GNOME 40 Alpha Released for Public Testing with New Activities Overview Design

GNOME 40 alpha


Jordan Petridis announced today via an email announcement the general availability for public testing of the alpha version of the upcoming GNOME 40 desktop environment.

After about four months since it entered development, the upcoming GNOME 40 desktop environment series, due for release at the end of March 2021, now has an initial development release that anyone can test it to get an early taste of the new features and improvements.

After about four months since it entered development, the upcoming GNOME 40 desktop environment series, due for release at the end of March 2021, now has an initial development release that anyone can test it to get an early taste of the new features and improvements.

The biggest new feature in GNOME 40 looks to be a reimagined Activities Overview that promises better overview spatial organization, improved touchpad navigation using gestures, more engaging app browsing and launching, as well as better boot performance.

In the revamped Activities Overview of the GNOME Shell, the workspaces are now arranged horizontally and will appear in a continuous sequence from left to right, allowing users to pan and scroll it. In addition, the new UI design introduces app icons for windows for easier identification, and the window title will be displayed on hover.

While it looks fairly similar to the design in GNOME 3.38, the App Grid received a small design change too in GNOME 40, now displaying pages horizontal instead of vertically. In addition, the new shell design promises an intuitive navigation and orientation, most likely to better support mobile devices.

“This is the primary motivation for changing the orientation of workspaces from vertical to horizontal: with the workspaces laid out horizontally, the vertical axis can be used to control movement in and out of the overview and app grid,” explained developer Allan Day.

Apart from the GNOME Shell UI revamp, GNOME 40 alpha also comes with major improvements to the Epiphany (GNOME Web) web browser, new features for the GNOME Calculator like metric cups conversion unit, various small improvements for thumbnails on the GNOME desktop, and improved login screen accessibility.

Moreover, GNOME Maps received improved handling of OpenStreetMap URLs, zooming to bounding boxes in search results, place bubbles redesign with larger thumbnails, tidy list view, and summaries from Wikipedia when available in OpenStreetMap, as well as more adapative UI fixes for the no-network display.

Also improved in GNOME 40 alpha is the Do-Not-Disturb support, the app picker spacing on larger resolutions, the screencast indicator on X11, inline-replies in chat notifications, mobile broadband support, as well as the MPRIS notification layout.

Last but not least, GNOME System Monitor has a revamped and improved UI with random colors for cores, two decimals precision for CPU usage, and a new CPU affinity feature. GNOME Weather also brings a major redesign with new charts and an adaptive UI for mobile and desktop.

The Nautilus file manager now supports file creation date/time and handles rotated images in the Preferences dialog. Finally, the Mutter window manager now works better on Wayland and allows remote desktop clients to specify the scroll source, adds support for scroll button locking, and improves tablet-mode-switch support.

If you want to give GNOME 40 alpha a try right now, you’ll have to either compile the packages using the sandboxed official BuildStream project snapshot, which you can download from here, or the individual source packages.

Of course, you can also use an early development version of an upcoming GNU/Linux distribution that will provide the GNOME 40 packages, such as Fedora 34. However, please try to keep in mind that this is a pre-release version and it’s not suitable for production use, it is primarily intended for testing and hacking purposes.

Image credits: Allan Day/GNOME Project

Last updated 6 months ago