i’m excited about the future of gnome

about half a year ago i was looking around me and seeing stagnation in the gnome community. i was concerned that gnome had lost its momentum and that we were just making boring incremental releases that added very little new functionality.

i think i was very wrong.

i’d like to take this time to list some things that are happening right now in the gnome community that have me very excited. these are the projects that are actively improving the future of the gnome desktop.

many of these things are infrastructure items. i really see this as a fantastic time for the improvement of the inner workings of our desktop. a lot of the things listed below are going to come together with each other very nicely.

it also seems that there is a renewed focus on efficiency and doing things the right way. the past few years have seen a lot of cries of “save memory”, “perform io more intelligently”, “don’t abuse timers”, etc. many of the projects listed below seem to be taking these ideas well into account. many of the projects are replacements for larger and more complicated things.

this is just a list i thought up in a few minutes. i have probably forgotten a thing or two, so please don’t be offended if your project is not listed here.

dconf – hopefully the future of configuration in the gnome desktop.

epiphany+webkit – this is an exciting hack. i look forward to the day where this is stable enough for general consumption. i’d love to see gnome using webkit as its stock ‘embed some html’ widget.

gbus – the future glib/gobject bindings for dbus. currently in the very early stages, these bindings will integrate with gobject introspection and make it hilariously easy to put your application on the bus. we currently have a summer of code student laying some of the initial groundwork required to make this a reality.

gdm rework – jon mccann is currently rewriting gdm to better support multiple users. his efforts include consolekit integration and a more flexible greeter system. it was cool to be able to spend a night hacking alongside him at guadec — it looks like some exciting things are on the way.

gtk+/glib awesome – every new release brings exciting new features and moves us closer to removing our dependency on those crufty old libraries that nobody seems to care to have around anymore.

gvfs – by all estimations, a fantastic piece of work. this is currently being hacked on by the one person who would know better than anyone else what is wrong with gnome-vfs. i’ll be very happy when this work appears in next summer’s glib release.pimlico applications – these very attractive-looking applications are designed for use on mobile devices but are very usable in a normal desktop environment. they make me dream of an evolution-free future.

policykit – will allow us to move away from running our administrative applications with gksudo (or equivalent) and toward using protected methods on bus-activated system services while at the same time providing a sane centralised location for system administrators and distributors to control what users are allowed to do.

telepathy – a project that needs no introduction. this is just a fantastic idea and it will make gnome kick ass in ways that we probably haven’t even realised yet. tubes!!

tinymail and modest – i can’t wait to read my email using this stuff. if it’s half as good as that pvanhoof guy keeps saying it will be then i’ll be quite happy indeed.

tracker – and the fact that it is now enabled by default in ubuntu. i hope jamie can handle all the feedback that he’ll surely be getting. :)

vala – i’m not currently hacking on a project for which it would be appropriate, but this looks like it is becoming a fantastic language. when hacking gobject in c you always have this dilemma between doing everything “the proper way” and not giving yourself carpal tunnel syndrome. vala lets you do it the proper way without the stress injuries and without the overhead that accompanies other high level languages.

xorg – may not technically be part of gnome, but definitely shaping the future of our desktop. it was fantastic to be able to talk to the xorg hackers at guadec about features that gnome wants implemented and to hear them say “ok. we’ll try to do that.”. it’s very nice to have a transparent and open team of people working on such an important piece of software.

there’s lots of talk of “gnome 3.0″. “3.0″ is just a name. if you look around in the next few releases i suspect you’ll see that gnome has added much more functionality since “2.0″ than goes into new “major releases” of almost anything else.

75 thoughts on “i’m excited about the future of gnome”

  1. We hope that the reworked GDM allows for keyboard-layout selection before the user logs in.

    In our environment, we support multiple keyboard layouts for our users, and it would be nice if those that want to select “their” layout can do this at GDM level.

    Is anything like this in the works?

    Cheers,
    Rainer

  2. good post, looks like there’s some interesting stuff going on, altho alot of it went over my head a bit…does anyone know if one of these projects will mean you can restore an item to its previous location from the the recyle bin? That’s one thing that’s always bugged me.

  3. Ethan: Plasma not visible to the end user? What are you talking about?
    Also, KDE 4.0 has Strigi (like Tracker, but faster) and Dolphin will have Strigi support built-in.
    And Amarok 2. And KOffice 2.

  4. anon: Plasma by itself is useless. What matters is what is done using Plasma, ie. the Plasmoids, new Kicker, so on.

    And at some point GNOME will fully integrate Beagle or Tracker, on top of the integration that is currently there (in Nautilus et al.) and the integration that has just been added (search support in GTK 2.10 file choosers).

    And all sorts of other stuff. But you have to get the foundation right before you can build a skyscraper.

  5. Why is Vala necessary? Why not just use D? It’s an established language designed to be similar to C# and including goodies such as Unicode support, but programs are compiled without any vm overhead to speak of.

  6. It sound a lot like KDE 4 series, but with 1/100 of the things xD.

    Nah, Just kidding, I’m really following GNOME development since it’s my most use environment by this time.

    Gbus sure will be nice, since it’s one of the things that GNOME is really lacking.

    Cheers to developers! and good luck.

  7. Let me know when GNOME decides to work like UNIX software. For example, when Evolution supports an external editor for e-mail composition.

    Until then, well… GNOME is just another Windoze lookalike/workalike that really doesn’t interest me.

  8. KDE user here, but I have to say, nice list, and certainly sounds promising. I dig Vala — this kind of “metaprogramming” (and I hope I didn’t abuse the language too much with this) if done well, can give a great boost to development. Personally I find C and C++ a pain in the bum, so if something makes developing in them easier while retaining the few benefits those languages offer, it’s a good thing.

    I’m really surprised at all the negativity here in the comments…

    As for the whole screen estate issue? Dunno about you, but Gtk+ buttons (in any style easily available) always seem much taller to me with the same font settings than KDE styles, not to mention most software lack proper keyboard control (there are some issues in KDE I can’t quite get over either, though), and the widgets keep getting randomly resized by a few pixels when clicked even if it’s just simple text in them that they already displayed to begin with, which feels a bit unprofessional to me.

    I personally can’t stand the Gtk+ dropdown list and the switched button order (Is it possible to make it Okay-Cancel instead of Cancel-Okay? I mean, in a way that it works.) which is pretty much the reason I avoid Gtk+ GUIs as much as possible, but hey, tastes differ.

    Anyway, I think this was a quite good post really.

  9. look, i like these improvements but the community heard about the improvements of Gnome a “long” time ago and now even before the release of 2.x series we see changes in the “core infrastructure” (gobject etc) of Gnome and i tought this kind of problems should be resolved in those times.

  10. @dohboy
    > Whee, new graphics! You sure your handle isnt really
    > ‘vista user’ where pretty graphics and frivolous fluff are
    > more important than core system stability,
    > expandability, etc etc?

    That’s what matters these days, otherwise you are seen to be left behind. Apparently, it was enough for Gnome and GTK to use Cairo and for people to do things like Compiz.

  11. @OP: It’s great to hear that GNOME too are renovating it’ infrastructure and I hoping for more interoperability and under-the-hood sharing of functionality.

    @Ethan: You don’t know shit about Plasma or KDE 4. Plasma is not a bunch of C++ classes waiting to be subclasseed. It’s “desktop shell”, it’s what reacts to the user when right-clicking on the background, when handling and dragging an icon to the desktop. KDE-supplied plasmoids (plasma applets) ARE part of plasma (and some are very essential like the new panel.) Just because the API is well designed and allows other developers to easily write new data engines or applets (and now in non-C++ languages) this doesn’t mean the essential-and-to-be-shipped ones are not part of it. And what the hell do you mean by that Phonon, Solid, Nepomuk not visible to the end user? Is being extremely useful is NOT possible unless something is “visible” (according to your own twisted definition?) Dolphin has Nepomuk support, how invisible is that? Solid and Phono greatly simplifies developers work and enhance the end user experience, now that KDE applications are going to available on GNU/Linux, Mac OS X and Windows. How about Decibel? Akonadi? The Oxygen team (which is doing an awesome job?) How about KOffice 2 (Krita, Kexi, ..?) How about all the work being done by the KDE-Graphics (the almighty Okular, anybody?,) or KDE-PIM? Is by visible you mean “eye-candy”? Well meet plasma (now with support for Apple dashboard widgets,) and the new Kwin. And KDE switched to Qt 4, DBus from DCOP, CMake from the autotools and making their code as cross-platform as possible, in the process. That alone _is_ massive work.

  12. I’m a KDE user, but I think the list is promising.

    Gnome and KDE both innovate, and both push limits, and both will learn from each other.

    KDE learns from Gnome and uses the Telepathy definition.

    Gnome learns from KDE and switches to WebKit which originates from khtml.

    Both work together under the hood of freedesktop.org

    And both are moving ever faster to replace proprietary systems.

    So hey, I might be a KDE user and I might care most about KDE, but Gnome and KDE are both important, because being two projects they can move in different ways, find together again and move out again and that way cover far more ground than a single project could.

    I want many people to use KDE and Gnome users want many people to use Gnome.

    Lets move out, then, and create guides for our users and create many great things which bring them to the respective desktop, and while we try to create a better experience than the other free desktops, we might suddenly see, that we just surpassed any non-free desktop together.

    Then we can sit down, celebrate a big free software party and begin outpacing the respective other one again.

    And while doing so, we can still keep contact, share ideas and work together, and we will make a difference.
    - http://draketo.de/english/free-software/light/kde-and-gnome-vs

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