By Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
GNOME is part of the GNU Project and can be used with various Unix-like operating systems, most notably Linux and as part of the Java Desktop System in Solaris
In 1996, the KDE project was started. KDE itself was free and open source from the start, but members of the GNU project were concerned with KDE's dependence on the (then) non-GPL Qt widget toolkit, owned by Trolltech. In August 1997, two projects were started in response to this issue: the Harmony toolkit, a free replacement for the Qt libraries, and GNOME, a different desktop not using Qt but built on GTK+ licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL), a free software license that allows GPL-incompatible software to link to it. The GNOME desktop itself is licensed under the LGPL for its libraries, and the GPL for applications that are part of the GNOME project. Having the toolkit and libraries under the LGPL allowed applications written for GNOME to use a much wider set of licenses (including proprietary software licenses). The initial project leaders and founders for GNOME were two Mexican programmers Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena.
In 2000, Qt was made available under the GNU GPL terms. Trolltech offered dual-licensing under both QPL terms and GNU GPL terms and granted exceptions to other specific licenses like the Apache License. Qt's GNU GPL-derived license, however, continued to restrict linking Qt with arbitrary proprietary software at no charge; GTK+'s LGPL license did not impose this restriction and differentiated it from Qt. At the end of 2000, the Harmony Project ceased, as KDE no longer depended on non-GPL software; the development of GNOME continues (as of 2011). In March 2009, after Trolltech was bought by Nokia, Qt 4.5 was released and added an LGPL licensing as a third option.
The California startup Eazel developed the Nautilus file manager from 1999 to 2001. De Icaza and Nat Friedman founded Helix Code (later Ximian) in 1999 in Massachusetts. The company developed GNOME's infrastructure and applications, and in 2003 was purchased by Novell.
The name “GNOME” is an acronym of GNU Network Object Model Environment. It refers to GNOME’s original intention of creating a distributed object framework similar to Microsoft’s OLE. This no longer reflects the core vision of the GNOME project, and the full expansion of the name is now considered obsolete. As such, some members of the project advocate dropping the acronym and re-naming "GNOME" to "Gnome".
Controversy over supported platforms
In May 2011 Lennart Poettering proposed systemd as a dependency for further releases of GNOME. As systemd is available only on Linux, the proposal lead to discussion of possibility to drop other platforms support in future GNOME releases. While some met the proposal with criticism others evolved the idea to GNOME Operating System on top of Linux kernel.
While the discussion on mailing list ended with no conclusive result, the GNOME 3.2 Release Notes state that systemd will be used in GNOME 3.4 release.
As with most free software projects, the GNOME project is loosely-managed. Discussion chiefly occurs on a number of public mailing lists.
In August 2000, the GNOME Foundation was set up to deal with administrative tasks and press interest, and to act as a contact point for companies interested in developing GNOME software. While not directly involved in technical decisions, the Foundation does coordinate releases and decide which projects will be part of GNOME. Membership is open to anyone who has made a non-trivial contribution to the project. Members of the Foundation elect a board of directors every November, and candidates for the positions must be members themselves.
Developers and users of GNOME gather at an annual meeting known as GUADEC to discuss the current state of the project and its future direction.
GNOME often incorporates standards from freedesktop.org to allow GNOME applications to better interoperate with other desktops, encouraging both cooperation and competition.
According to the GNOME website:
The GNOME project puts heavy emphasis on simplicity, usability, and making things “just work”. The other aims of the project are:
Look and feel
Up until GNOME 3.x was released, GNOME was designed around the traditional computing desktop metaphor. Its handling of windows, applications and files is similar to that of contemporary desktop operating systems. In its default configuration, the desktop has a launcher menu for quick access to installed programs and file locations; open windows may be accessed by a taskbar along the bottom of the screen, and the top-right corner features a notification area for programs to display notices while running in the background. However, these features can be moved to almost any position or orientation the user desires, replaced with other functions or removed altogether.
GNOME 2.x uses Metacity as its default window manager. Users can change the appearance of their desktop through the use of themes, which are bundles of an icon set, window manager border and GTK+ theme engine and parameters. Popular GTK+ themes include Bluecurve and Clearlooks. The current default theme is Adwaita.
With the release of GNOME 3.0, the traditional computer desktop metaphor was abandoned in favor of a user interface where switching between tasks and workspaces takes place in a separate interface. Icons and menus, both staples of traditional interface design, are noticeably absent from the GNOME Shell UI, as they were deemed by the developers to be no longer relevant to the GNOME desktop.
The HIG helps developers to produce applications that look and behave similarly, which provides a cohesive GNOME interface and enables customization using themes.
Since GNOME 2.0, a key focus of the project has been usability. To this end, the GNOME Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) were created. Following the guide, developers can create high-quality, consistent, and usable GUI programs, as it addresses everything from GUI design to recommended pixel-based layout of widgets.
During the 2.0 rewrite, many settings were deemed to be of little or no value to the majority of users and were removed. For instance, the preferences section of the Panel was reduced from a dialog of six tabs to one with two tabs. Havoc Pennington summarized the usability work in his 2002 essay "Free Software UI", emphasizing the idea that all preferences have a cost, and it is better to "unbreak the software" than to add a UI preference to do that:
Controversy over GNOME 3.0
Other Linux users and developers have added to Torvald's criticism of GNOME 3.0. Stephen Ewen, lead developer for UberStudent, a Linux distribution for higher education and secondary students and schools, has cited examples demonstrating that GNOME 3.0 is a "hindrance" to student academic computing productivity. He further argued that the usability issues of GNOME 3.0 compared to its prior version placed much of the Linux desktop world into what he described as a "crisis." He stated that this was brought on because GNOME's developers had "become personally enthralled with Apple Macs." Ewen added that the enthrallment "has led to a major shift in overall Linux strategy, one that chooses to take on Apple and its encroachment into Microsoft dominance rather than Microsoft dominance itself." He concluded by urging a refocus away from Apple and back toward Microsoft, and by expressing his hope that the issue would self-correct over time due to Linux's free and open source nature.
In responding to some of these criticisms, GNOME designer William Jon McCann responded in an interview by saying that "people are not making it up and it may indeed not be what they like", stating that "there are a lot of different products out there that may fit their way of working better." However, he also reminded them that "this isn't the first time we have encountered such reactions", adding that "many of the same people who are now claiming that GNOME2 was such a great thing for them were some of the most vocal opponents of the things we did in GNOME2." He also commented that some "feedback is certainly valid and we are going to use that to make informed decisions in the GNOME3 cycle", stressing that GNOME 3 is still early in development and that it took "eight, nine years to get to where GNOME2 ended up and we've had like four months of GNOME3."
GNOME 3 also features a more traditional GNOME Panel interface available as a "Fallback Mode" in situations where the GNOME Shell can not launch due to a computer not meeting its higher hardware demands such as compositing and further desktop effects, although it can also be toggled to be activated by the user. The Fallback mode has most of the same features as the old GNOME Panel, including the placement of applets and the ability to move them around panels, although the mechanism for doing this has been slightly altered. GNOME developer Vincent Untz has stated that, while he prefers the default interface, users who do not appreciate the Shell may be more at home in the Fallback mode. Both the GNOME Shell and the Fallback mode can also be further customized through the use of the "Gnome Tweak Tool", allowing users to regain a traditional desktop, change themes and fonts, and change various settings that are normally unavailable in an effort to regain a more traditional desktop.
Reactions to GNOME Shell have also not been universally negative. Scott Gilbertson of The Register commented in his review of Fedora 15, one of the first distributions to ship GNOME 3, that while there is "no question that GNOME 3 will be something of a shock for those accustomed to working with the GNOME 2.x line", that the new interface in the end "really does feel like a vast improvement over GNOME 2." Supporting his argument, he commented that one of the Shell's greatest strengths is "that it doesn't look like a cheap knock-off of Windows". Gilbertson concludes that the "result is a cleaner interface, to be sure, but one that's also very different from most OS designs."
GNOME relies upon a large number of different projects.
A number of language bindings are available, allowing applications to be written in a variety of programming languages, such as C++ (gtkmm), Java (java-gnome), Ruby (ruby-gnome2), C# (Gtk#), Python (PyGTK), Perl (gtk2-perl), Tcl (Gnocl) and many others. The only languages currently used in applications that are part of an official GNOME desktop release are C, C++, C#, Python and Vala.
Each of the component software products in the GNOME project has its own version number and release schedule. However, individual module maintainers coordinate their efforts to create a full GNOME stable release on an approximately six-month schedule.
Some experimental projects are excluded from these releases.
GNOME releases are made to the main FTP server in the form of source code with configure scripts, which are compiled by operating system vendors and integrated with the rest of their systems before distribution. Most vendors use only stable and tested versions of GNOME, and provide it in the form of easily-installed, pre-compiled packages. The source code of every stable and development version of GNOME is stored in the GNOME Git source code repository.
A number of build-scripts (such as Jhbuild or GARNOME) are available to help automate the process of compiling the source code.
GNOME is the default desktop environment for several Linux distributions, see Comparison of Linux distributions for details.
The previous release was version 2.32, which was released in September 2010. It included improvements to the Empathy IM client, Evince, and the Nautilus file manager. It also added Rygel and GNOME Color Manager.
Version 2.32 was the last major release planned before version 3.0.
Tests reveal that GNOME 2 (version 2.29) has lower memory utilization compared to KDE 4.4, but higher than Xfce 4.6 and LXDE 0.5 (which are also based on GTK+ like GNOME).
Version 3.0 of the desktop environment was released on April 6, 2011. It was announced at the July 2008 GUADEC conference in Istanbul. The code name ToPaZ (standing for Three Point Zero) was introduced around 2005 and for a long time was only a playground for vague ideas. Quite a few mock-ups were created as part of several ToPaZ brainstorming processes.
Though the philosophy around GNOME mandates that changes are incremental, the desktop received a major overhaul with the GNOME Shell.
Version 3.2 was released on September 28, 2011 and is currently the latest version of the Gnome desktop.
Screenshots of GNOME milestone releases
Published - November 2011
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