GNOME Shell 3.16 in overview mode
|Developer(s)||The GNOME Project|
|Initial release||April 6, 2011|
|Stable release||3.24.1 (12 April 2017) [±]|
|Preview release||3.24.0 (21 March 2017) [±]|
|Available in||75 languages|
GNOME Shell is the graphical shell of the GNOME desktop environment starting with version 3, which was released on April 6, 2011. It provides basic functions like launching applications, switching between windows and is also a widget engine. GNOME Shell replaced GNOME Panel and some ancillary components in GNOME 2.
In contrast to the KDE Plasma Workspaces, a software framework intended to facilitate the creation of multiple graphical shells for different devices, the GNOME Shell is intended to be used on desktop computers with large screens operated via keyboard and mouse, as well as portable computers with smaller screens operated via their keyboard, touchpad or touchscreen. This approach is criticized by some users, as shown in the results of a poll by Distrowatch at November 2016, where most voters (76%) preferred to have separate user interfaces for each type of device.
As graphical shell (graphical front-end/graphical shell/UX/UI) of the GNOME desktop environment, its design is guided by the GNOME UX Design Team.
GNOME Shell Overview mode
The GNOME Shell comprises following graphical and functional elements:
- Top bar
- System status area
- Activities Overview
- Window picker
- Application picker
- Notifications and calendar tray
- Application switcher
- Indicators tray
Changes to the user interface (UI) include, but are not limited to:
- Clutter and Mutter support multi-touch gestures.
- Support for HiDPI monitors.
- A new Activities overview, which houses:
- "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.
- 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. However, Ubuntu will move to GNOME shell in 18.04 LTS. In addition, an unofficial flavor named Ubuntu GNOME Remix was released alongside Ubuntu 12.10. It gained official flavor status by Ubuntu 13.04 release cycle and was renamed Ubuntu GNOME.
- The GNOME version of openSUSE 12.1 uses GNOME Shell by default.
- In 2011, Arch Linux dropped support of GNOME 2 in favor of GNOME 3 in its repositories.
- Mageia 2 and later include GNOME Shell.
- Debian Jessie makes GNOME 3.14 available. More recent versions of GNOME Shell are also available in Debian testing and sid (unstable).
- Sabayon Linux uses the latest version of GNOME Shell.
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.
After criticism of the traditional GNOME desktop and accusations of stagnation and lacking vision, the resulting discussion led 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.
- Unity, a shell interface for GNOME used by Ubuntu
- Cinnamon, a shell interface originally based on GNOME used by Linux Mint
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