Adventures in Wayland

I’ve spent the last two weekends with the GTK+ Wayland backend, trying to make some progress towards day-to-day usability. While there are still some big gaps, things are looking pretty ok now.

Window decorationsThis screenshot shows client-side decorations on a GTK+ window. You can see rounded corners and invisible borders – shadows are still missing. We use the proper resize cursors, depending on which directions the window can be resized. This is a combined work of Kristian and Rob, based on older work by Cody Russell.

SettingsThis screenshot demonstrates that GTK+ applications are picking up desktop settings now – in this example the cursor theme as well as the text size.

The support for settings in GTK+ is a bit complicated: We have a GtkSettings object which receives changes from the xsettings client in the X backend. These xsettings are provided by the xsettings manager that is part of gnome-settings-daemon, which in turns reads the settings out of GSettings.

In Wayland, there is not root window to store properties on, and no X selection mechanism to manage it. In principle, the compositor could provide a settings interface for clients to use. Since we don’t have that yet, the GDK backend reads the settings directly out of GSettings for now. That works fine and fits the Wayland philosophy of doing things client-side.

Keyboard supportThis screenshot tries to capture some improvements of the keyboard support. Key repeat is done client-side and similar to the settings, we pick up the configuration for it directly from GSettings. Keyboard state information is propagated, and causes the Caps Lock warning icon to be shown in the password entry.

The Wayland backend should also handle keyboard layout changes, but since weston does not support changing layouts at runtime, this has not been tested.

The tooltip on that icon shows that there’s some work left to be done on popup window placement.

Custom titlebarsOnce we have client-side decorations, it becomes very natural to allow custom titlebars, like the one shown in this example. This has always been possible: you could use old-style wm hints to tell the window manager not to put a titlebar, and do your own. Using gtk_window_set_titlebar() just makes this easier, and it does the right thing, regardless whether you are using client-side decorations under Wayland or traditional wm decorations under X.

All of the screenshots are with current git master of GTK+. Trying out Wayland is pretty easy if you are on Fedora 19. The gtk3 package has the Wayland backend enabled. Just install weston, and set GDK_BACKEND=wayland.

To learn more about the status of the GTK+ Wayland backend and the work that remains to be done, visit the wiki page.

Is your GNOME shell extension ready for 3.8 ?

GNOME 3.8 is right around the corner – we are working on the release candidate today. In 3.8, shell extensions get a lot more recognition; via the new Classic mode that is built with extensions.

Coral tree flowers // by Tatters

But there’s a whole universe of interesting extensions out there on beyond the ‘official’ ones. Unfortunately, many of them are not currently marked as compatible with 3.8. Now is the perfect time to test your extension and make sure it is ready for the new stable release.

Recent GNOME 3.7 sightings

With GNOME 3.7.90, we’ve entered the feature freeze and focus on polish and on whittling down the blocker list (don’t expect all of these to be fixed, the list currently still contains a mixture of actual blockers and nice-to-have things).

But just before that, there was a mighty effort to get things landed. All that happened while I was travelling, so here is a somewhat late tour of new things that have appeared recently.

Document scrolling

Document editing

GNOME Documents has  a new scrollbar with integrated preview, and lets you edit Google docs in place. What you can’t see in these screenshots: it has also been turned from a clutter-gtk app into a  pure GTK+ app. Among other things, this solves performance and accessibility problems.

Region & LanguageThe control-center has kept up its pace of one new panel per release. Here we see the redesigned Region & Language panel.

Network profilesAny type of network

The network panel can now create multiple wired configurations (called profiles), and it lets you create things like bridges, bonds or vlans.

Background menuMessage tray menuIn GNOME shell, we have a new context menus on the desktop background and on the message tray. These can be opened both with a right click or a long press.


The shell overview will now show your the most frequently used applications in a separate tab.

GNOME 3.8 will be released at the end of March. If you want to try it before, we have a live image.

The fountain of knowledge

I was at the developer conference in Brno over the last weekend, so I missed this when it first came out, but I’ve just watched the new video by my colleague Monty, and I must say it is really fantastic. Go watch it!

If you want to learn more about the topic and about the software that he used in the production, its all here.

GNOME 3.7 at the halfway mark

We are a bit past the midpoint of the development cycle for GNOME 3.8. That seems like a nice time to take a look at what new things are coming – most new features are visible at least in rudimentary form at this point.

First of all, Settings !

The control-center and settings-daemon have seen a flurry of activity which has resulted in several new and refreshed panels. In other words, plenty of screenshot material — I’ll get to that soon.

First I want to mention a few things that are not easily shown in pictures, but are still going to have a significant positive effect:

  • Tests. Martin Pitt has done great work in mocking up services and creating tests for the functionality of many modules, from udisks and upower to glib and gnome-settings-daemon. Bastien has also added many tests, and fixed the bugs that were uncovered by them. Here is an example.
  • Speed. The control-center panels are no longer loadable modules, but built into the control-center. And all of the .ui and other data files are loaded as resources. Opening the control-center should be faster, as a result.
  • Standards. Bastien added a tiny plugin to gnome-settings-daemon which implements the org.freedesktop.ScreenSaver D-Bus API. This should make it even easier for media players and other 3rd party applications to keep the screen from dimming at inopportune times.

On to screenshots.

Allowing you to focus on your task and minimizing interruptions has been an important aspect of the GNOME 3 design from the start. So far, we just had a global switch to turn off notifications. The new Notification panel expands on this and allows fine-grained control over what applications get to annoy you, and how much.

The new Privacy panel collects various settings to control who may get to see your personal data, etc. Some of these settings, e.g. the Screen Lock settings were previously available elsewhere, but have been moved here because they are related to privacy.

Similar to the Privacy panel, the Sharing panel collects settings that used to be available in other places, in this case the individual preference dialogs for gnome-bluetooth, gnome-user-share, vino, rygel, etc. It also lets you turn sshd on or off.

The new Search panel controls which applications get to show search results in the GNOME shell overview and the order in which they appear. there. Cosimo recently explained the various search improvements in GNOME 3.8 in great detail.

As mentioned above, the screen lock settings were subsumed by the Privacy panel. This left the Screen panel with very few settings, which all turned out to be related to power saving. Thus, they have been moved to the power panel, and the Screen panel has been dropped — which is a good thing, since three panels with monitors in their icon were a little too much.

There are more new things to discover in the control-center. I haven’t mentioned improvements to the user panel, or the color panel, or the rewritten network panel that will be merged soon. But enough about settings for now.

Next, some GNOME shell improvements:

The shell is being ported XInput2. Together with new pointer barrier features in the next X server release (1.14, expected in March) this will let us improve the somewhat annoying dwell-on-the-bottom-edge way to bring up the message tray. It also paves the way to improved side-by-side tiling and gesture support later on.

Keyboard shortcuts will work more consistently. E.g., it will be possible to take a screenshot while in the overview.

The shell overview is displaying search results in a new layout, using the order of search providers as configured in the search panel. I again point to Cosimo’s post for the fine points of this new design.

The algorithm for arranging the window thumbnails in the overview has been fine-tuned to create more pleasant layouts, and the currently hovered window is more clearly identifiable by a strong highlight.

Switching input sources is easier, thanks to a new OSD. This feature was already present in IBus; it has now been integrated in GNOME shell.

A new addition to GNOME 3.8 is the classic mode that is going to replace fallback mode as an alternative for users who want to keep using elements of GNOME 2, such as the minimize button, or the window list.

The reasons for replacing fallback mode have been explained here. In short, it needs to be replaced, because

  • it consists of barely maintained modules (gnome-panel, metacity, applets, notification-daemon,…)
  • it does not offer the quality and user experience that we want to deliver
  • keeping it (somewhat) functional keeps us from making improvements in other parts of the stack

Classic mode on the other hand, is using GNOME shell with a few extensions and few settings tweaks. New GNOME features, like the IBus integration, will ‘just work’ because classic mode is literally using the same code. We are reusing the infrastructure for defining ‘modes’ that was already present in the shell. It is used for the login screen in GNOME 3.6, for instance. The extensions and glue code that make up classic mode are being developed in the gnome-shell-extensions module.

The screenshots below give an impression of the current, preliminary, state of classic mode. We are still working on various aspects of it, and what ships with GNOME 3.8 may look different from what you see here.

To clearly differentiate classic mode from GNOME 3, we are using ‘GNOME 2 gray’. There is a window list at bottom, and the clock has been moved to where it was in GNOME 2.

An application menu.

The message tray coexists with the window list.

Finally, there will be a few new applications in GNOME 3.8. These apps are following the design patterns that have been developed over the last few releases in Documents, Boxes, etc.

A note-taking application.

A photo application.

A weather application.

Input Sources in GNOME 3.7.4, continued

Before Christmas, I wrote about the status of IBus integration and Input Sources in GNOME 3.7. Here is another update to show what has happened since then.

We have added back the option to have a different input source for each window. The GNOME shell overview with its search entry is considered a window in this context.

Many people rely on modifier-only keyboard shortcuts such as Alt+Alt or Shift+Caps to switch between input sources. GNOME 3.6 supports this, but we had to ‘park’ the UI for selecting this shortcut in gnome-tweak-tool, since it came too late to be included in the keyboard panel. This has now been rectified. In GNOME 3.7.4, the modifier-only shortcut can be configured in the Typing section of the keyboard panel.

Input sources in GNOME 3.7.4

I’ve been meaning for a while to write an update about the state of Input Sources and what we are doing for them in 3.7. Finally, I have some screenshots to show.

It is no secret that the input source integration we unveiled in 3.6 had some warts; we have pushed very hard to get it in, and there was just not enough time to get all things done (such as an OSD for switching input sources), or done entirely right (such as the UI for modifier-only shortcuts). Also, we’re all still learning about whats important in this area.

Our far-eastern users have taken to bugzilla and the mailing list to let us know what we got wrong. As they should – after all, they are the ones who use these input sources in their daily life, so they are the experts. We have listened, and in 3.7.4, input sources will be able to show options in the menu:

As you can see in this screenshot, the result is not ideal – the ‘Setup’ should really be accessed via the Region & Language Settings panel, not directly from the GNOME shell menu. But the blacklist we had in 3.6 was a really crude way to approach this problem; for 3.8, we will write guidelines for what kind of settings are appropriate to expose in the menu and work with the upstream authors of the ibus engines to implement these.

Another new thing that you can experience in 3.7.4 is the OSD I’ve mentioned above. Rui refactored the existing GNOME shell application switcher for it, so this did not require much new code in the end. It is triggered by the new ‘switch-input-source’ keyboard shortcut, which is bound to Super+space by default.

These are only the fixes that we have landed for 3.7.4. Next on the list is to bring back some form of ‘per-window mode’ and to move the UI for the Alt+Ctrl shortcut from gnome-tweak-tool back into the keyboard shortcuts panel where it belongs. We will also make these shortcuts work in the GNOME shell overview and in other contexts where they are today blocked due to a ‘modal’ context.

Later on, we hope to make the on-screen keyboard update its layout based on the current input source.


GNOME 3.7: what is happening now

Before Thanksgiving I’ve caused some uproar and made people doubt our incurable stubbornness by first announcing the release team decision to drop fallback mode (*), and then that we’re going to be looking at supported extensions as a replacement (*). Some have been calling this ‘classic’ mode – I’m using the term ‘legacy’ here, since ‘classic’ may raise some false expectations.

Two weeks have passed since that initial announcement, so I thought it would be a good idea to give an update on what we [1] have achieved so far.

GNOME Legacy

We’ve decided to use the gnome-shell-extensions repository as the place where we collect the extensions that will be part of this effort. If you configure with –enable-extensions=classic-mode, we will install a small set of extensions.

Since 3.6, GNOME shell has some infrastructure to operate in different ‘modes’. To see the list of supported modes, run:

gnome-shell –list-modes

and to run GNOME shell in a particular mode, you start it like this:

gnome-shell –mode=gdm

Different modes are what defines the GNOME shell appearance on the login screen and on the lock screen. Ever since we first introduced this functionality, the plan was to extend it to allow e.g. a ‘kiosk’ mode, which would reconfigure the shell in a way that is suitable for e.g. a point-of-sale kiosk. The one thing that is still missing is a way to load externally defined modes, since it is somewhat unrealistic to expect people to patch the installed GNOME shell JavaScript files.

Not anymore! In bug 689304, Florian has added support for external modes. And in bug 689285, Debarshi has added the necessary glue to install a desktop file that runs GNOME shell in classic mode and a session definition that includes this modified shell. The upshot is that we now have a ‘GNOME Legacy’ session appear in the session chooser in the login screen:

With all the infrastructure in place, we are now starting to fill out the legacy session. There is not too so much to see yet, but we do have a small extension to add the minimize and maximize buttons back. And in bug 688913, Florian has added a new key binding for a more traditional Alt-Tab switcher:

In another unexpected synergy, this could be built on top of independent work that Rui has done to reuse the switcher popup for an input source switcher.

Next up, we are looking at taskbar and main menu extensions.

Modern GNOME

Does all this attention on legacy mean that we no longer believe in GNOME 3 ? Of course not ! There’s plenty of great new stuff coming to GNOME 3.8. Here are some examples that have either landed already, or are in the process of landing:

A new settings panel to control privacy settings:

Configurable shell search:

Notification filtering:

A new power panel:

A new Photos app:

Among the many things that don’t screenshot so well, a noteworthy improvement that will land very soon: working key bindings in the overview (and elsewhere).  Super+M now toggles the message tray off as well as on.

[1] Florian, Debarshi and Giovanni have been doing all the work, I’m just egging them on…

GNOME 3.7.1 sightings

After spending some time mostly focused on polishing and delivering GNOME 3.6, we’re already at the point again where the new development cycle is starting to take off.

GNOME 3.7.1 will be out later today. It is the first early development snapshot in the 3.7 cycle, so don’t expect too much yet. Our plans for this cycle are beginning to take shape here. While smoke testing 3.7.1, I managed to capture a few small glimpses of new things.

Nautilus is searching recursively again. Search is still being under active development, with more improvements to come. Since search doesn’t screen-shoot very well, here is the new file system capacity pie chart:

GNOME online accounts has a new provider for OwnCloud. This is not practically useful in 3.7.1, because the OwnCloud support in various applications is not there yet. Expect that to fall into place soon.

In another corner of the GNOME control-center, the network panel has grown support for the ‘Ignore Hosts’ field. I’m sure people who have to deal with manual proxy configuration will appreciate that.

As you can see in the device list, the network panel is now showing ‘exotic’ (from a laptop user perspective) network connections, such as vlans and bonds.

Boston GNOME Summit – Monday

I could only be at the MIT for a few hours today, so this summary only covers the morning part.


We started the ‘Enterprise’ track almost on time, with a session on Enterprise Networking features. The NetworkManager team had been assembled at the Red Hat offices in the week before, so things were fresh in the memory of both Dans.

Dan Winship began this session with a demonstration of a network panel and shell network menu that showed VLANs, bonded connections and multiple network devices. Dan couldn’t carry the required HW to the summit to show off Infiniband connections showing up as well :-)

There was some discussion of how bonds and other virtual devices should appear in the network menu. Should we show all the slave devices ? Would it be confusing if eth0 just ‘disappears’ when it is part of a bond ? The general consensus was: no, we don’t want to see details in the menu, administrators who want to see the details can go to Network Settings.

The discussion also touched on other topics such as overlap between virtualization and networking. NetworkManager currently doesn’t show anything about the tun/tap devices that libvirt sets up for connecting VMs to the network. If it does, would we want those to show up in the network panel ? I don’t think there was a clear consensus, but everybody agreed that it would be great for gnome-boxes to have ‘one-click network access’ and a very easy way to say ‘give this box internet access’ or ‘I want to ssh into this box’. See bug 677688.

Another question that came up in the discussion was how to deal with multiple connections for devices. One idea would be to have a list of connections, similar to how we now present wifi aps/saved connections. For wired, it is probably rare to have more than a 2 or 3 connections that you switch between, so maybe a full-page list is overkill. For 3g, the connections will often be location-specific, e.g. when you choose a different provider while travelling.

Dan’s patches will land in 3.7 soon.

Authentication and Smartcards

After a short break, we moved on to talk about authentication, and smartcards in particular. The discussion went into many corner cases and complications; I’ll try to sum up what conclusions I took away from it, maybe others can chime in and provide theirs.

There’s two basic scenarios where we want to support smartcards:

  • Use smartcards when logging into your desktop, probably authenticating against a central server
  • Use a smartcard to obtain a Kerberos ticket after you’ve logged in to your desktop

We had a long discussion over which of these use cases is more important and gets to be the 80 in the 80/20 split. At the end of the day, we need to support them both.

In the first case, when the machine is configured for using smartcards to login, we probably want to bypass the user list entirely and display a ‘please insert your smartcard’ prompt. When the machine is not exclusively used with smartcards, swiping the card while the user list is displayed should get you to the prompt for the pin to unlock the card. When a user is selected from the user list, we should be able to get a list of supported authentication method from SSSD, so that we can display a list of buttons similar to what can be seen in this mockup.

Querying the supported authentication methods will also be important for the second case, when creating an ‘Enterprise Login’ in gnome-online-accounts. Currently, we just ask for username and password in that dialog. When smartcards support is added, we should optionally allow the user to use a smartcard instead, and then also ask for the smartcard to be reinserted when the ticket expires and we need to reauthenticate.

One question that was brought up at some point in the discussion is: Should we include UI in GNOME to set up a machine for smartcards, or to enroll smartcards in a central server. The answer was an unanimous: no, we don’t need that. These are administrative tasks; we expect users in such scenarios to receive a properly configured machine and smartcard.

There are a number of expected behaviours in the session, when a smartcard is used to log in. The most prominent one is to lock or end the session when the smartcard is pulled. gnome-settings-daemon actually has a plugin that implements this, but it is fairly simple-minded: we either lock your screen, or force-quit your session right away. We should probably combine this into a single action, which locks your screen right away, but gives you some grace period where you can stick your smartcard back in before ending your session. There was also some discussion about what else should be ‘locked’ in this case. The keyring is an obvious example, but there may be others, such as an encrypted home directory.

The lock screen + force-quit after a grace period may overlap with support for time-limited session, which is something that we have wanted in gnome-session for a while.

Another question that was raised is: what about remote or virtual sessions, such as in gnome-boxes ? It can get access to a smartcard via USB redirection. If the card is removed, should the session just be disconnected?

At the end of this session, we took a little detour into discussion UX problems with our current system-modal dialogs. Too often, these pop up ‘out of the blue’, and interrupt the user who was typing in some window. Many cases were mentioned, all of which seem to come down to ‘the app shouldn’t do that’. We need to figure out use canses write guidelines for proper use of system-modal dialogs.

Privacy / Sharing

Jon gave a 30 minute presentation of the current thoughts of the design team in the areas of notifications, search, privacy and sharing. I don’t have URLs for his wireframes atm, so I’ll just give a brief description.

Jon described four new control-center panels.

The first one is about finer-grained control of notifications, on a per-application basis. It will allow you to say things like: I never want to see a ‘new mail notification from evolution again’, or ‘please show me chat notifications, but leave out the embarrassing details when the screen is locked’. This is a logical continuation of the current all-or-nothing switches we have for notifications (in the user menu) and for notifications on the lock screen (in the screen & brightness panel). The great thing about this is that it can be implemented entirely in gnome-shell, it doesn’t need any cooperation from the application side.

The search panel lets you configure what applications provide search results for display in the shell overview, and in what order they appear – this seems to be a frequent user request (‘I want to see recent chats before the contacts’). Only applications that install a shell searchprovider will appear in this list. More detailed configuration of where applications search (‘include $HOME/my-important-documents’ in gnome-documents search) and what results they provide will be left to application-specific preferences. One aspect of this that came out in the discussion is that we probably need some tracker extensions to let applications request a narrow view of only the files they are interested in. That is better than relying on apps to do the filtering themselves, both in terms of performance and in terms of privacy (as a small step towards being able to have ‘untrusted’ apps on your system).

The last two wireframes that Jon had are for Sharing and Privacy panels, but I’m out of space to describe them here, so I’ll just wait for somebody to post links to them.

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