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GNOME 3.28 Released, These Are The Best New Features

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

top GNOME 3.28 features

It’s March 14 which means all-new GNOME 3.28 release is now available.

If you’re curious about what kind of new GNOME 3.28 features are on offer then read on.

‘There’s 6 months worth of welcome improvements and new features on offer’

We’ve dived head first in to change logs, wiki pages, app roadmaps, and code commits to put together the following list of the top GNOME 3.28 features and improvements.

Now, GNOME 3.28 isn’t a huge update — the GNOME 3.26 release we got in September 2017 had more visual changes for the average joe to get excited about than this one does — but there’s still 6 months worth of welcome improvements and new features on offer here.

So, for a heads-up on all the best new changes, both big and small, read on…

New GNOME 3.28 Features

Finding Things Faster: Nautilus Adds File Favoriting

GNOME 3.28 nautilus file favouriting

Keeping track of important files and folders is easier in Nautilus 3.28.

The file manager, which is also known as ‘Files’, adds the ability to star files and folders on your system.

Using the new area in the sidebar called ‘Starred’ you can quickly get access to all of your starred files and folders at any time.

It’s easy to star a file or folder in Files 3.28:

  • Right-click on file/folder to star when in icon view
  • Click on the ‘star’ icon when in the list view

Nautilus 3.28 also comes with various improvements to the underlying code-base, as well as several bug fixes, and (finally) now lets you close tabs with a middle-click.

Btw, GNOME removed desktop support in 3.28

desktop icons on the gnome 3 desktop

As you may know GNOME 3.28 removes desktop support from Nautilus, meaning you can no longer put icons on the desktop.

‘Ubuntu 18.04 uses Nautilus 3.26 to keep the desktop in tact’

GNOME devs say the code for this feature — only enabled by default in downstream projects like Ubuntu and Fedora — was holding back development of new features and performance improvements.

Don’t panic if you rely on the desktop, though.

GNOME devs say ‘desktop’ functionality could reappear in the future a GNOME Shell extension in the future (though as Nautilus currently lacks many of the APIs such an extension is not yet ready).

Secondly, Ubuntu 18.04 uses an older version of Nautilus, Nautilus 3.26, by default to offer the desktop experience we all know and love.

This does mean that while the bulk of GNOME 3.28 features in Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, you won’t get the file favouriting feature mentioned above.

A Brand New Onscreen Keyboard

GNOME 3.28 OSK

If you own a convertible or touch-screen device you’re going to royally appreciate the new onscreen keyboard in GNOME 3.28.

The new on-screen keyboard (OSK) is said to be easier to use. It automatically appear on-screen when you tap or click inside a text area. Helpfully, the OSK positions itself so that the text area is visible while you type, something the old OSK didn’t do.

Accordingly, a variety of keyboard layouts are supported by the new OSK.

Even Better Photos

GNOME 3.28 features - improved Photos app

GNOME 3.28 features – improved Photos app

If you read this site regularly you’ll already known about many of the improvements to Photos, the GNOME photo manager and editing app, made during this development cycle.

A big one: GNOME Photos 3.28 can import photos from SD cards and USB drives. When you connect a device with compatible files Photos will let you know:

screenshot of the GNOME Photos 3.28 import notification

You can then view the images and select the ones you want to import. Photos will also check the connected device to tell you when there are new images you may want to import.

Although small, this feature really helps speed up the process of adding photos to your collection.

Other improvements to the GNOME Photos app include:

  • Shadows & Highlights editing
  • Ability to change crop orientation
  • Support for zoom gestures
  • Option to set edited photo as a wallpaper
  • Complete support for EXIF rotation

GNOME devs also plan to add a photo viewer to the app in future, and thus remove the need for a separate application like Eye of GNOME, and add the option to upload photos to Facebook.

GNOME Photos is fast becoming one of the real stand-out apps in the GNOME lineup, and with this update it continues to mature.

Metered Bandwidth Toggle

restrict background data switch

GNOME 3.28 has a new option to restrict background data on metered connections like mobile data and broadband with data cap.

As someone who regularly work out of a coffee shop with terrible Wi-Fi, necessitating a tether to my capped mobile data, this feature will come in very useful.

To set a metered connection in GNOME 3.28 (and Ubuntu 18.04 LTS) you just need to:

  1. Open Settings > Network.
  2. Select the connection you wish to edit
  3. Click the ‘cog’ icon to edit the connection details
  4. Check the box to mark the connection as metered

When you mark a network as metered GNOME will stop background network usage where possible. Right now, in this release, it simply stops auto-update from kicking in.

It can’t control everything so you do still need to be careful about which apps you use (i.e. don’t leave YouTube running on auto-play).

Sadly there’s no word on whether it will stop Ubuntu’s “Snap” apps updating silently in the background  (which given their colossal file sizes, is not necessarily desirable).

Improved Support for USB, Bluetooth & Thunderbolt Devices

thunderbolt 3 device notification on Linux

GNOME 3.28 gains support for Thunderbolt 3 devices.

GNOME’s Thunderbolt handling includes security checks on connected devices prevent data theft, showing notifications on connection and statug s, and the addition of a small ‘lighteninbolt’ icon in the top bar when a compatible Thunderbolt 3 device is attached.

You can now keep an eye on the power level of Playstation controllers’

It’s not just Thunderbolt and USB Type-C devices which benefit.

GNOME 3.28 lets you see the power level of connected Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) devices in the ‘Power’ settings panel. In addition, when a connected device battery is critically low GNOME 3.28 will (rather helpfully) show a notification to warn you.

A controversial change in this update sees GNOME default to two finger tap for right-click on touchpads. To use this you need to (duh) tap two fingers on the touchpad.

If you prefer the old behaviour you can switch back to it using latest version of GNOME Tweaks.

Gamers will find there’s improved support for PlayStation 3 and 4 controllers (including aforementioned bluetooth LE power status) as well as USB PS3 joy pad clones.

Flatpak Improvements

flatpak apps hero

Flatpak is fast becoming the new standard for Linux app distribution, and in GNOME 3.28 the fledgling packaging format gets a big boost.

Flatpak now has GTK+ theme handling, language configuration support, and an improved CLI.

Also keep an eye on Flathub, the Flatpak app store. It has a seriously slick new interface on the way:

New App Preview: Usage

GNOME 3.28 features - new usage app

GNOME 3.28 features – the new ‘Usage’ app

Usage is a new GNOME app shipping as an experimental ‘preview’ in GNOME 3.28.

If you find the regular System Monitor app a little too info-dense then you’ll likely appreciate the pared down and refined look of Usage.

Usage not feature complete yet (hence the ‘preview’ tag) but it is a neat new way to get a glance-able overview of your system resource, er, usage!

Other GNOME 3.28 Changes & Improvements

Beyond the whizz-bang appeal of the headline features GNOME 3.28 features a stack of smaller  improvements that, without knowing about them, you might not even notice!

For example, the refined preferences in GNOME Terminal to make tweaking the app to suit your tastes easier. The app also adds support for text underline effects, blinking text, and introduces options for changing line and letter spacing.

Setting also remembers the panel you last opened.

GNOME 3.28 features new avatars

GNOME 3.28 features – new avatar picker & user avatars

You’ll find a new avatar picker (and a selection of new avatar images) in Settings > User Accounts.

The ‘Software Sources’ dialog — useful for managing PPAs, etc — is renamed ‘Software Repositories’ in GNOME 3.28. The tool also picks up some improved management features.

Other miscellaneous changes include:

  • Calendar can show weather forecast for appointments with location
  • UTC timezone option in Clocks
  • New sorting options in Contacts
  • New version of Cantarell font
  • Games has a new CRT video filter option
  • Boxes adds automatic OS downloads, easy file transfer
  • Software allows you to sort applications by rating or by name
  • Wikipedia integration in Maps
  • dconf-editor has a new layout for lists and search results

GNOME 3.28: When can you get it?

So that’s what’s new in GNOME 3.28 — but how can you try it out on your distro?

Starting 14 March, the first stable release of GNOME 3.28 will be released. The update does not roll out to existing users automatically, so you’ll need to check with your distro to find out when or if they will make the update available.

If you’re using a change-friendly distro like OpenSUSE Tumbleweed, Manjaro or Solus OS then you will likely be able to upgrade to GNOME 3.28 very soon, maybe within the coming weeks.

If you’re running Ubuntu, Linux Mint, or similar things are a little less clear. While it is technically possible to upgrade to a newer GNOME release on Ubuntu, it’s not advised (and not easy to do), and does not happen automatically.

The good news is that Ubuntu 18.04 LTS uses GNOME 3.28 by default (albeit with Nautilus 3.26 instead of 3.28). Ubuntu 18.04 LTS is due for release in late April, but daily builds are already available.

You can also download and boot a live Fedora and OpenSUSE nightly build to try the changes first hand:

Download OpenSUSE w/ GNOME 3.28

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