GNOME 43 Desktop Is a Step Forward but Still Far from Perfection

The GNOME 43 "Guadalajara" desktop environment was released, improving the appearance and adding some new features.

Another six months of development later, and the long-awaited GNOME 43 is out with some enhancements and new functionalities for GNOME desktop fans. And while there are no revolutionary new features, GNOME 43 looks more polished than ever.

At the same time, several things have been changed, mainly to improve the user experience, so let’s take a closer look at them.

What’s New in GNOME 43 Desktop Environment

GNOME 43 Desktop Environment

Quick Settings

The Quick Settings menu is one of the most noticeable improvements in GNOME 43. It was one component of the desktop environment that had not changed significantly in recent versions. However, GNOME 43 has changed that.

Quick Settings

It allows you to change some frequently used settings with a button easily. For example, a UI style setting will let you switch between light and dark styles via Quick Settings with just a click.

In addition, a new screenshot button, which acts as a shortcut to the Screenshot app, has also been introduced. However, we must express our disappointment that the app cannot still delay before the grab. In our opinion, a must-have feature for any such tool.

And we’ll wrap up our overview of the new Quick Settings menu with the most useful new feature: switching between audio outputs. This was previously only possible by installing an additional extension or digging into “Settings.”

In other words, if you have a PC speaker and headphones connected to your PC simultaneously, you can switch between them with a single click. So let us put it this way – priceless.

GTK 4 and Libadwaita

The improvement brought about by Libadwaita, and GTK 4 in integrating the appearances of the GNOME apps is impressive. GNOME 43 includes several core applications that are now completely integrated with GTK 4. These include Files, Maps, Logs, Builder, Console, etc.

But, once again, we should express our disappointment about Console, the built-in GNOME terminal emulation app.

Console - a terminal emulator for the GNOME desktop

The app is frankly pointless. Moreover, it leaves us with a bad taste in the mouth with its complete lack of settings, as the only thing that can be adjusted is the light/dark mode and, fortunately, the text size.

Aside from that, apps integrated with GTK 4 and the latest version 1.2 of the Libadwaita library are now capable of “adaptive layout,” which allows them to appear correctly on small screen devices such as mobile phones.

This is also GNOME’s desired goal in expanding the concept of using the desktop environment on devices other than desktop computers.

Last but not least, the dark UI style used by GTK 4 apps has been enhanced, making the appearance of bars and lists more consistent.

Files App Improvements

Files, one of the essential apps, has received much attention in GNOME 43. And the result is excellent.

File and folder properties have been given a modern look that provides a greater overview of each object. They also offer new functionality, such as a button to open the parent folder.

GNOME 43 File Properties Dialog

In addition, the new “Open With” dialog makes it simple to specify which programs should be used to open certain file types. Finally, we can’t overlook highlighting that the menus have been restructured to be more logical and easier to use.

Web Apps

GNOME 43 introduces a brand new feature: the ability to install websites as applications. I’ll keep it short – our entire team fell in love with this new feature. But here’s what it is all about.

While browsing a website with the Web app (Epiphany), you can choose the new “Install Site as Web Application” option and save its address.

Then look for it in Activity Overview, where you’ll find them as a regular desktop application.

Web Apps

So, the Web App will open in its dedicated browser window after you click on it. In other words, you get the URL shortcut among your list of applications.

On top of that, offline functionality is provided, so you can use some web apps even when you aren’t connected to the internet.

Other GNOME 43 Improvements

Of course, this does not exhaust all of the new features in GNOME 43. The remaining essential ones are summarized below.

GNOME 43 includes improvements to the Calendar, Contacts, and Calls apps. For example, the Calendar’s interface has been updated, with a new sidebar containing a navigation calendar and a list of forthcoming events.

In addition, GNOME 43 Contacts now supports importing and exporting contacts as vCard files. At the same time, the Call app received support for encrypted VOIP calls and the capability to send SMS messages directly from the call history.

Furthermore, for version 43, GNOME’s privacy settings feature a new Device Security tab. This section contains information regarding the security of your physical hardware and its settings and firmware.

You can refer to the official announcement for detailed information about all changes in GNOME 43.

Bottom Line

GNOME 43 is the most polished and impressive version of this desktop environment. Some of the animations have been improved to be smoother than ever. So, we see obvious attention to detail and usefulness in it. It just shines.

However, GNOME developers continue to be “hard-headed” and deny the point of having the existence of fundamental desktop components such as the system tray area, desktop icons, and panel.

There is no better proof of the gaps than the fact that the first thing any vanilla GNOME user does is install at least a few extensions. Then, in most cases, to return things to normal with the functionality mentioned above.

Perhaps the pursuit of the concept of “convergence” is attractive, considering efforts to make the desktop environment usable on mobile devices. This may partly explain why the components mentioned above are missing.

However, it would not be bad for GNOME to learn from Ubuntu’s unpleasant experience that betting on the concept of “convergence” is doomed to failure. Until then, GNOME will remain one of the most excellent desktop environments while it makes a deliberate effort not to become the best.

Get GNOME 43

Unfortunately, while GNOME 43 was released, most people cannot indeed run it yet. However, there is some good news. The desktop environment is currently available in Fedora 37 Beta, now available for download.

The other option is to wait for Fedora 37’s stable release, which is expected for October 18 at the earliest.

Of course, you can also take GNOME 43 for a spin by downloading the GNOME OS and installing it through the GNOME Boxes app. Remember that this ISO image is not a complete Linux distribution. It only has the GNOME desktop skeleton with a minimal installation UI. 

Regular users should wait for this new GNOME release to arrive in the stable software repositories of their Linux distributions. As usual, rolling-release distros like Arch Linux will see it first.

Bobby Borisov

Bobby Borisov

Bobby, an editor-in-chief at Linuxiac, is a Linux professional with over 20 years of experience. With a strong focus on Linux and open-source software, he has worked as a Senior Linux System Administrator, Software Developer, and DevOps Engineer for small and large multinational companies.

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