The GNOME project today released GNOME 42, the latest version of its open source desktop environment.

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GNOME 42: Best New Features

New features, UI tweaks, and performance gains are a staple part of every new GNOME desktop update, but none more so than here, in GNOME 42.

GNOME 42 source code is available to download from the GNOME website from today.

However, most Linux users will want to wait for their distro maintainers to package it up and push it out to them. Don’t want to wait? You can use the GNOME OS image in the Boxes virtual machine app.

GNOME 42’s New Features

A screenshot of apps in GNOME 42
A brighter, modern look for apps

If you read our overview of GNOME 42 features a few weeks back most of the changes we spotlight below should be familiar (most of this post is a more concise retread of that).

We’ll start with the most observable changes: the visuals.

Most of GNOME 42’s core apps (with the exception of Nautilus) now use the libadwaita stylesheet as their default “theme”, as do a swathe of third-party and community apps written in GTK4.

This change is more than just skin deep; libadwaita offers a lighter, rounder, and more compact look than earlier versions of Adwaita, and includes a more modern looking toolbar buttons, menus, toggles, info boxes, etc.

An updated GNOME Shell theme also features in GNOME 42. This uses less space, boasts better contrast, and does away with triangular call outs from panel applets. On-screen bubbles (e.g., when changing brightness and volume) are also smaller and more compact than before.

GNOME 42 screenshot showing the new shell theme

GNOME 42 supports a new free desktop dark mode preference too.

GTK4/libadwaita apps opt-in to respect this setting by default (though apps can offer an individual override). A transition fade effect makes switching between light and dark mode feel fluid, with GNOME’s default wallpaper also changing deepening on dark/light mode.

GNOME 42 comes with a new screenshot feature. This makes it easier to take screenshots and screen recordings without needing to install or open other apps.

Just hit print screen — you can change this shortcut — and an interactive overlay appears from which you can snap or record the whole screen, a selection portion, or a specific app window.

screenshot feature in gnome 42 on fedora
Interactive screenshot utility

A pair of new apps make their formal debut in GNOME 42: Console, an alternative to GNOME Terminal, and Text Editor, a simplified analog to Gedit but with a more modern UI and some interesting features, like auto-save.

screenshot of GNOME 42 console and text editor apps
Console (left) and Text Editor (right) are new

Nautilus doesn’t boast a GTK4/libadwaita revamp in this release but it does gain a new path-bar that supports scrolling, a new end-of-path-bar context menu, and a more roomy file/folder renaming pop-over.

Other changes in GNOME 42:

  • Videos (aka Totem) supports hardware accelerated decoding
  • Reduced memory usage and faster performance in Tracker
  • Reduced input latency
  • Redesigned Display, Appearance, Users settings
  • Web supports hardware accelerated rendering on all websites
  • Reduced energy consumption for video playback
  • Maps now shows icons for u-turns in turn-by-turn routing
  • Remote Desktop connections use the RDP protocol

More details can be found in the official release notes for this release, in the the short release video, as well as by poring over the many change-logs available on the GNOME GitLab.

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