Feeds

GNOME 3.12: Pixel perfect ... but homeless

Best thing out of GNOME camp for YEARS, but who'll take it in?

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Review When the GNOME 3.x desktop arrived it was, frankly, unusable. It wasn't so much the radical departure from past desktop environments, as the fact that essential things did not work properly or, more frustratingly, had been deemed unnecessary.

Fast-forward three years and while GNOME 3.12 – released Wednesday – still isn't the infinitely customisable experience of GNOME 2.x, not only has the GNOME Shell progressed by leaps and bounds but it now makes for a stable, productive desktop environment.

One of the great things about releasing early and often is that eventually things improve; sometimes things improve so slowly you hardly notice it until a release like GNOME 3.12 rolls around, but they improve nonetheless.

If you dismissed GNOME 3 when it arrived, I can't blame you, but I suggest taking another look. GNOME 3 has finally arrived, with the newly released 3.12. The only problem with GNOME 3.12? It's a desktop in search of a Linux distro.

Ubuntu has Unity. Even Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 will most likely not be using GNOME 3.12. The future of Debian looks to be with Xfce. GNOME 3.12 will likely be part of Fedora 21, but that's still months from being released.

At the moment, if you want to try GNOME 3.12, your best bet is probably a rolling release distro like Arch, or – for the less experienced – an Arch derivative like Manjaro.

GNOME 3.12's customisable right-click menu gives you jump lists (click to enlarge)

It's a shame no major distro has a release to showcase GNOME 3.12 because it may well be the best thing to come out of the GNOME camp in years.

One place that GNOME 3.12 hands down beats every other desktop I've tried is support for high-resolution screens. This isn't entirely new. GNOME 3.10 has some of the better high-dpi screen support you'll find in a Linux desktop, but there were still a few glitches. GNOME 3.12 picks up where 3.10 left off and polishes things up a bit. Problems like poorly sized icons and thumbnail images in the Alt+Tab switcher are thing of the past. There's still work to be done in this area, but GNOME 3.12 will likely be one of the best Linux desktops for those with a high-res screen.

The GNOME developers have also been busy improving what might be thought of as power-user tools. Perhaps one of the most immediately useful of these new tools are the "quick lists" or "jump lists" for the launch bar. Right click on the launch bar in GNOME 3.10 and earlier and the only menu items you'll see are "new window" and "close".

GNOME 3.12 expands that to add support for customisable right-click menus in the Activities view and in any running apps listed in the Favorites bar. All you need to do is create a simple text file with a few lines of code and your custom tools will show up in the right-click menu for the app you specify.

For example, imagine you want a shortcut to quickly launch theregister.co.uk in Firefox. All you need to do is edit the application's desktop file (in this case that's firefox.desktop). Then you define a "Desktop Action", which consists of a name and action. Save your file in ~/.local/share/applications and you're done.

Now whenever you right-click on the Firefox icon in the Favorites bar, you'll see an option to open theregister.co.uk directly. Other possible uses include opening an app with a blank document ready to go or opening an app with a new document based on a template of your choosing.

While it's nice to have customisation options for power users, this also makes it much easier for GNOME apps to customise their options, which in turn will make the Activities view and Favorites bar more useful.

Much of what's noticeably different in GNOME 3.12 are the various new and revamped applications.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Next page: Apps alive

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.