The upcoming Ubuntu 21.04 release will NOT include GNOME 40 or GTK4.
Ubuntu devs cite the redesign of GNOME Shell in GNOME 40 and its potential impact on GNOME extensions (of which Ubuntu ships a few by default) and the Yaru GTK theme as reason to “stick” to GNOME 3.38 this cycle.
GTK4 also won’t feature in Ubuntu 21.04. But with upstream GNOME having not fully transitioned every nut and bolt of its stack to GTK4 this decision is less of a shock.
As a result, Ubuntu 21.04 will ship with the latest GNOME 3.38 point release, stick to GTK3 apps, and continue to wear the Yaru GTK theme.
GNOME 40 alters the GNOME Shell user experience in several key ways. Ubuntu developers feel they need more time to assess the design changes — which are still somewhat in flux ahead of GNOME 40 release in March — to work out how to maintain the ‘Ubuntu experience’ with them.
For instance, the Ubuntu desktop uses a vertical ‘app launcher’ on the left of the desktop, and has done since 2011. GNOME 40 adopts a horizontal spatial design, with a horizontal ‘app launcher’, horizontal workspaces, and a horizontally-paging app launcher.
GTK4, meanwhile, delivers some very impressive new capabilities for app developers and designers to take advantage of, but this impacts on third-party themes (like Yaru) which have to be updated to accommodate all of the changes — not a trivial task.
“Those are topics we are going to spend resources on and ideally we would be helping to move things forward, but it’s already mid-cycle, we didn’t account for any of those and the team is already overworked,” explains Ubuntu’s Sebastien Bacher.
“Hopefully we manage to resolve enough of those questions in the remaining of the cycle to be in a better position to include the new versions when I -serie (sic) opens.”