The first beta of GNOME 3.4 came out at the tail end of last week, which means that we are roughly on track for a final release at the end of March. The beta also marks the beginning of the UI freeze for this cycle, so now seems like a good time to check out the cool stuff that’s coming in 3.4.
The following are just the changes that I know about; I’m sure that there are plenty of others. There’s no shortage of things to talk about though: the amount of improvement in recent GNOME releases has been really impressive, and this release looks like it will be no exception.
Applications are where many of the big changes can be found for this release. Documents and Contacts had their first releases in 3.2. Now they’re back, and they’re joined by Boxes too. All three of these new GNOME applications feature updated user interfaces, which is the outcome of the ongoing application design work that I discussed in my last blog post. We think they’re better than what we had before; we hope you do too.
One of the things that the GNOME design crew have been focusing on recently is creating a new approach to application design for GNOME 3. We want GNOME applications to be thoroughly modern, and we want them to be attractive and a delight to use. That means that we have to do application design differently to how we’ve done it in the past.
Design is always an iterative process, and the new GNOME application design approach has been steadily evolving for some time. There have been lots of design ideas and mockups, and there has been plenty of testing of prototypes and of proper implementations. This process has resulted in some design patterns being consigned to the scrapheap while others have come to have an increasingly important place in our hearts. Slowly but surely, things are starting to fall into place.
As the new GNOME 3 application design approach has stabilised, we have been able to pursue the development of more new applications. GNOME Documents and Contacts have been joined by Boxes, Web and Clocks. We also have designs in the works for many other new applications, including Mail, Videos, Chat, Photos, Calendar and more. Each of these new designs utilise the application design approach that we have been developing. We are also starting to document our new application design approach in a new version of the HIG. This will help application developers to create their own GNOME 3 apps.
In what remains of this post I’m going to try to give you a taste of the new application designs, as well as give a bit of background about why they have been designed in the way that they are.
A small Every Detail Matters update to bring sunshine and joy to your Thursday.
There have been four new bug fixes since I last gave an update, which was a little under a fortnight ago. Several of these bugs focus on visual presentation, to make sure that text is easy to read and the UI intelligible. The others address interaction gremlins, which is always important when you have a somewhat dynamic UI.
Congrats to Stefano Facchini, Vít Stanislav and Alex Hultman for getting your fixes submitted! You’re awesome, and I’m sure that the users of GNOME 3 will love your changes.
The new fixes bring us to the half way point! We set the goal of fixing 20 bugs by the end of the cycle, and we have now closed 10. So things are going well, but there is still more to do! If you fancy fixing a GNOME bug that will enhance our user experience, this is your chance to help.
I’d like to reiterate that Every Detail Matters is not just for newbies. We are also setting our sights on issues that would benefit from the attention of a more practiced hand. If you are an experienced hacker who wants to chip in but doesn’t want the hassle of figuring out what needs fixing, Every Detail Matters is definitely for you.
It is hard to say exactly when the WIMP paradigm came into being. The mouse and pointer (or ‘bug’ as it was originally called) came out of the work of Douglas Engelbart and his research staff at the Stanford Research Institute during the mid to late 1960s (his Mother of all Demonstrations is still amazing to watch). It was later, with Xerox Parc’s Alto and Xerox Star, and with the Apple Lisa, that the WIMP approach solidified. Which device got there first is somewhat irrelevant; between them, these early devices established the central features of what we now know as desktop environments.
The ‘WIMP’ paradigm is made up of four key components: windows, icons, menus and a pointer. The approach was highly file-centric when it was conceived, and mimicked the physical world of the office. There were files and file systems, and a desktop containing a variety of objects, such as a wastebasket. (The Xerox Star desktop even had an inbox and outbox for mail.) Multiple files could be worked with simultaneously by having them on the screen at the same time, with windows forming the basis of early multitasking functionality.
Last month, I announced a new initiative called Every Detail Matters. Its goal: to make GNOME 3 really awesome by ensuring that small design details are taken care of. Each round of the initiative will focus on a particular part of GNOME 3. Designers and developers will work together on refining the user experience.
For this first round of Every Detail Matters, we are focusing on the Activities Overview. We are being ambitious and are aiming to fix 20 UX bugs by the end of the release cycle.
There has already been an amazing response to Every Detail Matters. A whole crew of contributors have set to work, including some new contributors. Zan Dobersek, Seif Lotfy, Stefano Candori and Marc Plano Lesay have all successfully sumbitted patches. Vít Stanislav and Stefano Facchini are also hard at work on contributions of their own. The development version of GNOME Shell is already much nicer thanks to what they’ve been doing.