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New GNOME 3.4 Release Offers Features, Fun & UI Finesse

The latest version of the GNOME desktop has been released today.

But what’s new, what’s improved?

Dynamic Wallpaper

“He’s starting by telling us about the wallpaper? Geesh!”

I know it’s an odd place to start but I can’t resist. The default drape for 3.4 is has been made dynamic, with the lighting of it ‘becoming brighter and more radiant during the day, and dark and shadowy in the evening’.

It’s a small addition, but super attentive – and I like that.

Apps

The bulk of GNOME 3.4’s changes concern their shelf of applications.

Address book app ‘Contacts’, organiser ‘Documents‘, and disk management utility ‘Disks’ all benefit from updated ‘fresh’ interfaces, helping to better balance the emerging GNOME ‘look’ that their earlier counterparts sometimes contradicted.

The default chat client ‘Empathy’ gains improved video calling, whilst the XMPP-powered Facebook and Windows Live Messenger chat protocols make their official debut.

Web

Arguably the ‘jewel’ in the GNOME 3.4 application crown is ‘Web’ – the web browser previously known as Epiphany.

Work on streamlining its interface, adding modern features and generally dragging what was always (without sounding too harsh) nothing more than a curiosity into something that’s more than capable of holding its own in the wide world of the modern web.

Gnome 3.4 with Web and Documents on Show

App Menus

Although some think it a battle confined to Ubuntu’s Unity, the march of the modern desktop towards a more intuitive moder application menu features in GNOME 3.4 by way of the ‘Application Menu’ – a sort of Chrome Wrench style approach to condensing the footprint of menus whilst speeding up access to important features.

Not many application on GNOME make use of it yet (Luddites may lower their picthforks), so mark this as one to watch in the future.

Slimmer Scrollbars

Misc�Improvements

  • Undo support in Nautilus
  • Smoother scrolling
  • ‘Every Detail Matters’ UI fixes
  • Better hardware support

How to Try GNOME 3.4

It’s an exciting release and chances are that you want to play with it. So how do you go about getting it?

A Live CD of GNOME 3.4 based on OpenSuSE can be downloaded from the GNOME website @ gnome.org

How to install GNOME 3.4 in Ubuntu

Ubuntu users might not like the idea of switching distro solely to enjoy GNOME 3.4, and the good news is that, for the most part, they don’t need to.

Ubuntu 12.04 will ship with a number of updated packages from GNOME 3.4 (such as GNOME 3.4), whilst others will remain on their GNOME 3.2 counterpart (such as Totem Movie Player) for stability reasons.

It’s important to remember that 12.04 is a Long Term Support release.

GNOME 3.4 packages that aren’t included by default in Ubuntu, such as Web, Contacts and Documents, will either be readily available to install through the Ubuntu Software Center or, if aforementioned stability reasons mean they can’t be, through a dedicated GNOME 3 PPA maintained by GNOME developers.

Ubuntu 11.10 users wishing to jump aboard GNOME 3.4 can also do so at their own risk (expect breakages, missing packages, etc) by adding and upgrading from the following two PPAs to Software Sources: –

  • sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ricotz/testing
  • sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3
  • sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
  • sudo apt-get install gnome-shell