Along with Ubuntu’s new Unity interface and the not-always-smooth upgrade from KDE3 to KDE4, one of the larger adjustments Linux users have needed to make in how they interace with their computer was with the release in April of 2001, of GNOME 3.
GNOME 3 moved away from the traditional desktop metaphor, instead using a tablet-inspired interface with many Desktop elements, such as the application launcher, Dock and virtual desktops, hidden away in the Activities interface, until called up via the keyboard or mouse.
It wasn’t immediately a huge hit, to say the least, and its release led – seemingly from Day One – to GNOME 2 being forked, and numerous alternate methods of using GNOME 3 (such as the Cinnamon project, or via extensions), to make it look and feel more like GNOME 2.
Still, things progress, and now GNOME 3.4 has been released. While it will soon appear in your favorite Linux distro, you can try it out today, if you want.
To grab a live CD image, which will allow you to try out GNOME 3.4 without installing anything, let’s first head over to the GNOME website.
Now click on the Discover GNOME 3 button.
On the next page, you can read about all of GNOME 3′s new offerings. At the very bottom of the page, titled “And much, much more,” is a Find out how to get GNOME 3 link. Click it.
On this page, finally, is a Live Images Available Here link, which will take you to the download page.
From this page, you can download the GNOME 3.4 iso image.
Note: the image itself can be downloaded by clicking this link, but we think it’s a good idea to go through all the steps outlined above, just to see what GNOME 3.4 has to offer.
Once you’ve downloaded the ISO file, use a program like ‘dd’ from Terminal (we discuss how to use ‘dd’ in this article), or a GUI program like USB ImageWriter (Linux versions available here or through your distro’s package manager, while Windows versions can be found here.
After you’ve copied the image to your USB drive, simply restart your computer. You may need to adjust your computer’s BIOS (typically hold down the F2 or F12 while booting to adjust the BIOS or Boot Options), in order to have it look to the USB drive before the hard drive. Once past this step, wait until the Desktop loads, and try out all the new features GNOME 3.4 has to offer.
What are some of the new features?
In addition to smaller interface improvements, such as a new look for the Epiphany web browser (now simply called Web), tweaks to the Adwaita theme (smaller scrollbars, for one), there are bigger changes, such as the new audio/video chat interface for Empathy (which can now connect with Facebook and Windows Live Messenger thanks to XMPP). Also, more applications are taking advantage of the App Menu (previously an unused interface element next to the Activities button in the toolbar), and there is now a built-in screen recorder (just type Ctrl-Alt-Shift-R to start and stop the new recorder, which uses the WebM video standard).
Whether GNOME 3 is your cup of tea is certainly a personal matter, but there’s no doubt there are many improvements being made, and auditioning GNOME 3 from a LiveCd is a great way to see them for yourself.