The third release of GNOME since the big change of GNOME 40 is approaching, but KDE is not far behind.
We mentioned that the GNOME 25th anniversary release was coming up a few months ago and now the birthday release is coming out. The new version has the code name. guadalajara and it will be the default desktop for the upcoming fall releases of Ubuntu 22.10 and Fedora 37.
However, KDE is not far behind. Last year it turned 25 and the next release of its Plasma desktop, version 5.26it is in beta and should be available in early October.
These are two mature projects now, although both have had major upheavals and rewrites whose replicas are only just settling in. GNOME 40 was a major release, originally planned to be called GNOME 4, and the project has not yet finished porting all of its components to the new Gtk 4 with its compatibility with more restrictive themes.
In this release, the file manager moves to Gtk 4, with a number of minor improvements and a more responsive layout: it automatically scales to fit smaller windows, and the sidebar automatically hides if the window gets narrow. This is part of the process of porting GNOME to run on mobile devices, as the project blog recently described.
The new Text Editor app now also uses Gtk 4, as we mentioned when looking at the fedora 37 beta, as well as Maps, Logs, Builder, the initial setup wizard, Parental Controls settings, and the new Console app that will eventually replace GNOME Terminal. There’s a new system status menu, with big easy-to-press buttons for common actions. This makes it easier to switch between light and dark mode, reconnect to VPN, switch sound devices, and other improvements. The new version allows websites to be pinned to the desktop as stand-alone applications, and the on-screen keyboard has been updated with auto-suggest, Ctrl, Alt, and Tab on-screen buttons when working in a terminal. There are new alert sounds and remote desktop sessions now also support sound.
The changes in the new KDE Plasma desktop are a bit less dramatic, but it’s been a lot longer since the last major release of the KDE Project. The new version takes significant steps toward a “10-foot user interface”: that is, one intended for use as a media center on a big-screen TV.
Plasma Bigscreen’s user interface is designed to be used with a remote from across the room, and there’s also the new Aura Browser, for using the Web in this way, and Plank Player for viewing or listening to locally stored media, instead of streaming them online. .
KDE “Plasmoid” widgets are now resizable and support for visually impaired users with a screen reader has been improved. The Kickoff app launcher has been improved, with a new compact mode and alphabetical indexing of apps by name. The Settings app has been revamped, with improved support for wallpapers: instant previews, themed wallpapers in light and dark mode, and even animated wallpapers. There’s better keyboard navigation, the ability to choose day and night color themes, pick your location on a map, and more.
Both desktops are working on support for Wayland, for use with touch screens, and for scaling for different screen sizes and resolutions. All of these are important, as laptops continue to replace desktops and more and more modern laptops come with HiDPI, touch-sensitive screens…as well as growing compatibility to run on mobile devices like phones and tablets.
These are very positive developments, though we suspect the flip side of these modernization efforts may be turning some users away to simpler environments, or even tiled window managers, of which there is now a bewildering profusion. There is a risk that smaller, simpler desktops like LXQt and Xfce will be left behind with the shift to new display servers and new input and display technologies.
That said, however, the Registration FOSS Desk would be delighted to be wrong about that. We are very happy to learn recently that there is a new board application for Xfce, which gives you a GNOME-like overview screen. This feature is an oft-cited favorite among GNOME users, which is no doubt why KDE 5.24 also has something similar. ®