GNOME Devs Are Working on a New Window Management System

The new windowing system would use a mosaic behavior by default with tiling capabilities.
GNOME Window Management

During the GUADEC 2023 conference, GNOME developer Tobias Bernard showcased a new window management system that it’s scheduled to replace GNOME’s traditional windowing system in a future release.

I think everyone who used GNOME knows how its windowing system works. Each new window is opened on top of an existing window and arranged in a cascading manner. There’s nothing wrong with this traditional windowing system, but if you open too many windows things may get messy.

Personally, I’ve never used more than a handful of opened windows at a time and I find GNOME’s windowing system flawless. However, the GNOME devs try to address the issue of users who are dealing with numerous opened windows at the same time.

With GNOME’s existing windowing systems, when you open more than 8 stacked windows on a Full HD (1920×1080) screen with 100% scaling, newly opened windows will be opened over existing ones, which, of course, will no longer be visible.

There’s another issue with GNOME’s current windowing system. If the stacking is interrupted, newly opened windows will be opened from the top, covering the first opened window.

The problem with stacked windows can be solved by using a tiling window manager. But tiling window managers have their own issues, in the way that they can place new windows in arbitrary positions or resize windows too narrow to be used properly.

To address some of these issues the majority of people face and also make GNOME’s windowing system more user-friendly for people who are new to computing, the GNOME devs are currently planning a new window management system that uses a mosaic behavior.

“Mosaic is the default behavior. You open a window, it opens centered on the screen at a size that makes the most sense for the app,” says Tobias Bernard in a blog post. “As you open more windows, the existing windows move aside to make room for the new ones. If a new window doesn’t fit it moves to its own workspace. If the window layout comes close to filling the screen, the windows are automatically tiled.”

In addition, the new windowing system that the GNOME devs are envisioning will allow you to manually tile windows while the rest of the windows are left in a smaller mosaic layout. In addition, tiling won’t be limited to just two windows side by side as the space occupied by a tiled window can be split to make room for another window over or under it.

It’s a great idea, but it’s just an idea. To implement this in a future version of the GNOME desktop environment it will take a very long time because the devs need to take into account a number of factors, such as the content of a window, the maximum desired size of a window, or the ideal size of a window where the app works/looks the best.

“On the design side, the biggest uncertainty is the mosaic behavior — it’s a novel approach to window management without much prior art. That’s exciting, but also makes it a bit risky to jump head-first into implementation,” explains Tobias Bernard.

For this new windowing system to become a reality, the GNOME devs would have to do a lot of user research and test numerous scenarios so that everyone can be happy. As you can imagine, this could take months or even years, so if you want to get involved and help them do it faster, please reach out to the GNOME team here.

Image and video credits: GNOME Project/Jakub Steiner

Last updated 7 months ago

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com