With the GNOME 2.6 release pushed back a week due to GNOME Web Server
intrusion, we decided to take an early look at 2.6 with the 2.5.92 test
release. For this preview, GNOME 2.5.92 was built using
on a system running
SUSE Linux 9. The GARNOME GNOME distribution is based on the GAR
; it allows a user to build bleeding-edge software
without impacting their current system setup, and without having to check
releases out of CVS. This is very handy when using a single system for
software testing and everyday work that requires a stable desktop.
GARNOME took the better part of an afternoon to build the GNOME 2.5.92
desktop and basic GNOME components on a machine with an Athlon XP 2600+ CPU
and 1 GB of RAM. The basic desktop build consumed a little more than 300 MB
The first thing that most users will notice about GNOME 2.6 is that it
seems much faster than previous releases, particularly at startup. The
Nautilus shell is also much faster than previous releases, but the default
behavior has changed for the worse. When navigating through a directory
structure using Nautilus, the default is now for Nautilus to open a new
window each time the user opens a directory. Needless to say, this behavior
rapidly results in a cluttered desktop. It is possible to override this
behavior by using the "--browser" option, but it would be preferable for
the default behavior to be the least annoying.
Epiphany 1.2 is speedy, and quite streamlined. Perhaps a little too
streamlined, in fact. Epiphany's limited feature set may be less confusing
for new users who would be overwhelmed by Mozilla's vast array of
options. However, users who have become accustomed to Mozilla may find that
Epiphany's minimal features are a bit constrictive. The absence of
site-specific pop-up blocking could be a problem for some users who have
used Mozilla and Firefox's pop-up blocking features. Epiphany also requires
that the user close each browser window individually rather than offering
the user the ability to exit all browsers. This may save a user from
accidentally closing all of their browser windows when they wish to close
only one, but it also requires quite a bit of clicking when a user wishes
to exit multiple browser windows.
A smaller annoyance is that Epiphany 1.2 does not allow the user to scroll
through recently visited sites via the location toolbar. It's unclear what
advantage there is to removing such a simple and commonplace feature. The
user is able to select from similar URLs after clicking on the location bar
and typing a few letters of the URL, but there is no button to allow the
user to simply click and highlight a recently visited URL that remains in
the location bar history.
A short while ago I tested the
Evolution 1.5 release included in the first Fedora Core 2 test release. GNOME
2.6 includes Evolution 1.5.5, which seems far more stable than it was back
in February. They are still including a dialog that warns users that 1.5.5
is test software and recommends that the user download 1.4 if they wish to
use a stable branch of Evolution. Evolution 1.5 has a few new features, and
loses a few as well. The most notable new feature in 1.5 is junk mail
filtering. Notably absent is Evolution's "Summary" panel.
GNOME 2.6 also includes the GTK+ 2.4.0 release. This release introduces a
new file browser dialog that, in this writer's opinion, is a vast
improvement over the "standard" file dialog. When the user navigates into a
directory tree, the file browser creates navigation buttons for each
directory. For example, if a user navigates into "local/mozilla/chrome"
under their home directory, the dialog will create buttons for "local,"
"mozilla," and "chrome," in addition to the ever-present "Home" button in
the dialog. When the user navigates upward in the directory tree, the
sub-directories will still be represented as long as they are in the same
hierarchy. This allows the user to navigate through the directory structure
much more quickly.
Another application included in GARNOME, though not part of the default
desktop build, is Totem
movie player based on Xine. It's a nice little media player that plays a
wide variety of media, including CDs, VCDs and DVDs (providing libdvdcss is
installed for encrypted movies), MPEG video, Ogg files and MP3s. Having
used Ogle a great deal in the past, this writer is far happier with Totem
for DVD playback. It should also be noted that this author spent more than
an adequate amount of time testing Gnometris 2.5.9, and can verify that it
is fully ready for deployment.
There are, of course, far too many useful applications in the GNOME arsenal
to mention here or to test in a reasonable amount of time. It should
suffice to say that GNOME/GARNOME 2.5.92 includes a wide array of useful
applications for desktop use, including Gnumeric, the Conglomerate XML
editor, gLabels (a handy label-making program), Sodipodi, and many others.
For the most part, the 2.5.92 release is ready for widespread use. There
were a few glitches here and there, but it's likely they will be ironed out
by the final 2.6 release. One also wishes that it were possible to change
certain GNOME settings without having to resort to using the GConf
editor. One is unpleasantly reminded of the Windows Registry when tinkering
Aside from small glitches and minor annoyances, GNOME 2.5.92 was extremely
stable and pleasant to use. Pleasant enough, in fact, to cause this writer
to seriously consider switching from XFce to GNOME on a permanent
basis. Though one may not agree with all of the interface decisions made by
GNOME's developers, it is obvious that the GNOME developers have been
working hard to make GNOME a useful and user-friendly desktop environment.
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