What’s new in GNOME 43?

Dave McKay / How-to Geek

The GNOME 43 beta became available on August 6, 2022. This isn’t a stable release, but it does indicate what to expect when the official release arrives on September 3rd. Let’s take a look at the beta version of GNOME 43.

gnome 43

GNOME is one of the most popular graphical desktop environments on Linux. Virtually every distribution has a version with GNOME. Imagine the impact when the GNOME developers turned things upside down with GNOME 40 – to say the least. the dock, activity view, and workspaces.

Releases 41 and 42 had a much smaller impact, focusing on polishing the UI and ironing out wrinkles left over from the iconoclastic changes to GNOME 40. GNOME 43 is more of that. Don’t expect big changes this time.

That doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. There’s the expected subtle cosmetic touches, with more applications adopting deeper integration with the libadwaita theme engine. But there are also new features, including the Files file browser extension. It is now customizable and offers a better user experience on mobile devices.

Although GNOME 43 Beta is available, it will not be released to the public until the actual launch date of September 21, 2022. Fedora 37 is said to use GNOME 43. Ubuntu 22.10 probably won’t do this. Running distributions based on Arch such as Garuda Linux, Manjaro Linux and EndeavorOS will pick it up shortly after the release date.

While this isn’t the finished product yet, the beta is still worth checking out. Even if small changes can still be made before the launch date, all the major elements are already in place. That release candidate build is the one where the portcullis falls and no more changes can be made. This is scheduled for September 3, 2022.

  • Gnome 43 beta: August 6, 2022.
  • GNOME 43 Release Candidate: September 3, 2022.
  • GNOME 43 launch release: September 21, 2022.

If you want to preview GNOME 43, you can download it from the GNOME website and run it in GNOME Boxes. Note that it only works in the version of Boxes that you can install from Flathub. To be clear, this isn’t a distribution, it’s just the minimum operating system you need for evaluation purposes to have a working GNOME desktop environment.

To get a full, working installation of Linux with an early prerelease of GNOME 43, you could download the rawhide spin of Fedora 37. This is the potentially unstable nightly developer build, so don’t install it on an important machine. Use it in virtual machines or non-critical replacement hardware.

Files File Browser (Nautilus)

There are cosmetic tweaks throughout GNOME 43. They give a more coherent and unified look to the desktop and applications, and while some of them may even go unnoticed by casual users, they give a consistent look to the user interface.

GNOME 43 file browser with close button and highlighted address bar

Rounded corners are applied to more UI elements than before, and the spacing between text elements has been slightly increased. The close button has a clearer circle around it.

The changes to the files browser are more than just cosmetic. It now adjusts its interface to the dimensions of its window. This is similar to how well-behaved websites seamlessly adapt when they realize they’re on a mobile device or a full-sized computer.

Finally, dragging the window to a narrower shape triggers the removal of the sidebar.

GNOME 43 file browser with sidebar removed automatically

You can access the sidebar by clicking the Show Sidebar icon in the toolbar.

GNOME 43 file browser with the sidebar accessed using

When you’re done with the sidebar, you can close it by clicking anywhere in the main application window.

Right-click a file or directory and choose Mark from the context menu to mark it or mark it as a favorite. If you click the Starred option in the sidebar, you’ll see all of your starred entries.

GNOME 43 File Browser will appear

“Floating” badges or emblems are used to indicate properties or characteristics of the files and directories.

Accent Colors and the Recoloring API

It was intended to include user-definable accent colors similar to those introduced in Ubuntu 22.04. This would allow the user to choose the color they want to use for menu highlight selection bars and other color-based visual feedback themes. We couldn’t find it in any of the beta versions we tested, although it may appear in a later build.

Another color-based initiative that could make the cut is the Recoloring API. Similar to how the global light or dark mode setting was exposed to application developers so they could write their applications to honor a single global setting, the recoloring API allows developers to write their applications to respect the user’s color choices . For example, you can identify the accent color you’ve chosen and ensure that the text in menu choices has appropriate contrast so it can still be read.

To see this in action, application developers need to have access to and become familiar with the API. Although this could make the cut and be included in the final version, it’s unlikely that applications will use this for any time to come.

GNOME Web Browser (Epiphany)

Attention was also paid to the GNOME web browser Epiphany. Added an option to the right-click context menu to view the source code for the webpage you are viewing.

A more significant web browser improvement is the ability to use Firefox extensions. After a little human intervention, an “Extensions” option appeared in the hamburger menu.

That

In order for this to work in the beta version, a specific one needs to be downloaded flatpak build and use the terminal to instruct web to use extensions. It was a cumbersome process. Presumably these manual steps will not be necessary in the final version.

Because the Firefox Extensions website knows you’re not actually using Firefox, even then you can’t install an extension directly from the website. You need to download the extension file, navigate to it in your file browser, right-click it and select “Open with Web (Epiphany)” from the context menu.

Again it was a little clunky but it worked. We were able to install and use FIrefox extensions.

A Firefox extension installed in the GNOME 43 web browser

TIED TOGETHER: How to install extensions (add-ons) in Mozilla Firefox

Another step in a worthwhile direction

While there are many small UI refinements and some additional features in some of the applications, most of what makes GNOME 43 interesting is hidden under the hood.

The ongoing work that enables application developers to libadwaita Engine through such initiatives as the Recoloring API will ultimately give the applications developed for GNOME a more consistent look and experience for the GNOME user. Well-behaved applications sensibly follow global color-related settings, as well as light and dark mode settings.

If GNOME 43 was this year’s model of an automobile, you’d see some small tweaks and dashboard changes as you climbed in. That might make you feel a little disappointed. You wouldn’t see the improvements if you didn’t look at the engine and drivetrain improvements.

GNOME 43 won’t blow your mind with new eye candy or toys. Rather, it should be viewed as another mature step towards the GNOME Project’s vision for its clean, functional, and cross-platform desktop environment.

TIED TOGETHER: How to Install and Use a Different Desktop Environment on Linux

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