The all-new GNOME 43 release brings with it a barrage of brilliant features and cool capabilities.
And in this post I spotlight the most notable of all the notable improvements on offer in GNOME 43.
GNOME 43 continues to build out from the design direction laid in GNOME 40. There’s a major redesign of the system menu, a slew of new GTK4/libadwaita app ports, and further effort to improve the small-screen usability of several of this leading free desktop’s core apps.
If what you see below whets your appetite you can try GNOME 43 out for yourself using the GNOME OS images in the Boxes virtual machine app, using a rolling-release distro that packages it, or by waiting to upgrade to Ubuntu 22.10 when issued in mid-October.
GNOME 43: New Features
GNOME Shell’s unified system menu hasn’t changed dramatically since its introduction in GNOME 3.10. Sure, it’s refined the way submenus work, re-ordered settings, and remove toggles but it’s remained, essentially, a vertical list of items.
Not so in GNOME 43.
The new “quick toggles” status menu makes it easier to turn on/off common settings like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Power Mode, as well as options not previously included in the status menu, like dark mode. You no longer need to unfurl a sub-menu and click on a text label; just click on the toggle itself.
But it’s way more useful than that.
See, some “pills” let you access extra settings or actions. For example, you can now pick a Wi-Fi network from the menu itself and not, as before, by clicking a text label in the status menu that then opens a full-screen modal and you select it from there. It sounds like a small change when I write it down but in practice is feels more intuitive.
You can also change audio device quickly, right from the status menu in GNOME 43:
When different audio output/input devices are connected, the volume slider in the quick toggle box will show a “>” icon to the right. Clicking on this opens a sub-menu to select a preferred audio device. Yup, you no longer need to install the sound switcher GNOME extension or dive into the Settings > Sound panel to do this. It’s built-in.
Sadly Bluetooth is the outlier (for now); it’s not yet possible to quickly connect to a previously paired Bluetooth devices from a similar sub menu, but one imagines that capability will likely feature in a future revision.
More Featured File Manager
I took a look at the new features in Nautilus 43 last week so if you missed it, you’re in for a treat!
First up, Files finally arrives in all its GTK4/libadwaita glory. The whole app looks fresh and modern, with almost every part of the UI updated or improved. File manager tabs now have a floating look similar to tabs in the most recent versions of Mozilla Firefox.
The sidebar now collapses when the width of the window is reduced but remains totally accessible, switching from static on-screen precedes to “here when you need me” sheet triggered by a button. Similarly, Nautilus splits its toolbars into top and bottom ones to better use the available space:
List view is greatly improved too, with more space between rows, a new highlight effect, and better support for ‘rubber banding’ (using your mouse to select multiple files). A cute touch: the ‘favourite’ icon animates when clicked:
Right-click on a USB drive listed in the file manager’s sidebar to access a (reintroduced) ‘format’ the disk option. The Disks integration extends further, with drive “properties” being more visually informative:
The Properties inspector for all files, folders, and drives look more in-keeping with the rest of the modern GNOME desktop, and many elements are re-ordered or repositioned to be easier to find/see/use. For example, the permission prompt to let a binary file have run permission is on the first page, rather than hidden in a separate tab like before:
You no longer need to install a separate extension to benefit from in-app integration with the GNOME Console app. Right-clicking on any folder or select the overflow menu in the path bar to find a new “Open in Console” option that drops you in a VTE session right at that location handy!
Some of these options were available in much older versions of Nautilus so they’re not strictly original, but they’re back in this release and that’s what matters.
GNOME desktop’s default calendar app boasts an updated UI incorporating a new sidebar with date picker and agenda list. Additionally, the app now neatly compacts at smaller widths for improved usability on smaller displays. Much of the in-app styling around events is updated to work well in both light and dark modes.
But my favourite new feature is “pinch to zoom” support. Using a pinch gesture on a (multi-touch enabled) touchpad allows you to scale the main week view to see specific dates and events more closely, or more dates and events at once.
New Security Reports
You’ll find a new Device Security section in the Settings > Privacy panel. It gives you a detail overview on the security status of your hardware and (increasingly important) firmware. You can quickly glean the results of different security tests, see whether secure boot is on or off, and any details about security events.
GNOME developers plan to improve this section so that GNOME users are “actively warned” when/if any security issues with their device is detected.
The “Sources” dropdown in GNOME Software has a new look and a new location. The new pop-over is far more informative at-a-glance, with a nice big check mark indicating the source you’re about to install it from.
The Software app also benefits from some more general UI tweaks and performance tweaks, and introduces a much-requested new feature: a section to show “Other Apps by…” the same developer.
New ‘About’ Dialogs
The majority of GNOME’s core app sport new About dialogs. I know — not the most exciting change, but it’s an area that needed a bit of attention to ensure the experience and consistency of using the apps is as complete and cohesive as it can be.
Among the apps furnished with modern-looking info pods are Characters, Weather, Files, Calendar, Calculator, and the Disk Usage Analyzer.
- App launcher now displays pagination arrows
- Composite emoji support in Characters
- Experimental web extension support in Epiphany (not default)
- Improved web app management in Epiphany
- GNOME Shell performance tweaks
- Faster processing of directory renames in Tracker
- New wallpapers
GNOME 43 is scheduled for release in mid-September. The GNOME 43 beta is out and available to test, though how you get it will vary from distro to distro. Ubuntu 22.10 is due for release in October and will likely feature most of the changes mentioned in this article, but not all.