Thursday, September 26, 2013

GNOME 3.10 now available

I saw that GNOME 3.10 was released today. From the announcement: "The release comes six months after 3.8, and contains 34786 changes by approximately 985 contributors. It contains major new features as well as a large collection of smaller enhancements. 3.10 provides an improved experience for users, as well as new capabilities for application developers."

The major features include:
  • Support for the new, faster Wayland graphics system
  • A new, redesigned system status area
  • Merging titlebars and toolbars into a single "Header Bar"
  • New core applications, including including Music, Photos, Notes, Software and Maps

But most important to me: GNOME 3.10 claims an improved user experience. These UX features include:
  • A new "Paginated Application View" when selecting programs you can run, rather that a scrolling list (this seems similar to an iPad, for example)
  • A customizable lock screen
  • Changes to scrollbars, so it's easier to move small distances
  • Fixes to the Settings application, including changing Date & Time, easier to configure Displays, integration of chat accounts into Online Accounts, combining all features of Universal Access into a single page, and allowing the user to set their background via their Flickr account.

Additionally, GNOME 3.10 advertises clearer text, smart card support, and improved support for low-vision users by caret and focus tracking in the magnifier, among other changes.

I'll admit that I'm looking forward to trying this release. However, I prefer to wait for developers and beta testers to shake out any bugs in this initial release. Perhaps I'll wait until December, when Fedora Linux 20 is due out; Fedora uses GNOME as the default desktop, so will include GNOME 3.10.

As a major player in the open source software desktop, GNOME is often the focus of usability reviews. Calum Benson, Matthias Müller-Prove, and Jiri Mzourek included GNOME among their 2004 findings about Professional Usability in Open Source Software (see slides, PDF). Similarly, Nichols and Twidale link to GNOME in The Usability of Open Source Software webpage. GNOME brings attention to usability, as suggested by their Usability Testing Suite wiki (last edited 2012-05-27 13:34:01 by JanCBorchardt).

So with GNOME 3.10, I'm hopeful that the project has addressed the usability errors I mentioned previously. I'll advise that large open source projects like Fedora that depend on many "upstream" projects like GNOME often slip their release dates. While the Fedora Project currently estimates "2013-12-03" for the release, note that this already has slipped from the original estimate of "2013-11-26." By the time Fedora 20 actually gets released, it may be late December 2013 or early January 2014. And on an academic note, this would be perfect timing; my M.S. capstone project starts in January 2014.

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