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GNOME 44 Alpha is Out, Shaping Up to Be A Moderate Release

First testing images of the upcoming GNOME 44 release are now available. Here’s a quick look at the new features.

GNOME 44 Alpha has been out for testing, offering the first sneak peek into the latest changes and improvements in this popular desktop environment. The GNOME desktop environment has long been a favourite among popular distributions.

After I glance through the changes, I must say this release is high on under-the-hood bug fixes and optimizations. A few key native apps get major feature changes. However, GNOME Shell and mutter see moderate enhancements.

GNOME 44 Alpha running in GNOME OS
GNOME 44 Alpha running in GNOME OS

Let’s take a look at the key features.

Key Features and Improvements: GNOME 44 (Based on alpha release)

The core GNOME Shell brings many bug fixes, mainly in this version. The bug fixes cater to the volume menu, password box focus, network manager missing name and the native screenshot tools. All of them are primarily minor fix issues across shell components. It’s a good bunch of fixes that, across-the-board make GNOME 44 more stable.

GNOME’s file manager Files (aka Nautilus) get a tree view, allowing expanding subfolders. It was a long due in this file manager and arguably present in other popular file managers such as KDE’s Dolphin. Here’s how it looks.

Files brings the folder expansion feature in a tree view
Files bring the folder expansion feature in a tree view

Other changes in Files include new items in the Tab context menu (close other tabs, etc.), paste image data as a png file and 64px icon size in grid view.

Furthermore, the GNOME Software change list mostly features bug fixes in this release. The enhancements are also minor. Key updates include GNOME Software now shows a changelog for rpm-ostree updates, less reloading of view when installing apps, UI updates, a fix for appstream protocol and translation updates.

Since the prior GNOME 43 release, GNOME Web (aka Epiphany) has been bringing good updates. And GNOME 44 is not an exception. This release brings the GTK4 and libadwaita build for Web, which completely revamps its user interface. You can now experience the stunning libadwaita TabView and other features.

GNOME Web GTK4 port is now available
GNOME Web GTK4 port is now available

GNOME Settings sees a major redesign in a few pages. Firstly, the Accessibility page was revamped completely, which lists it based on human function. This was an excellent addition and much-needed, making GNOME simpler.

Redesigned Accessibility Panel in GNOME 44
Redesigned Accessibility Panel in GNOME 44

Secondly, the Sound panel was rearranged with Output and Input sections for better clarity and priority.

In addition, the about page now shows a new item – Firmware version and the month picker in the date/time page is now displayed as a two-column list.

One of the impactful updates in the GNOME 44 release is the image preview in the native file choose dialog. This has been under development for almost two decades which I reported earlier. And finally, it has been merged into this version. So, no more boring list view in the file chooser dialog in GNOME.

Here’s a comparison.

Open File Modal Dialog Gets Image Preview
Open File Modal Dialog Gets Image Preview

So, overall these are the key visual changes I could gather from the long change log.

How to Test GNOME 44 Alpha

The best way to try this testing version is via GNOME OS, which contains the latest builds. You can download it from the below link. Make sure you have Flatpak Setup and use it only on the GNOME Boxes Flatpak version.

Alternatively, you can grab the Fedora Rawhide copy and compile gnome shell, mutter and native apps.

Closing Notes

GNOME 44 Alpha offers more stability over features of this popular open-source desktop environment. The beta release is due on 11th February, followed by RC on 4th march. The final release will be on 22 March 2023.

This version should be featured on Ubuntu 23.04 Lunar Lobster and in Fedora 38.

via alpha release notes

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