displayed in the system status display, dialogues are available in the activity overview. Applications folders can be used to group applications to make them easier to find. The support for high-resolution monitors introduced with version 3.10 has been expanded in this version. The tabs got a new look, which from the point of view of the GNOME developers is more harmonious than the old design in many places. As examples, the developers cite different backgrounds of the tabs and better utilization of the available space. The "Pop-up dialogs" element has been added in GNOME 3.12. These are cross-fading menus that offer various configuration options for an application. The integration of cloud services in GNOME is more advanced, so support for Google Cloud Print and Google Drive has been added. The Photos program was integrated into Facebook and you can also search your own Flickr accounts for the background image in the settings. The Bluetooth settings have been revised so that available devices are automatically detected. Furthermore, the GNOME developers expanded the experimental Wayland support in version 3.10 .

GNOME version 3.14 was released on September 24, 2014.

On March 25, 2015, Gnome 3.16 was released, which contains a new notification system. The notification pop-ups remained, but old notifications are now displayed along with the calendar. The calendar now shows the world time and event reminders. Weather information and birthday reminders will appear in future versions. The Nautilus file manager now shows preview images larger and has been expanded to include a pop-up dialog. According to the developer, the user interface is much more appealing than before thanks to more legible lines. Furthermore, files can now be deleted with Entfinstead Strg+Entf . With the new GNOME version, the interface has been renewed. The login screen, the activity overview, the system menus, etc. have been given a new design that matches GNOME 3.16 from the developer's point of view. In addition to a revised GUI, the image viewer received a control element to enlarge or reduce images. The new version includes the calendar programs , a calendar that can be linked to the online accounts, the character table for characters and the e-book reader books . The latter only supports comics so far. The front-end of the package management enables programs to be installed as well as codecs. To make it easier to create software with graphical interfaces for Linux, the integrated development environment Builder was implemented. The Wayland support has been expanded so that the login screen now supports Wayland.

GNOME version 3.18 was released on September 23, 2015. This made it possible to integrate Google Drive into the file manager. In general, the file manager received a lot of revisions. Nautilus now shows the progress and further information while copying. If a light sensor is available, Gnome 3.18 enables the screen brightness to automatically adjust to the environment. There was also an application to update the firmware of the available hardware. With the version update, gestures can also be used with touch panels. This feature, introduced in Gnome 3.14, was previously only possible with touch-sensitive displays. The Evince document viewer now enables the playback of integrated multimedia content in PDF documents, as well as a better comment function. The IRC client Polari and the virtualization software Boxes received further improvements .

Gnome version 3.20 was released on March 23, 2016. With this version, the support of the Wayland display server is considered to be sufficiently developed for daily use. However, not all functions such as Wacom graphics tablets are supported yet. The software management enables the user to update not only the installed software, but also the entire operating system. In addition, the application enables the user to rate the software. The Photos program now enables partial editing of images, such as B. the color or the application of some artistic filters. However, the original file remains unchanged. The notification area now allows access to the media control, which displays information such as the title and artist of the music being played. The file manager was further improved, special attention was paid to the search function, which received revised search filters. The newly introduced shortcut windows are intended to enable keyboard shortcuts to be found more quickly. In the new version of the Maps application, the user can edit the OpenStreetMap and it shows detailed information about the locations. In addition, the maps can now be exported in other formats. The location service received another revision. This can now be switched on and off individually for each application. If GNOME 3.20 searches for W-LAN access points, the MAC address of the user is obfuscated to make him less traceable.

GNOME 3.24 was introduced on March 22, 2017. With this version, a night mode has been introduced and the printer's ink level is also displayed in the settings. The “Recipes” application has been added to the desktop environment. Improved u. a. the notification area, web browser, IRC client, and Photos application. The resolution of the symbols has been quadrupled and other applications have been improved, according to the developers.

GNOME 3.28, code-named " Chongqing ", was released on March 14, 2018. In addition to new applications such as utilization (a diagnostic tool to resolve performance and capacity problems), device support, especially Thunderbold 3, has been improved. In addition, aesthetic improvements such as the improvement of the standard Cantarell font were made.

With version 3.30, codenamed “ Almería ”, released on September 5, 2018, Flatpak packages can be updated via the software management and the GNOME application “Boxes” now supports connecting to a server via Remote Desktop Protocol . The application “Drives” can now automatically mount drives encrypted with VeraCrypt and the speed of the desktop environment in general should have been increased. Furthermore, GNOME 3.30 builds on GTK +  3.24 and the design guidelines for applications have been revised.


The Gnome desktop is based on various program libraries and modules, some of which are projects. A selection of important components that serve as the basis for the applications of the Gnome project and thus form the so-called Gnome platform is listed here:

GLib , GObject
Software libraries for basic functionality and object system . Most of the other software libraries used in Gnome are based on it.
Software library, among other things for asynchronous input and output of data, network functionality, but also the storage of application settings. In the background it uses the network-transparent , virtual file system layer GVFS and the configuration system dconf .
System for communication between programs and services with one another. Since this is used across desktop environments, it is also possible to communicate with KDE programs , for example .
Collection of elements for graphical user interfaces ( GUI toolkit ). The elements are drawn with the Cairo vector graphics library , Pango takes care of the layout of the internationalized text and font . ATK ( Accessibility Toolkit ) is used as the accessibility interface .
WebKitGTK +
Presentation of web content, such as in the Gnome web browser Epiphany , but also offline content, such as in the help system.
An OpenGL based software library for organizing and animating graphic elements in a 3D scene graph . Gnome 3's interface, called the Gnome Shell , makes heavy use of Clutter, as do some other Gnome applications.
Modular multimedia subsystem for audio and video. Building on this, there is the simpler Canberra software library , with which system sounds are output. Audio outputs are passed on from GStreamer to the network-transparent sound middleware PulseAudio .
Semantic data storage, file indexer and desktop search . Tracker was added as a module in Gnome 2.30.
Software framework for communication between people, for example via instant messaging or IP telephony .
Evolution data server
Framework for personal information management .
Gnome keyring
Security system for managing cryptographic keys and passwords .
Compositing - Window manager from Gnome, which replaced the Metacity window manager with Gnome 3 . Like its name, the project is a combination of Metacity and Clutter .

Other projects that are used in the Gnome platform include libxml2 for XML processing, Soup for HTTP communication, Poppler for PDF display, Rygel as a DLNA / UPnP media server and udev for communication with the hardware.

Obsolete components that have already been retired or will be retired in preparation for Gnome 3.0 are Bonobo , ORBit, GConf , HAL , libgnome, libglade, GtkHTML , GnomeVFS, ESD .

Different language bindings allow you to write applications for Gnome in a variety of programming languages. Using GTK + as a toolkit makes it possible to customize the appearance of icons, windows and components with the help of themes.

Gnome Foundation

The Gnome Foundation works for the goal of providing Gnome with a complete desktop consisting of Free Software. To do this, she determines which projects are an official part of Gnome. The Foundation is the official mouthpiece of Gnome. It also produces documentation or teaching material for the public. It also organizes Gnome-related conferences such as the GUADEC ( Gnome Users and Developers European Conference ) or the Boston Summit, helps create technical standards and promotes the use and further development of Gnome.

Supporting companies and organizations

As of version 2.0 at the latest, several large companies and organizations are involved in the further development of the Gnome desktop. Support ranges from hardware donations to employing the main developers and creating free applications to specifying a development strategy. Some of these organizations are listed below:


The efforts to keep everything simple and clear are sometimes criticized as being too largely and complained that sometimes even useful functionality is removed again in the cleanliness mania. Linus Torvalds accused Gnome developers of branding the user as an idiot and called Gnome developers "interface Nazis" and repeatedly called for the use of the alternative desktop environment K Desktop Environment on. These points of criticism are countered by the fact that it is quite possible for experienced users to use external extensions such as Devil's Pie or the GConf editor to set settings beyond the standard options of Gnome. In addition, Torvalds temporarily used Gnome himself, as he found KDE Plasma Desktop 4.0 , which he updated with Fedora , to be a disaster. However, KDE 4.0 and 4.1 were expressly not intended for end users, the corresponding release only took place with KDE 4.2.

In 2011, Unity replaced the Gnome Shell as the standard interface in Ubuntu version 11.04 . The reasons included disagreements between Gnome and Canonical developers. Gnome had rejected several Canonical developments for the Gnome project, whereupon Canonical decided not to support Gnome 3 and only offer Gnome 2 as an alternative option.

In spring 2017, Canonical announced a return to Gnome as the standard desktop. Initially this was intended for version 18.04, but was then brought forward to 17.10.

Gnome 3

The new version Gnome 3, in particular, has been criticized many times because it continues the "idiot concept" already mentioned and deviates completely from the Unix concept of keeping things simple and straightforward. Linus Torvalds, for example, specifically criticizes:

"Here's an example of 'the crazy': you want a new terminal window. So you go to 'activities' and press the 'terminal' thing that you've made part of your normal desktop thing (but why can't I just have it on the desktop, instead of in that insane 'activities' mode?) . What happens? Nothing. It brings your existing terminal to the forefront. "

“An example of this madness: You want a new terminal window. So you go to 'Activities' and hit the 'Terminal' part that you added to your desktop thing (why can't you just put it on the desktop instead of this nonsensical 'Activities' mode?) . What happens? Nothing. It brings the existing terminal window back to the foreground. "

- Linus Torvalds

This criticism is based on the fact that Gnome 3 introduces a completely different, previously unfamiliar operating concept. It is argued that newbies may be more comfortable with it, but experienced users may not be able to work efficiently with it. Furthermore, some Gnome developers are of the opinion that one must deviate from the habits of the " geeks " if one wants to make the Linux desktop a success. However, in a later comment, Torvalds wrote that he found other desktop environments that he tried, such as Unity , KDE Plasma Workspaces, and Xfce , to be even worse than Gnome 3.

In version 3.2 of Gnome, some of the most criticized things have been improved or removed.

Possible alternatives with an operating concept comparable to Gnome 2 are the desktop interfaces Xfce and MATE . Like Gnome 2, both are based on GTK + 2; MATE is also a fork of Gnome 2 and thus a direct further development of this Gnome version under a different name. Furthermore, the Cinnamon project tries to combine the usual Gnome 2 operation with innovations from the successor version Gnome 3. Debian , Ubuntu , openSUSE , Arch Linux and Fedora have included Cinnamon in their package sources .

In response to the criticism, the "Classic Mode" was extended in version 3.8 of Gnome, the operating concept of which is based on that of Gnome 2.


Web links

Commons : GNOME  - collection of images, videos and audio files

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