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See What’s New in GNOME 3.26

The latest and greatest GNOME desktop is here — and we're impressed!

GNOME 3.26 release

Today sees the release of GNOME 3.26 — and you’re probably wondering what new features are going to be on offer.

Well, don’t sweat it: that’s what this post is here to tell you!

‘…there are still 6 months worth of improvements on offer’

GNOME 3.26 is the 33rd stable release of what is (probably) the world’s most popular free, open-source desktop.

Although this latest update appears modest when compared to the GNOME 3.24 release we raved about back in March, there are still 6 months worth of welcome improvements and new features on offer.

So let’s get lookin’ at ’em!

New GNOME 3.26 Features

The GNOME desktop is made up of multiple parts. This includes the main user interface (called ‘GNOME Shell’) as well as core apps (like the file manager Nautilus), and ‘invisible’ background libraries and services that help glue everything together.

GNOME Shell 3.26

gnome shell search results in 3.26

‘GNOME Shell 3.26 is fast and responsive — I’m impressed!’

The GNOME Shell is what most of us think of when we think of the GNOME desktop. As the default user interface (UI) GNOME Shell 3.26 rightly features a number of improvements. Though these are mostly small tweaks they add up to an easier, faster and responsive whole.

Take the improved search view, which you can see in the screenshot above.

Layout tweaks mean you get to see more matching app results, more related settings and actions, and more of your own files when searching from the overview.

You can also search for system actions to power off, suspend, log out, switch user or activate the lock screen from the search overview, without needing to take your hands off of the keyboard.

gnome shell 3.26 larger thumbnails

It’s easier to find the window you want to switch to in the Activities Overview of GNOME 3.26. This is because window thumbnails are now much larger, and they make better use of the space. The fewer windows open, the larger the previews you see.

If you look closely at the screenshot above you’ll also notice a new blue ‘highlight’ and app label, as well as more prominent close button.

Legacy Tray Removal

GNOME 3.26 removes the legacy system tray used to display try icons for many popular apps, including Skype, Dropbox and Discord. GNOME designer Allan Day details the reasons why in a blog post.

gnome shell legacy tray

The legacy system tray is gone in GNOME 3.26

While most of these (and other) apps run just fine without an accessible tray icon, you may find the experience lacking.

Never fear, GNOME Extensions are here. Specifically the TopIcons Plus extension, which can be installed using your web-browser.

TopIcons plus not only lets you see (and use) legacy tray items again but it integrates them into the top bar, next to the main GNOME status menu.

Y’know, where these icons belong!

The New ‘Settings’ App

GNOME 3.26 settings

The GNOME Control Center is now called Settings — and with a new name comes a striking new look.

‘GNOME Control Center is now called Settings, and with a new name comes a striking new look.’

Settings now uses a sidebar for simplified navigation between the various settings sections, ditching the old grid of icons approach.

Many of the different settings sections, which GNOME designers refer to as ‘panels’, are improved too (all of which you’ll be well aware of it you read this site regularly).

A new, dedicated Wi-Fi settings panel makes it a breeze to manage your wireless connections, set-up a VPN or configure a proxy. Multi-monitor users will also appreciate the improved Display settings, which aims to make it tweaking a multi-screen set up easier.

Window Animations

Also, remember I said there was changes that sound small but help make a big difference? Take the new window animations when taking windows from maximized to unmaximized or snapping to the screen: 

If you pay close attention to the view you’ll also spot the Top Bar dynamic transparency.

This setting is enabled by default in GNOME 3.26. When no windows are touching the top bar it’s semi-transparent. When a window is maximised or put beside it the top bar becomes solid.

Nautilus 3.26

Full Text Search in GNOME 3.26

Files, better known by the name Nautilus, is the trusty GNOME file manager. Whether you use the GNOME desktop or a GNOME-based one like Unity or Budgie, chances are you use Nautilus as the file manager.

As you’d expect Files 3.26 boasts plenty of bug fixes and stability improvements in its latest update, including the (much requested) ability to perform Full Text Search.

Nautilus full text search is optional and can be enabled when using the search pop-over. It searches for matching words inside (supported) documents, as well as using the file name.

Files also picks up a couple of new tricks.

For instance, you can now reopen a closed tab in Nautilus by pressing the familiar Ctrl + Shift + T keyboard shortcut. You can also use Ctrl + Tab to quickly jump between open tabs in the focused Nautilus window.

Other changes in Files 3.26 include:

  • Support for deleting files using number pad delete key
  • Support for unpacking archives on remote locations
  • Focus when a new folder is created
  • Google Drive mount improvements

GNOME Web 3.26 Adds Firefox Sync

Web, the GNOME browser, picks up a killer new feature in this release: support for Firefox Sync.

It’s now possible to share bookmarks, browser history, passwords, and even open tabs, between Firefox and GNOME Web 3.26 across devices by using the Firefox Sync service.

To get started just dive in to the new ‘Sync’ menu in Web’s preferences. 

Other Core App Updates

Polari and Photos in GNOME 3.26

Nautilus & Web aren’t the only GNOME core apps to get some attention this cycle. A swathe of other useful software also benefit.

GNOME Photos (pictured above) picks up zoom in/zoom out buttons visible viewing photos, while Maps learns some nifty new keyboard shortcuts.

Polari 3.26 (also pictured above) improves the IRC experiencing using a new set-up wizard. It also gains an in-app emoji picker — perfect for replying with a well timed peach butt.

Boxes 3.26 lets you share folders between a virtual machine and your computer. 

Software 3.26 improves support for Flatpak app, groups pending software updates based on their type/, and now provides more useful information during the app installation process.

Evince 3.26 is the latest version of the GNOME document viewer. It lets you preview Adobe Illustrator files and CBR comic book archives.

And finally, it’s now super easy to add and edit recurring events in Calendar, the desktop calendar app — perfect for scheduling your 6-month reminder of a new Ubuntu release!

GNOME 3.26 in summary

GNOME 3.26 is the same GNOME desktop you’re used to, but a little faster, a little neater, and a little easier to use.

Getting GNOME 3.26

A new release! Much excite! Such want! But hold your galloping horses — here’s where things get a little disappointing if you’re running Ubuntu.

‘Ubuntu devs have made it very easy to […] experience GNOME 3.26 as GNOME intend’

Although it is released today GNOME 3.26 will not be automatically available through the software update mechanisms you get all your other updates from.

If you’re running Ubuntu 17.04 you may be able to upgrade using some unsupported PPAs in the coming weeks. You won’t be able to upgrade to GNOME 3.26 on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS or earlier.

But don’t get angry! The ‘good’ news is that next month sees the release of Ubuntu 17.10.

Ubuntu 17.10 uses GNOME 3.26 by default, though it makes a small number of tweaks to the out-of-the-box experience, such as adding a desktop dock, including support for legacy system tray items, using a terrible different GTK and icon theme, and so on.

Ubuntu devs know that not everyone wants or will appreciate their handiwork. So they’ve made it very easy to install a vanilla GNOME 3.26 session on Ubuntu 17.10, letting you experience GNOME 3.26 as GNOME intend.

If you’re using a different Linux distribution, like Fedora, Arch, Manjaro or Hannah Montana Linux you’ll need to check with your distro’s package maintainers to see what their plans or time scale for making this release available is.