First Look at GNOME 40’s New Design Changes in Fedora 34

GNOME 40 first look

It’s that time of the year again, when I take a first look at the new features and improvements of the next major release of the popular GNOME desktop environment, in this case GNOME 40.

As you probably already know, the biggest change in the upcoming GNOME 40 desktop series, due for release in late March 2021 (that’s only a month and a half from the moment of writing), is the redesigned Activities Overview, the screen you see when clicking on the Activities icon on the panel in the left top corner.

In GNOME 3.38 and earlier versions, the Activities Overview had a vertical layout, but in GNOME 40 is has a horizontal layout, which actually makes navigation between workspaces and the app management more intuitive.

I have to admit that I don’t usually use the Activities Overview to switch between apps or move between workspaces. Also, I don’t like to click on the Activities icon in the panel to access the dock, and then access the apps I want to launch. Therefore, whenever I install a GNOME-based distro, the first thing I do is to enable the awesome Dash to Dock extension.

Dash to Dock makes the dock-like application launcher you see in the Activities Overview always visible on the screen so you can easily and quickly access your favorite and most used apps. Also, in GNOME 3.38 and earlier versions, it lets you position the dock at the bottom of the screen.

In GNOME 40, the horizontal layout also places the dock at the bottom of the screen, and workspaces are now displayed horizontally as previews on the top of the window picker, right under the search field, and navigated horizontally even using the mouse wheel.

This makes accessing apps and workspaces a lot faster since it lets you see everything at a glance without having to go from the left side of the screen to the right. Also, you don’t have to hover the workspaces sidebar on the right anymore to see and access your virtual workspaces.

Bottom line, there’s nothing to be scared off in GNOME 40’s new Activities Overview design. In fact, according to the GNOME developers, this new design offers better overview spatial organization, improved touchpad navigation, and better boot performance (imagine that, a faster and more intuitive GNOME desktop).

Moreover, in the new Activities Overview design, all the apps now show their icons so you can identify them much easier. Other design changes introduced in GNOME 40 include the ability to fully rearrange the app grid using drag and drop, as well as the ability to view an application’s full title when hovering its launcher.

There’s also a new design for the items shown in the top panel, including the Activities icon, extensions, calendar applet, the entry of each app you have open, as well as the systray menu. This consists of the fact that they are no longer underlined, but have a nice and modern highlight over them when hovered with the cursor.

On top of all that, since GNOME 40’s new design uses the next-generation GTK 4 toolkit, you’ll much nicer and modern buttons and dialog design all over the place, including the Settings window and all default apps.

GNOME 40 on Fedora 34

For this first look, I’ve previewed the GNOME 40 desktop environment on the upcoming Fedora 34 operating system, due out in late April 2021, since Ubuntu 21.04 won’t ship with GNOME 40 by default.

Fedora Linux offers a pure GNOME desktop experience for all GNOME fans out there, and this is where the development of the next major GNOME release takes place. The beta version of GNOME 40 will be ready for public testing at the end of the week, starting on Valentine’s Day.

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