There is good news for all GNOME users. It's official and GNOME Shell edition of Ubuntu is coming this October.
Ubuntu + Gnome
As a long time Ubuntu user I was essentially a Gnome user but Unity changed everything. Unity did bring a new UI but it also enabled Canonical to drive the development of Ubuntu in the direction they wanted to increase the market share of Ubuntu. We are noticing the results in the market as Ubuntu's adoption is increasing.
Unity is extremely rich when it comes to new features and services. You can keep an eye on OMG! Ubuntu or our Ubuntu section to see how Unity is shaping up. However, there are Gnome users who are still looking for the pure GNOME experience on top of the stability and app ecosystem of Ubuntu.
We first talked about GNOME Shell edition of Ubuntu back in 2011 when Sebastien Bacher posted a call for contributors on a mailing list. I flirted with Gnome Shell Ubuntu Remix and liked it very much. I also tried an alternative method to get pure Gnome Shell experience on Ubuntu, but all these methods have one or the other shortcoming - random crashes were common.
These experience left me desiring for an official pure Gnome Shell based edition of Ubuntu. One of the reasons behind this desire is that there is no way someone can simply download an ISO and get the pure Gnome Shell Edition supported by Ubuntu teams.
Jeremy Bicha, an Ubuntu developer, gave indications of a GNOME Shell edition during the UDS in May. Recently there were some discussions around what would be the name of the flavor. We now have answers to most of the questions. First thing first. The Gnome Shell edition of Ubuntu may be called
GNOMEbuntu! [The domain gnomebuntu.org has been blocked by Ryan Lortie]
Update: Jeremy told us that while GNOMEbuntu was their first choice "GNOME Foundation Board won't let us use GNOME in a combination word like GNOMEbuntu."
There is an active thread on Ubuntu Forum started by Stinger (who tipped us about this story) which reveals the GNOME Ubuntu plan. Jermey Bicha is doing an excellent job of bringing GNOMEbuntu to this world. So what will this GNOMEbuntu look like and what kind of packages it will have?
To Be Or Not To Be: What's Uncertain
LightDM vs GDM: Gnome uses GDM which has a fancy new lock screen whereas Ubuntu uses LightDM which is equalliy polished so it is unclear whether Gnomebuntu will use GDM or LightGDM. Jeremy says, "It might be possible for a LightDM greeter or extension to duplicate this functionality and be a swap-in, but we need someone to create that."
Control Center: Just like LightDM and GDM there is uncertainty around Control Center. Jeremy says, "Although splitting gnome-control-center and ubuntu-control-center was a goal for this release, no one has stepped up to do it yet."
Another uncertain area is the default software manager. It's unclear "whether it'll use Ubuntu's Software Center and Updater (update-manager) or gnome-packagekit (which will be called "Software" in the next release)."
Update: Jeremy confirmed that "currently, it's using gnome-packagekit like Fedora does. gpk has been rebranded as "Software" in GNOME 3.6."
File Manager: There is an ongoing discussion about how Nautilus (which is now called Files) is stripping features and both Ubuntu and Linux Mint are patching it to keep the functionality intact. While Linux Mint has officially announced its fork called Nemo, there is no official statement from Ubuntu teams. So which file manager will be used in Gnomebuntu?
Jeremy clarifies the status of Files/Nautilus in Ubuntu or Gnomebuntu. "The Nautilus fork for Ubuntu doesn't exist yet. You could even say it's a rumor. On the other hand, the rumor did start from the Canonical Desktop Team Tech Lead. But then again, Feature Freeze is this week so it would need a Feature Freeze Exception. If a split were to happen, GNOMEbuntu would obviously stick to the upstream Nautilus."
Gnomebuntu will also exclude a lot of Ubuntu services and applications by default such as Ubuntu One. Jeremy explains the reason as its UI is a bit crazy and it depends on QT libraries which takes up extra space. Gnomebuntu will not include Unity.
To offer the pure Gnome experience, "We're even working to split out several customized Ubuntu settings to allow for a purer GNOME experience for those that want it," says Jeremy.
Gnomebuntu will include Compiz, because GNOME Classic is currently included "with the indicators by the way because it makes the session far more useful by default, says Jeremy. The default music players in Ubuntu attracted some controversy lately. Steering clear of any controversy, Gnomebuntu will use Rhythmbox as the default music player. One unpleasant (in my opinion) decision is to drop Firefox and LibreOffice and instead use Epiphany and Abiword by default.
Jeremy gave us the reason behind this selection of apps, "We are trying to ship a pure GNOME experience. Therefore, it includes Epiphany (Web), Evolution, Abiword, and Gnumeric; it does not come with Firefox or LibreOffice pre-installed."
That said, the fact remains not everything about Gnomebuntu (even the name) is carved in stone. Things can and will change so keep an eye on this thread.
When Can I Test?
Jeremy has confirmed that there will be a 12.10 release, but we won't be an official recognized Ubuntu flavor this cycle. If you remember correctly Lubuntu recently became the official Ubuntu flavour so G-ubuntu will have to go through the regular process of becoming a recognized flavour.
Alpha will soon be available for testing.