gnome-info-collect closing soon

There has been a fantastic response to gnome-info-collect since Vojtěch announced it three weeks ago. To date we’ve had over 2,200 responses. That’s amazing! Thanks to everyone who has run the tool.

We now have enough data to perform the analyses we want. As a result, it’s time to close data collection. This will happen next Monday, 19 September. On that day, the data collection server will be turned off.

If you haven’t run gnome-info-collect yet, and would like to, there’s still a little time. See the project readme for instructions on how to install and run it.

Just because we’re shutting down gnome-info-collect doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a future. Hopefully there will be further rounds of data collection in the future, where we can look at other aspects of GNOME usage that we didn’t examine this time round.

In the mean time, we have lots of great data to process and analyse. Watch this space to learn about what we find!

Help improve GNOME!

This is a guest post by Vojtech Stanek, who has been interning at Red Hat and who has been working on an exciting new tool for the GNOME project.

gnome-info-collect is a new tool which collects anonymous data about how GNOME systems are configured, and then sends that information back to GNOME servers, where it can be analyzed. The goal of this tool is to help improve GNOME, by providing data that can inform design decisions, influence where resources are invested, and generally help GNOME understand its users better.

As of today, gnome-info-collect is ready to be used, and we are asking all GNOME users to install and run it!

The more people who provide data, the better! So, if you would like to help us improve GNOME, please consider installing and running gnome-info-collect on your system. It only takes a second.

How to run the tool

Update, 20 September 2022: as announced, the collection period for gnome-info-collect is now over, and the collection server has been turned off.

Simply install the package for your distribution, and then run gnome-info-collect from the Terminal. The tool will show you what information will be shared and won’t upload anything until you give your consent.

Packages are available for Fedora, Ubuntu, Arch and openSUSE: see the installation instructions for more details.

We’d love to expand the list of distributions covered.

How it works

gnome-info-collect is a simple client-server application. The client can be run on any GNOME system. There, it collects various system data including:

  • Hardware information, including the manufacturer and model
  • Various system settings, including workspace configuration, and which sharing features are enabled
  • Application information, such as which apps are installed, and which ones are favourited
  • Which GNOME shell extensions are installed and enabled

You can find the full list of collected information in the gnome-info-collect README. The tool shows the data that will be collected prior to uploading and, if the user consents to the upload, is then securely sent to GNOME’s servers for processing.

Data privacy

The collected data is completely anonymous and will be used only for the purpose of enhancing usability and user experience of GNOME. No personal information is recorded, like usernames or email addresses. Any potentially identifying information, such as the IP address of the sender and the precise time of receiving the data, is discarded on the server side. To prevent the same client from sending data multiple times, a salted hash of the machine ID and username is used.

All of this ensures that the collected data is confidential and untraceable.

Spread the word!

The best way to help is to take part by running gnome-info-collect and uploading your anonymous data.

You can also help by sharing this post with other GNOME users, and by encouraging others to run the collection tool themselves. The more users run gnome-info-collect, the better conclusions we can make from the collected data, resulting in an improved GNOME system comfortable for its users.

So, do not hesitate to help improve GNOME. Simply install gnome-info-collect, run it and go tell all your GNOME friends about it! Thank you!

Berlin mini-GUADEC

Photo courtesy of Jakub Steiner

As I write this post, I’m speeding through the German countryside, on a high speed train heading for Amsterdam, as I make my way home from the GUADEC satellite event that just took place in Berlin.

The event itself was notable for me, given that it was the first face-to-face GNOME event that I’ve participated in since the Covid pandemic set in. Given how long its been since I physically met with other contributors, I felt that it was important to me to do a GNOME event this summer, but I wasn’t prepared to travel to Mexico for various reasons (the environment, being away from family), so the Berlin event that sprang up was a great opportunity.

I’d like to thank the local Berlin organisers for making the event happen, C-Base for hosting us, and the GNOME Foundation for providing sponsorship so I could attend.

Pairing a main conference with regional satellite events seems like an effective approach, which can both widen access while managing our carbon footprint, and I think that this could be a good approach for other GUADECs in the future. It would be good to document the lessons that can be learned from this year’s GUADEC before we forget.

In order to reduce my own environmental impact, I traveled to and from the event over land and sea, using the Hull↔Rotterdam overnight ferry, followed by a train between Amsterdam and Berlin. This was a bit of an adventure, particularly due to the scary heatwave that was happening during my outward journey (see travel tips below).

The event itself had good attendance and had a relaxed hackfest feel to it. With two other members of the design team present, plus Florian Muellner and António Fernandes, it was a great opportunity to do some intensive work on new features that are coming in the GNOME 43 release.

I go home re-energised by the time spent with fellow collaborators – something that I’ve missed over the past couple of years – and satisfied by the rapid progress we’ve been able to make by working together in person.

Notes on Travel

I learnt some things with the travel on this trip, so I’m recording them here for future reference. Some of this is might be useful for those wanting to avoid air transport themselves.

Travel in the time of Covid

One obvious tip: check the local covid requirements before you travel, including vaccination and mask requirements. (Something I failed to fully do this trip.)

There was one point on this trip when I felt unwell and wasn’t entirely prepared to deal with it. Make sure you can handle this scenario:

  • Have travel insurance that covers Covid.
  • Note down any support numbers you might need.
  • Check local requirements for what to do if you contract Covid.
  • Take Covid tests with you. If you start to feel unwell, you need to be able to check if you’re positive or not.

Long-distance overland travel

This wasn’t the first time I’ve done long-distance overland travel in Europe, but the journey did present some challenges that I hadn’t encountered before. Some things I learned as a result:

  • Research each leg of your journey yourself, in order to see what options are available and to pick comfortable interchange times. (Background: I used to research my train tickets. This site promises to work out your full journey for you, but it turns out that it doesn’t do a great job. In particular, it assumes that you want the shortest interchange time possible between connecting services, but then it warns about the interchanges being too short. The result is that it appears that some journeys aren’t viable, when they are if you pick a different combination of services.)
  • Wherever possible, make sure that your travel schedule has ample contingency time. I had a couple of delays on my journey which could have easily caused me to miss a connection.
  • I typically book the cheapest ticket I can, which usually means buying non-flexible tickets. For this trip, this felt like a mistake, due to the aforementioned delays. Having flexible tickets would have made this much less stressful and would have avoided costly replacement tickets if I’d missed a connection.
  • Make sure you carry lots of water with you, particularly if it’s warm. I carried 2 litres, which was about right for me.
  • The boat

    The Hull↔Rotterdam ferry service is a potentially interesting option for those traveling between northern England and mainland Europe. It’s an overnight service, and you get a cabin included with the price of your ticket. This can potentially save you the cost of a night’s accommodation.

    A coach service provides a connection between the ferry terminal and Amsterdam and Rotterdam train stations, and there’s an equivalent taxi service on the UK side.

    I quite like the ferry, but it is also somewhat infuriating:

    • The timing of the coach to Amsterdam is a bit variable, and it’s hard to get an exact arrival time. If you have a particular train you need to catch in Amsterdam or Rotterdam, make sure to tell the coach driver what time it is. When I did this, the driver dropped me off close to the station to help me catch my train.
    • It can be hard to find the coach stop in Amsterdam. If you’ve been issued with a ticket for the coach, check the address that’s printed on it. Give yourself plenty of time.
    • The food on board the ferry is expensive and bad. My recommendation would be to not book an evening meal or breakfast, and take your own food with you.

Human Interface Guidelines, libadwaita 1.0 edition

After a lot of hard work, libadwaita 1.0 was released on the last day of 2021. If you haven’t already, check out Alexander’s announcement, which covers a lot of what’s in the new release.

When we rewrote the HIG back in May 2021, the new version expected and recommended libadwaita. However, libadwaita evolved between then and 1.0, so changes were needed to bring the HIG up to date.

Therefore, over the last two or three weeks, I’ve been working on updating the HIG to cover libadwaita 1.0. Hopefully this will mean that developers who are porting to GTK 4 and libadwaita have everything that they need in terms of design documentation but, if anything isn’t clear, do reach out using the usual GNOME design channels.

In the rest of this post, I’ll review what’s changed in the HIG, compared with the previous version.

What’s changed

There’s a bunch of new content in the latest HIG version, which reflects additional capabilities that are present in libadwaita 1.0. This includes material on:

There have also been updates to existing content: all screenshots have been updated to use the latest UI style from libadwaita, and the guidelines on UI styling have been updated, to reflect the flexibility that comes with libadwaita’s new stylesheet.

As you might expect, there have been some general improvements to the HIG, which are unrelated to libadwaita. The page on navigation has been improved, to make it more accessible. A page on selection mode has also been added (we used to have this documented, then dropped the documentation while the pattern was updated). There has also been a large number of small style and structure changes, which should make the HIG an easier read.

If you spot any issues, the HIG issue tracker is open, and you can send merge requests too!

Platform Design Goings On

The GNOME design team has recently been working on GNOME’s application development platform, and I thought that it might be interesting for people to hear about what we’ve been up to.

The following is an overview of our recent platform design activities, particularly libadwaita. It will give an idea of what is currently going into the GNOME platform from a UXD perspective, as well as some of things that people might expect from the platform in the future.

Some context

If you follow GNOME development, you’ll know that GTK 4 was released back in December 2020. You’ll also maybe know about libhandy, which can be used in conjunction with GTK 3 to add additional widgets and capabilities. And you might know that libadwaita is being worked on as the libhandy successor for GTK 4.

Adrien Plazas did a great post announcing libadwaita, and Alexander Mikhaylenko has been posting detailed updates. libadwaita still isn’t stable, but the hope is to have a stable 1.0 release in the not too distant future.

One of the central goals of libadwaita is to make it easy to make great apps, using the components and design practices that make up GNOME’s app design approach. Needless to say, the GNOME design team has been on board with this initiative from the start! It has also required quite a bit of work from us, both to document and systematise the design conventions we’ve been using, as well as to design missing platform pieces.

The first major step in this work was completed last development cycle, with the rewritten HIG. The new version is synchronized with GTK 4 and libadwaita, so its design advice is an accurate portrayal of what can be done with the emerging new version of the GNOME platform.

The updated HIG will be an important part of the application developer experience, and we are now focused on delivering the other key elements.

Ongoing work

The following describes some of the areas of platform design work that the design team are currently involved with, particularly in the run up to libadwaita 1.0. As such, it covers work that is unfinished and is in various states of flux.


One of the first things that people will notice about apps that are using GTK 4 and libadwaita is their look, which is noticeably different from GTK 3 apps.

Header bar buttons are generally plain icons without outline or background. Other buttons have a flat colour. The background colours of container widgets are lighter in light mode, and darker in dark mode. Many of these changes in appearance are driven by technical changes: libadwaita’s support for dark mode and recolouring has knock-on effects for how widgets can be styled.

However, the design team is also keen to use the opportunity of libadwaita 1.0 to update the style of GNOME apps. The last time GTK had a style update was for GNOME 3.32, back in March 2019, and it could be several years before we get another opportunity to make changes.

On top of that, we do feel that the current GTK 3 look could be improved when compared to what’s being done on other platforms.

We are actively testing the style changes that have been made so far, using both in mockups and actual apps, and there could be adjustments before libadwaita 1.0. We also have a few other relatively minor style changes planned.

Dark mode

The new dark style preference is probably the main “feature” to come out of libadwaita — see Alexander’s recent post about it, if you haven’t already.

A properly supported dark style isn’t just a simple switch between two alternate CSS stylesheets, and the design team is currently working through a list of work items to make it into an excellent experience. This includes adjusting application-specific styling to work in both light and dark styles, modifying any full-colour icons we use to have adequate contrast in both modes, and creating light and dark versions of the GNOME wallpapers.

We have also, obviously, been working on designs for how to expose the dark preference itself.

Patterns app

Another ongoing initiative is the design and development of Patterns. This is a demo app which is intended to accompany libadwaita and the HIG.

One explicit goal of Patterns is to demonstrate those design patterns which we recommend app developers as part of the HIG, as opposed to demonstrating every possible UI that the platform is technically capable of producing.

There is plenty of work yet to do on Patterns, so if you’d like to help out with this effort, just head over to its Gitlab project.

New about

There isn’t much scope to add new widgets prior to libadwaita 1.0, but there are a few which the design team is hoping to sneak in. One of these is an updated about window design. The goal is to have a simple, refined design, which works on a variety of form factors.

Looking to the future

In addition to supporting development work that is currently ongoing, the design team is also working on designs which will hopefully happen in future versions of libadwaita, after 1.0, and I’ll give an overview of these so you can see what’s coming down the tracks. That said, all of these designs are speculative, so there is no guarantee that they will happen, or that they will happen in the form that’s described here. Also, note that the images here are mockups which aren’t a fully realistic representation of what any final UI might look like.

Entry rows

Boxed lists are a common design pattern in our apps, and libadwaita includes a number of convenience widgets to make it easy to create common types of lists and rows (currently, AdwActionRow, AdwComboRow, and AdwExpanderRow). One thing that’s missing here is a dedicated widget for rows which contain a text entry, and this is something that we’ve been actively exploring. It’s a tricky design problem but is something that we’re determined to resolve.


In-app notifications are the bars that appear below the header bars of some GNOME apps, to show transient messages. They have been used for some time, and play a key role in a number of core apps. However, despite their centrality, they have never really been supported by the platform, having been provided as cut and paste code from libgd, which has meant that they’ve often been out of reach for many app developers.

Toasts are planned to be a new widget which will be provided by libadwaita, and which will effectively replace in-app notifications. We plan on avoiding some of the issues that can be seen with the existing in-app notifications, by providing a simple API which takes care of the tricky aspects of showing message popups, such as message queing.


Another widget which we hope to provide an alternative to is GtkInfoBars. These have been around for a very long time, and are used in many apps to show a coloured strip below the header containing text and controls.

Info bars require developers to pack the content of the bar themselves, which results in consistency and quality issues, as well as more work for developers. Also, they aren’t adaptive. So we are planning to introduce a new widget – banners – which are simpler to use, adaptive, and which take care of their own internal layout. This will avoid the info bar issues of the past, and be less work to use.

Selection mode

Another area of design development has been selection mode. This is found in some of the GNOME core apps, but is not currently covered by the HIG. Recent design exploration has sought to refine and update the design pattern, in order to allow us to recommend it to developers.

A good next step here will be to try the updated design in a core app, so we get an opportunity to validate it.

Putting it into practice

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been updating a number of GNOME’s core app designs, to put our updating styling and design patterns into practice, and make sure that they work together.

Here, you can see what Contacts, Photos and Clocks might look like once ported to GTK 4 and libadwaita. Obviously, these are just experiments, but they are a helpful way of exploring our new direction.

I have to say that, applying the new style to existing apps has been extremely refreshing from a design perspective, and the new approach has been working even better than I’d expected. The simplified visual style feels lighter, and a number of awkward old designs clicked into place when using the new list and button patterns.

Closing thoughts

Many of the things that are being done for the GNOME platform right now have been a dream for many years, so the fact that they are now happening is incredibly exciting. Having fully supported design patterns, with integrated documentation and demos will be huge win for anyone creating apps for the GNOME platform.

Alexander Mikhaylenko deserves special thanks for his work on libadwaita, which is making all this possible. Tobias Bernard, Adrien Plazas, Chris Davis, Jakub Steiner, and Maximiliano are all also playing key roles.

While phenomenal progress is being made in this area, resources are tight and there’s a lot of work falling on the shoulders of a few contributors. A good number of things we would like to implement for libadwaita 1.0 won’t make it because of these constraints. Which is my way of saying: help would be welcome!