GNOME Shell 3.8 in overview mode
|Initial release||April 6, 2011|
|Stable release||3.8.2 (May 16, 2013[±])|
|License||GNU General Public License|
GNOME Shell is the core user interface of the GNOME desktop environment starting with version 3, which was released on April 6, 2011. It provides basic functionality like switching between windows and launching applications. It replaces GNOME Panel and other software components from GNOME 2 to offer a user experience that breaks from the previous model of desktop metaphor, used in earlier versions of GNOME.
After criticism of the traditional GNOME desktop and accusations of stagnation and lacking vision, the resulting discussion lead to the announcement of GNOME 3.0 in April 2009. Since then Red Hat is the main driver of GNOME Shell’s development.
Pre-release versions of GNOME Shell were first made available in August 2009 and became regular, non-default part of GNOME in version 2.28 in September 2009. It was finally shipped as GNOME’s default user interface on 6 April 2011.
Changes to the user interface (UI) include, but are not limited to:
- A new Activities overview, which houses:
- A messaging tray, an area at the bottom of the screen used for housing both interactive and static notifications separately from system status icons
- "Snapping" windows to screen borders to make them fill up a half of the screen or the whole screen
- A single window button by default, Close, instead of three (configurable). Minimization has been removed due to the lack of a panel to minimize to, in favor of workspace window management. Maximization can be accomplished using the afore-mentioned window snapping, or by double-clicking the window title bar.
- A fallback mode is offered in versions 3.0–3.6 for those without hardware acceleration which offers the GNOME Panel desktop. This mode can also be toggled through the System Settings menu. GNOME 3.8 removed the fallback mode and replaced it with GNOME Shell extensions that offer a more traditional look and feel.
GNOME Shell has received mixed reviews: It has been criticized for a variety of reasons, mostly related to design decisions and reduced user control over the environment. For example, users in the free software community have raised concerns that the planned tight integration with Mutter will mean that users of GNOME Shell will not be able to switch to an alternative window manager without breaking their desktop. In particular, users might not be able to use Compiz with GNOME Shell while retaining access to the same types of features that older versions of GNOME allowed.
Reviews have generally become more positive over time, with upcoming releases addressing many of the annoyances reported by users.
- The Linux distribution Fedora uses GNOME Shell by default since release 15.
- Ubuntu doesn't use GNOME Shell by default, but users are able to install it from the Ubuntu repositories since version 11.10. In addition, an Ubuntu Gnome Remix is released alongside Ubuntu 12.10. An official GNOME edition of Ubuntu released by Canonical Ltd. with Ubuntu 13.04 and it was named Ubuntu GNOME.
- The GNOME version of openSUSE 12.1 uses GNOME Shell by default.
- Arch Linux dropped support of GNOME 2 in favor of GNOME 3 in its repositories.
- Mageia will have the current version of GNOME in its version 2.
- Debian Wheezy (stable) and Sid (unstable) make GNOME 3.4 available.
- Sabayon Linux uses latest version of GNOME Shell.
- Controversy over GNOME 3
- Unity, a shell interface for GNOME created by Ubuntu
- Cinnamon, a shell interface for GNOME used by Linux Mint
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