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You’re curious about Linux and have run across the term GNOME. All capital letters. This indicates that we are not discussing cute little garden guards. Originally, those letters stood for GNU Network Object Model Environment. You will never need to know that information again. What matters is that one of the most widely used desktop environments for open-source software is GNOME. Let’s now analyze what that means.
The desktop environment is GNOME.
To put it more technically, GNOME is what you see on your screen. The top panel is where it is located. It’s how you open new programmes and switch between running ones.
GNOME is one of the various desktop environments available on Linux. As opposed to Windows and macOS, which each have just one. You don’t mention that the Windows desktop environment, which is built on top of the Windows kernel, is what you’re using. You’re just using Windows, not Linux. However, since Linux is constructed from components provided by numerous contributors, things aren’t so straightforward.
The entire group of components required to make your computer function is known by that term. Some of the most well-known distributions, sometimes known as “distros” for short, include Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSUSE.
A desktop environment is offered by every distribution. Some give you a choice, while others focus on only one. GNOME is frequently one of these options.
The history of GNOME
A free software desktop environment and related programmes were first produced by Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena in the late 1990s, giving rise to the name GNOME. The free software initiative started as a replacement for the K Desktop Environment, which depended on the at-the-time-proprietary QT widget toolkit.
Instead, GNOME makes use of the GTK+ toolkit. In 1999, QT embraced an open license, but GNOME had already come into being. It evolved into the standard desktop environment for well-known distributions like Fedora and Ubuntu.
Due in part to the project’s relative simplicity, it has some appeal. Since version 2.0, its Human Interface Guidelines have served as a foundational principle. These demand that a consistent user interface be used by all GNOME programmes with an emphasis on usability.
This contrasts with many conventional Linux applications, which frequently cram in as many features as they can. When someone approaches a programme for the first time, that approach frequently overwhelms them and results in a higher learning curve. Because of GNOME, Linux is now more approachable for novice users.
It is now simpler to use than Windows in many aspects. In 2011, GNOME 3.0 was released, offering a significant visual upgrade. The buttons for minimizing and maximizing the taskbar were also gone. The majority of application and window administration is now handled by a distinct overview panel, making it different from previous desktop environments.
The current application’s name, the time, a status indicator, and an activities button are all displayed in a panel at the top. The Activities overview, the main interface for starting and switching between apps, is opened by selecting Activities. Your workspaces are on the right, your open windows are in the center, and a dock is to the left.
At the top of the activities overview is a search bar. You can look for programmes, documents, settings, the time, or solutions to mathematical puzzles. You can open apps and files by hitting Super (Windows), typing a few letters, and clicking Enter because pressing Super (Windows) is a shortcut to the overview.
Applications in GNOME 3 don’t have a title bar. To make room for buttons and alternatives, they conserve that area. Each window has a single X in the upper-right corner that you can use to close it. Drag a window up to the top panel of the screen to maximize it. The design encourages you to move superfluous windows to their own workspaces, although you can minimize them by right-clicking.
Though it may not seem so at first glance, GNOME is incredibly customizable. By going to extensions.gnome.org, you can alter the majority of the interface’s elements. By downloading the GNOME Tweak Tool, you can manage your extensions, alter the fonts, and more.
What Distinguishes GNOME From the Windows Desktop?
What distinguishes Linux from Windows and macOS is its availability and freedom to use whatever desktop environment you like. A “Linux OS” is made up of the Linux kernel, a desktop environment, and numerous additional tools, whereas Windows and macOS were created from the ground up as a single, cohesive system. To put it another way, the Windows desktop is a crucial component of Windows and cannot be removed.
The primary differences between the GNOME desktop and the Windows desktop are how shortcuts and application launching are implemented. GNOME has a very low learning curve if you’re used to Windows, but it also won’t overwhelm you with options and modifications like some other DEs do. Because of this, the majority of new Linux desktop users begin with Ubuntu or another GNOME-based distribution.
Other Desktop Environments vs. GNOME
Other well-known alternate desktop environments to GNOME include KDE, Xfce, MATE, Cinnamon, Budgie, and others. Because all desktop environments are open-source, Fedora’s developer team has produced alternate “spins” of the GNOME desktop environment, which is included in the distribution’s flagship edition. Instead of GNOME, these Fedora releases come preinstalled with the aforementioned desktop environments.
GNOME isn’t as customizable as KDE, which is renowned for its many customization choices. For machines with less powerful system resources, Xfce and MATE are excellent choices. In contrast, GNOME is a bulkier DE with more hardware requirements. Desktop settings like Budgie and Cinnamon serve as a middle ground. They offer an excellent user experience while using relatively few system resources.
Then there are desktop programmes like COSMIC that are GNOME forks. It was developed by System76, a business that makes Linux laptops and the well-liked Pop!_OS operating system for Linux users. Despite having a GNOME foundation, COSMIC adds new features like window tiling, shortcuts, and a distinctive appearance.
Is it simple to use GNOME?
Yes, the GNOME interface is just as user-friendly as those on Windows and Mac. It has a dock where you can pin your favorite applications, just like Windows 11 and macOS. You will need to adjust to a few peculiarities, such as the lack of a start menu akin to Windows and the fact that desktop shortcuts are by default absent.
The “Activities” button is located in the top bar and allows you to search among installed applications as well as view all of your open workspaces and applications. The calendar is displayed by clicking the date in the center. Finally, a menu on the right side of the screen includes volume controls, a shortcut to the settings app, etc.
For beginners, GNOME is the best desktop environment. Even though it’s different, the interface is simple to understand if you’re not used to it. Simple names for applications are Files for file management and Music for, well, music. Users benefit from the extensive software variety as well.
Using solely GNOME programmes, you may carry out fundamental operations like online browsing, file management, music listening, and image manipulation. You will need to look for fewer additional programmes as a result of this.
Furthermore, because they all have a similar user interface, you can use one to learn how to use the others. Linux users who seek a contemporary, adaptable desktop environment with minimal complexity may consider GNOME.