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GNOME logo
GNOME 3.10 showing an Overview mode ("Activities")
Developer(s)The GNOME Project
Initial release3 March 1999 (1999-03-03)
Stable release3.10 (26 September 2013; 4 months ago (2013-09-26)) [±][1]
Preview release3.9.90 (23 August 2013; 5 months ago (2013-08-23)) [±][2]
Development statusActive
Written inC, C++, Python, Vala, Genie, JavaScript[3]
Operating systemUnix-like with X11 or Wayland
Available inmore than 50 languages[4]
TypeDesktop environment
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GNOME logo
GNOME 3.10 showing an Overview mode ("Activities")
Developer(s)The GNOME Project
Initial release3 March 1999 (1999-03-03)
Stable release3.10 (26 September 2013; 4 months ago (2013-09-26)) [±][1]
Preview release3.9.90 (23 August 2013; 5 months ago (2013-08-23)) [±][2]
Development statusActive
Written inC, C++, Python, Vala, Genie, JavaScript[3]
Operating systemUnix-like with X11 or Wayland
Available inmore than 50 languages[4]
TypeDesktop environment

GNOME (pronounced /ˈnm/[5] or /ɡˈnm/[6]) is a desktop environment and graphical user interface (GUI) that runs on top of a computer operating system. It is composed entirely of free and open source software and is developed by both volunteers and paid contributors, the largest corporate contributor being Red Hat.[7][8] It is an international project that includes creating software development frameworks, selecting application software for the desktop, and working on the programs that manage application launching, file handling, and window and task management.

GNOME is part of the GNU Project and can be used with various Unix-like operating systems, most notably GNU/Linux.

Software components[edit]

GNOME Core Applications[edit]

There are countless GTK+- and Clutter-based programs written by various authors. Since the release of GNOME 3, The GNOME Project concentrates on developing a set of programs that accounts for the GNOME Core Applications. All programs that form the GNOME Core Applications, have a certain design and the tight integration with one another in common. Some programs are simply renamed existing programs with a revamped user interface, while other were written from scratch.


The current surface of GNOME 3 is GNOME Shell. GNOME Shell obsoleted GNOME Panel. An alternative surface is, e.g. Cinnamon.


GNOME Core Applications: Conversations
GNOME Contacts 


GNOME Core Applications: Files
GNOME Music 
GNOME Photos 


GNOME Core Applications: System
GNOME Credentials 
GNOME Oops! 
GNOME Settings 
GNOME Software 


GNOME Core Applications: World
GNOME Clocks 
GNOME Weather 


GNOME Core Applications: Utilities
GNOME Calendar 
GNOME Dictionary 
GNOME Notes 

3rd-party GTK+ applications[edit]

There are numerous programs based on the GTK+ framework. Some of them are considered to be part of the GNOME desktop environment, even if they are not part of the GNOME Core Applications and will never be.

GNOME Platform Architecture[edit]

Together with the KDE SC and other desktop environments, GNOME relies on programs hosted by, such as e.g. PulseAudio.


GNOME 1, 1999

GNOME was started in August 1997 by Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena[9] as a free software project to develop a desktop environment and applications for it.[10] It was founded in part because K Desktop Environment, an already existing free software desktop environment, relied on the Qt widget toolkit which at the time used a proprietary software license.[11] In place of Qt, the GTK+ toolkit was chosen as the base of GNOME. GTK+ uses the GNU Lesser Public License (LGPL), a free software license that allows software linking to it to use a much wider set of licenses, including proprietary software licenses.[12] GNOME itself is licensed under the LGPL for its libraries, and the GNU General Public License (GPL) for its applications.[13]

The California startup Eazel developed the Nautilus file manager from 1999 to 2001. De Icaza and Nat Friedman founded Helix Code (later Ximian) in 1999 in Massachusetts. The company developed GNOME's infrastructure and applications, and in 2003 was purchased by Novell.

GNOME 2 was very similar to a conventional desktop interface, featuring a simple desktop in which users could interact with virtual objects, such as windows, icons, and files. GNOME 2 used Metacity as its default window manager. The handling of windows, applications, and files in GNOME 2 is similar to that of contemporary desktop operating systems. In the default configuration of GNOME 2, the desktop has a launcher menu for quick access to installed programs and file locations; open windows may be accessed by a taskbar along the bottom of the screen, and the top-right corner features a notification area for programs to display notices while running in the background. However, these features can be moved to almost any position or orientation the user desires, replaced with other functions or removed altogether.


Initially, "GNOME" was an acronym of GNU Network Object Model Environment, referring to the original intention of creating a distributed object framework similar to Microsoft's OLE;[14] it was dropped, because this no longer reflects the core vision of the GNOME project.[15]



The GNOME project provides two things: The GNOME desktop environment, a graphical user interface and core applications like Web, a simple web browser; and the GNOME development platform, an extensive framework for building applications that integrate into the rest of the desktop and mobile user interface.[40]

The GNOME project puts heavy emphasis on simplicity, usability, and making things “just work” (see KISS principle).[41] The other aims of the project are:

As with most free software projects, the GNOME project is loosely managed. Discussion chiefly occurs on a number of public mailing lists.[43] Developers and users of GNOME gather at an annual meeting known as GUADEC to discuss the current state of the project and its future direction.[44]

GNOME often incorporates standards from to allow GNOME applications to better interoperate with other desktops, encouraging both cooperation and competition.

Major subprojects[edit]

GNOME relies upon a large number of different projects:

A number of language bindings are available, allowing applications to be written in a variety of programming languages, such as C++ (gtkmm), Java (java-gnome), Ruby (ruby-gnome2), C# (Gtk#), Python (PyGObject), Perl (gtk2-perl), Tcl (Gnocl) and many others. The only languages currently used in applications that are part of an official GNOME desktop release are C, C++, Python, Vala and Javascript.[45]

Release cycle[edit]

Each of the component software products in the GNOME project has its own version number and release schedule. However, individual module maintainers coordinate their efforts to create a full GNOME stable release on an approximately six-month schedule. Some experimental projects are excluded from these releases.

GNOME releases are made to the main FTP server in the form of source code with configure scripts, which are compiled by operating system vendors and integrated with the rest of their systems before distribution. Most vendors use only stable and tested versions of GNOME, and provide it in the form of easily installed, pre-compiled packages. The source code of every stable and development version of GNOME is stored in the GNOME Git source code repository.

A number of build-scripts (such as JHBuild or GARNOME) are available to help automate the process of compiling the source code.


GNOME 2.6, March 2004
GNOME 3.10, September 2013

Until the release of GNOME 3.0, GNOME used the traditional computing desktop metaphor. Users can change the appearance of their desktop through the use of themes, which usually consist of an icon set, a window manager border and GTK+ theme engine and parameters. In GNOME 3 Adwaita replaced Clearlooks as the default GNOME theme. The Human Interface Guidelines help developers to produce applications that look and behave similarly to each other, which provides a cohesive GNOME experience.

GNOME has evolved from a traditional desktop metaphor to a user interface where switching between different tasks and virtual workspaces takes place in a new area called the overview. The redesigned GNOME features several main changes: released as the new interface for Gnome, GNOME Shell replaces the original GNOME Panel; Mutter replaces Metacity as the default window manager; and the minimize and maximize buttons no longer appear on the titlebar by default. Many of the default GNOME applications have also gone through redesigns to provide a more consistent and unified user experience.

In the default configuration of GNOME, the desktop has a top panel holding (from left to right) an activities button, clock, system status area and user menu. Clicking on the activities button or moving one's mouse to the top-left hot corner brings one to the overview.

The default interface also features a new system for notifications. In GNOME 3, notifications pop up from the bottom of the screen, instead of showing in the top right of the screen as in GNOME 2.x.[46]



GNOME runs on top of the X Window System and as of GNOME 3.10 can also run on the Wayland Compositor.[47] Current versions of GNOME are available in most Linux distributions either as the default desktop environment or as an installable option. GNOME is also available on Solaris since the Solaris Express 10/04 release and on some BSDs.[48] Currently only GNU/Linux officially supports GNOME from version 3.0 onwards however other operating systems are providing unofficial builds and are working on achieving full GNOME 3 compatibility.[49][50][51]

systemd controversy[edit]

In May 2011 Lennart Poettering proposed systemd as a dependency for further releases of GNOME.[52] As systemd is available only on Linux, the proposal led to the discussion of possibly dropping support for other platforms in future GNOME releases. While some people responded to the proposal with criticism[53][54] others suggested the idea of a GNOME Operating System on top of the Linux kernel.[55]

GNOME 3.2 Release Notes state that multiseat support is only available to those using systemd.[38] The systemd dependency was questioned again in November 2012, where the GNOME release team concluded that it can be relied upon for non-basic functionality[56]


GNOME Shell Classic mode

Since GNOME 2.0, a key focus of the project has been usability. To this end, the GNOME Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) were created. Following the guide, developers can create high-quality, consistent, and usable GUI programs, as it addresses everything from GUI design to recommended pixel-based layout of widgets.

During the 2.0 rewrite, many settings were deemed by the development team of little or no value to the majority of users and were removed. For instance, the preferences section of the Panel was reduced from a dialog of six tabs to one with two tabs. Havoc Pennington summarized the usability work in his 2002 essay "Free Software UI", emphasizing the idea that all preferences have a cost, and it is better to "unbreak the software" than to add a UI preference to do that:

A traditional free software application is configurable so that it has the union of all features anyone's ever seen in any equivalent application on any other historical platform. Or even configurable to be the union of all applications that anyone's ever seen on any historical platform (Emacs *cough*).

Does this hurt anything? Yes it does. It turns out that preferences have a cost. Of course, some preferences also have important benefits – and can be crucial interface features. But each one has a price, and you have to carefully consider its value. Many users and developers don't understand this, and end up with a lot of cost and little value for their preferences dollar.

GNOME 3 abandoned the traditional desktop metaphor in favor of GNOME Shell. This move received mixed reaction from the user community, though the outcome is not yet clear. The MATE desktop environment, software forked from GNOME 2, aims to retain the traditional GNOME 2 interface while keeping it compatible with GNOME 3. The Linux Mint team addressed the issue in another way by developing the "Mint GNOME Shell Extensions". This led to the Cinnamon user interface, which attempts to provide a more traditional user environment based on the desktop metaphor, like GNOME 2.

In March 2013, GNOME 3.8 was released, which includes a new "Classic mode" that restores a number of features such as an application menu, a places menu and a window switcher along the bottom of the screen, as extensions to the Shell.[58]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Clasen, Matthias (26 September 2013), GNOME 3.10 Released, GNOME mailing list, retrieved 26 September 2013 
  2. ^ Clasen, Matthias (23 August 2013), GNOME 3.9.90, GNOME mailing list, retrieved 27 Aug 2013 
  3. ^ Owen Taylor. "Implementing the next GNOME shell « fishsoup". Retrieved 2011-12-09. 
  4. ^ "GNOME 3.2 Release Notes". Retrieved 2011-12-09. 
  5. ^ Clinton, Jason D. (2011-04-02). "GNOME 3: Fewer interruptions". The GNOME Project. YouTube. Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
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  7. ^ GNOME census
  8. ^ staring into the abyss .
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  10. ^ "The GNOME Desktop project (fwd)". Retrieved 2011-12-10. 
  11. ^ Stallman, Richard Stallman (2000-09-05). "Stallman on Qt, the GPL, KDE, and GNOME". Retrieved 2005-09-09. 
  12. ^ "Why you shouldn't use the Lesser GPL for your next library". Free Software Foundation. Retrieved 2008-01-20. 
  13. ^ The GNOME Project: "GNOME Foundation Guidelines on Copyright Assignment". Accessed 2013-03-26.
  14. ^ Pennington, Havoc (1999). "What is Gnome?". GTK+ / Gnome Application Development. Archived from the original on 2010-08-24. 
  15. ^ "Re: GNOME -> Gnome". Retrieved 2011-12-10. 
  16. ^ de Icaza, Miguel. "The story of the GNOME project". 
  17. ^ "GNOME press release for version 1.0". Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  18. ^ "GNOME press release for version 1.2". Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  19. ^ "GNOME press release for version 1.4". Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  20. ^ Waugh, Jeff (2002-06-27). "GNOME 2.0 Desktop and Developer Platform Released!". desktop-devel mailing list. Retrieved 2007-09-20.
  21. ^ "GNOME press release for version 2.2". Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  22. ^ Waugh, Jeff (2003-09-11). "Announcing the GNOME 2.4.0 Desktop & Developer Platform". gnome-announce mailing list. Retrieved 2007-09-20.
  23. ^ Sobala, Andrew (2004-03-31). "Announcing the GNOME 2.6.0 Desktop & Developer Platform". gnome-announce mailing list. Retrieved 2007-09-20.
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  27. ^ "GNOME 2.14 Release Notes". Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  28. ^ Newren, Elijah (2006-09-06). "Celebrating the release of GNOME 2.16!". gnome-announce mailing list. Retrieved 2007-09-20.
  29. ^ Newren, Elijah (2007-03-14). "Celebrating the release of GNOME 2.18!". gnome-announce mailing list. Retrieved 2007-09-20.
  30. ^ Ryan, Paul (2007-09-19). "GNOME 2.20 officially released". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2007-09-20. 
  31. ^ Untz, Vincent (2008-03-12). "Celebrating the release of GNOME 2.22!". gnome-announce-list mailing list. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
  32. ^ Untz, Vincent (2008-09-24). "Celebrating the release of GNOME 2.24!". gnome-announce-list mailing list. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  33. ^ Untz, Vincent (2009-03-18). "Celebrating the release of GNOME 2.26!". gnome-announce-list mailing list. Retrieved 2009-03-18.
  34. ^ Holwerda, Thom (2009-09-24). "GNOME 2.28 Released". OSNews. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  35. ^ Holwerda, Thom (2010-03-31). "GNOME 2.30 Released". OSNews. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  36. ^ "GNOME 2.32 Release Notes". Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  37. ^ "GNOME 3.0 Release Notes". The GNOME Project. Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  38. ^ a b Vitters, Olav; Klapper, André; Day, Allan. "GNOME 3.2 Release Notes". The GNOME Project. Retrieved 2011-10-05. 
  39. ^ "A list of features that have been implemented for 3.4". The GNOME Project. Retrieved 2012-03-28. 
  40. ^ "GNOME Quick SWOT Analysis". The GNOME Project. Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  41. ^ "Gnome 3 Overview". The GNOME Project. Retrieved 2012-08-27. 
  42. ^ "GNOME Languages". The GNOME Project. Canonical Ltd. Retrieved 2011-12-03. 
  43. ^ "GTK+ and GNOME Mailing Lists". The GNOME Project. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  44. ^ "About". GUADEC. Retrieved 2011-12-03. 
  45. ^ Newren, Elijah (2006-04-20). "Mono bindings a blessed dependency? [Was: Tomboy in 2.16]". desktop-devel mailing list. Retrieved 2007-09-20.
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  47. ^
  48. ^ "Desktop Enhancements". Solaris 10 What's New. Sun Microsystems. 2009. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^ Poettering, Lennart (2011-05-18). "systemd as external dependency". desktop-devel mailing list. Retrieved 2011-10-05. 
  53. ^ Mouette, Josselin (2011-05-18). "Re: systemd as external dependency". desktop-devel mailing list. Retrieved 2011-10-05. 
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  55. ^ McCann, William Jon (2011-05-18). "Re: systemd as external dependency". desktop-devel mailing list. Retrieved 2011-10-05. 
  56. ^ Peters, Frederic. "20121104 meeting minutes". The GNOME Project. Retrieved 2013-01-14. 
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  58. ^ "GNOME 3.8 Release Notes". Retrieved 2013-03-27. 

External links[edit]