Spoiler Alert! If you are someone who would like to try the new Gnome 3.2 release when it comes out and get to know the new features as and when you use it, then this article is not meant for you. Otherwise read on!
Six months have passed since the release of Gnome 3.0. As per the usual gnome release cycle, a major update Gnome 3.2 is due this end of the month. This update brings with it lots of new features and bug fixes for both Gnome and the Gnome Shell. The Gnome developers have been hard at work after the release of Gnome 3.0 and during the summer to bring us a whole host of new features.
Gnome 3.2 is schedule to be release on September 28th 2011. Some of the features like Online Accounts will also be available for Ubuntu despite using the unity interface. Let's have a look at what the gnome developers have come up with until now.
Instant file preview
This feature is similar to the MAC OS quick file preview feature. It was also available in Linux under the name of Gloobus preview, however this instant file preview is a fresh start and will be integrated with nautilus by default. Hence, it would not be required to install the 3rd party application Gloobus preview. This feature is developed by Cosimo Cecchi. You can see a preview of this feature in the video below.
The internet is becoming pretty much everything. And This feature integrates Gnome to the web by providing support to access your web accounts like Gmail, hotmail natively right from your desktop. Through this feature you can access the web account's email, calendar, chat right from your desktop after you login. This feature is made available to all distros which will run Gtk 3.0. You can use this feature in Ubuntu 11.10 from the control panel. This feature was developed by David Zeuthen. Check out the screencast and screenshot for more details.
Improved chat integration
With Gnome-shell, one of the striking features was it chat integration. You don't need to have many chat windows open when you talk to your friends. Instead, you can chat with your friends right from the notification pop-up or otherwise choose to reply later from the notification panel. With Gnome 3.2, the gnome-shell developers have improved this feature further to also incorporate file transfers, video and audio chat right from your notification panel as well. You also do not need to open separate chat applications as you can do everything from the shell itself.
On-screen keyboard (GSOC)
Nohemi Fernandez, a Google summer of code student has been working on a onscreen keyboard. This makes gnome-shell more touch friendly. Anyone having a touch screen monitor would find this very handy. For more details on its working, look at the screencast and the screenshot provided below.
Hot plug notification
Currently, if want to remove a USB hard disk and mp3 player you need to go to nautilus to unmount. A trivial feature which was missing in Gnome 3.0. However, this feature is now being developed by Cosimo Secchi and will provide notifications when you plug your USB drives and can be quickly unmounted in the notification area.
Multiple time zones (GSOC)
This long awaited feature will land in the upcoming update and is being developed by Google Summer of Code student Stephane. This feature was previously available in Gnome 2.x but was not ported to Gnome 3.0.
Note: Not sure if this feature would make it in the gnome 3.2 update. I talked to the GSOC student who says that the work done was rejected by the gnome shell developers. However he is working on trying to get his work done before the freeze.
New Gnome-shell login screen
Everywhere in Gnome 3.0 and Gnome-shell there was this new identity in the look and feel of the applications and the dark panels. However, the login screen was one that did not share this. This is however going to change in the upcoming Gnome 3.2 update. Ray Strode has designed a new login screen which can be seen in the screenshot and the screencast below.
Gnome Contacts and Integrated contacts search
Gnome contact is a new applications being developed by Alexander Larsson. This is one of his latest screenshots posted by him in his blog.
This is one of the screenshots sent by Morten Mjleva. It is a work in progress, but as you can seen in the screenshots the contacts show up in the activities overview search. The screenshot however does not show the avatars of the contacts but this will be something that will be present in Gnome 3.2.
Here is a mock up.
This screenshot below is working code!
Web Application Mode – Epiphany
Several default gnome apps are being upgraded to 3.2, and among them Epiphany Web browser brings an important feature “Web application”. Currently Google Chrome can create web application applications while in firefox it was previously available as Prism but is no longer present.
In Epiphany, this feature has been integrated nicely into the gnome shell environment. The web application that you create is visible in the gnome-shell dash, can be added as a favorite and can be treated as a separate application.
When you launch an individual web application it will run in its own process, will give more focus on the content by removing traditional toolbars and other chrome UI. It inherits all the cookies for that website and hence you do not have to re-login again while using your favourite websites like gmail, facebook, twitter etc.
This way you can quickly access your frequently used website within a click. This feature would also be available in Ubuntu if you install Epiphany since it is not installed by default.
Other small changes
These are just some of the few major features which are landing in Gnome 3.2. There are many many small improvements coming up. To name a few,
1. Florian is working on a Do not disturb mode which will be accessible from the user menu in which all notifications except for system notifications like low battery will be hidden.
2. Another behaviour which is being changed is the workspace switcher in the activities overview which will not autohide any more.
3. Jasper St. Pierre has added notification counters which lets you know the number of messages or emails you received at a glance.
4. The window picker in the activities overview has received some visual changes. In addition to this, all applications will have rounded corners making it visually appealing.
5. Performance improvements are being done by Owen Taylor
6. Ability to install gnome shell extensions directly from a website, live enabling and disabling of extensions.
7. Display images such as cover-art in notifications while playing music.
Well Gnome 3.2 addresses many of the annoyances and bug fixes faced by the users and brings with it a whole host of new features. It also promises performance improvements making gnome shell more responsive and faster. Is this better than Unity? Well that's all up to you answer that. However, this is one update you want to watch out and may be give Gnome-shell another try if you stopped using it.
Gnome has introduced many features without changing any major GUI elements. This helps in making the users feel comfortable.
Would you try Gnome-Shell? Let us know what you think about the upcoming Gnome 3.2 update by commenting below.