GNOME 2.6 Release Notes

1. Introduction

The GNOME 2.6 Desktop is the latest release of the ever popular, multi-platform free desktop environment.

GNOME 2.6 desktop has several interesting new features and hundreds of bug fixes. These make day-to-day usage much easier, with noticeable improvements in the user interface, general stability and speed, and the built-in help system. You can learn more in the following sections.

GNOME provides a user-friendly environment that "just works" for everyday users, without excess complexity or obscure features. At the same time we provide the rich flexibility experienced developers demand.

GNOME runs on a variety of platforms, including GNU/Linux (commonly called Linux), Solaris, HP-UX, BSD and Apple's Darwin. GNOME includes powerful features such as world-class smooth text rendering, a first-class accessibility infrastructure, and a complete internationalization infrastructure that includes support for bi-directional text.

Of course GNOME 2.6 includes all of the improvements made in GNOME 2.4, which you can learn about in the GNOME 2.4 release notes.

The Desktop release contains all the applications needed to provide basic user functionality. Major applications such as Gnumeric and Evolution are also available, but are developed in parallel on their own release cycle rather than being included in the core GNOME release.

GNOME is part of the GNU Project, and is free software.

2. What's New In GNOME 2.6

2.1. Desktop

2.1.1. The File Manager

Nautilus, the GNOME file manager, has several significant improvements in GNOME 2.6. In particular, it now has a simpler and more intuitive user interface, and has improved responsiveness. This should make users feel more comfortable and productive.

This new "spatial" user interface presents just one window for each folder, and remembers their location and size. The user can then think of the window as being the folder. When the user opens a folder again, it will appear just as it did before, so that the user can recognize it. If it is already open, it will just be brought to the front.

Figure 1Simplified file management - the window is the folder

Continued use should show that a great deal of thought has gone into this new user interface, though at first you might notice only that new folders are opened in new windows instead of changing the existing window. As you navigate to a folder, you might find that there are too many folders open on your screen. You can:

  • Hold down the shift key when double-clicking, or double-click the middle mouse button. This closes the current folder when opening the new folder.
  • Choose "Close Parent Folders" from the File menu, or press Shift-Control-W.
  • Choose "Open Location" from the File menu, or press Control-L.

The parent-folders button shows the folder's full path, and lets you quickly open one of the parent folders. You can find this button at the bottom-left of the folder window.

Figure 2The parent-folders button

Because some users are more familiar with the previous "browse" user interface, this is still available from the right-click menu.

The top-level "Computer" location brings together file system, removable media, and network shares.

Figure 3The Computer location

This is also where you will see your network drives, because you can now mount Windows SMB servers, and ftp, sftp (ssh), or WebDAV locations here. For instance, you can use this to change the files on your website as if they were in a local folder. And, in GNOME 2.6 you no longer need to repeatedly enter your password for network servers.

Figure 4A network drive

Other new file manager features include:

  • Complete keyboard navigation, so more experienced users can work even more efficiently.
  • Type the first letters of a file to quickly select it.
  • User-definable template files to easily create new documents.
  • Customizable list view columns.
  • Emblem support for list views, with a better treeview in the sidebar.
  • Better speed detection for the CD burner.
  • More sound formats identified by the file manager.
  • New plug-in system for developers.

2.1.2. General

GNOME 2.6 and GNOME applications benefit from improvements in the user interface toolkit. Most importantly, you will notice an improved file selection dialog box when opening or saving files. This shows the same filesystem icons as you see in the "Computer" location on your desktop, and can remember bookmarks for your favourite locations, so you can quickly get to your files.

Figure 5The new File Chooser dialog

Other basic improvements include

  • An improved Combo box, to choose an item from a list.
  • Performance improvements when showing tables.

2.2. Control Center

2.2.1. Keyboard Layouts

GNOME 2.6 makes it easier to use multiple keyboard layouts. For instance, you might want to change from a U.S. English keyboard layout to a Russian keyboard layout, and then back again, to enter one Russian word in the middle of an english sentence. This is particularly useful to the millions of people in the world who regularly communicate in more than one language. You could click on the Keyboard Indicator panel applet to switch layouts, or you might choose a key combination instead, such as pressing both shift keys together.

Figure 6Keyboard Preferences - Layouts

GNOME 2.6 also integrates the multimedia keys into the regular Keyboard Shortcuts control panel, making it easy to use your keyboard's special keys to change volume or control music or video applications. This functionality was previously in the Acme utility.

Figure 7Keyboard Shortcuts

2.2.2. Desktop Background

GNOME 2.6 has a new easy-to-use Desktop Background control panel, which you can access quickly by right-clicking on the desktop. When you add new pictures, it will remember whether each one should be scaled or tiled.

Figure 8Desktop Background

2.3. Panel Applets

2.3.1. Network Monitor

The new Network Monitor applet shows whether your connection is active. It can also tell you how many megabytes you have uploaded and downloaded.

Figure 9Network Monitor

2.3.2. Keyboard Indicator

The new Keyboard Indicator applet shows the current keyboard layout and lets you choose another, without using the keyboard shortcut.

Figure 10Keyboard Indicator

2.3.3. Keyboard Accessibility Status

See the accessibility section for information about the new Keyboard Accessibility Status applet.

2.4. Applications

2.4.1. Web Browser

GNOME's Epiphany web browser is one of the most-used applications, so you will be glad to hear about its enhancements in GNOME 2.6 based on user feedback. The user interface has been fine-tuned yet more, to make browsing an even more pleasant experience.

Improvements include:

  • Auto-completion of the URL has been improved.
  • Files can now be downloaded quickly to a standard folder, and there is improved feedback while that is happening.
  • You can now undo changes in Forms, and you will be warned when closing a partially filled-out form.
  • Font sizes can be chosen via points rather than pixels.
  • The toolbars have been improved, and can be edited more easily.
  • Bookmarks can be imported from custom file formats.
  • Browser history can be sorted by time.
  • Dialog boxes have been improved.
Figure 11The web browser

2.4.2. GnomeMeeting

GnomeMeeting allows users to see and speak to each other via internet telephony (VoIP) and video conferencing. In GNOME 2.6 you will notice a redesigned dialpad, easier speed dialing, and an improved setup assistant.

Other improvements include:

  • Improved integration with IPBX systems.
  • More control for system administrators - see the Lockdown section.
  • Support for extra audio and video devices via a new plugins system.

2.5. Utilities

There have been many improvements to the GNOME utilities. Some include:

2.5.1. Character Map

GNOME's Unicode character picker has been improved, so it is now even easier to paste unusual characters into your documents. Improvements include:

  • Searching for a character is now easier.
  • It is easier to see one set of characters at a time.
Figure 12Character Map

2.5.2. PDF Viewer

The PDF viewer now has several features that users missed in the previous version, such as:

  • Sidebars for bookmarks and page thumbnails.
  • Ability to open password-protected files.
  • New full-screen mode.
  • Support for TrueType fonts.
  • URLs open in the default browser when clicked.
Figure 13PDF Viewer

2.5.3. Sound Recorder

The Sound recorder now offers a selection of audio profiles, such as "Voice Quality", which the user can edit. Other applications, such as the CD ripping tool Sound Juicer, can use these same audio profiles.

Figure 14Sound Recorder

2.5.4. Volume Control

The Volume Control now supports ALSA as well as OSS sound drivers, as used by many Linux distributions and the Linux 2.6 kernel. The simple volume control panel applet also supports this.

Figure 15Volume Control

2.5.5. Search For Files

The latest GNOME search tool is faster, and you can now drag and drop files from it to the file manager, or right-click to delete files.

2.5.6. Text Editor

The gedit text editor now has a simpler preference dialog, and supports syntax highlighting for more file formats.

Figure 16Text Editor

2.6. Platform Improvements

In addition to user-visible improvements, GNOME 2.6 includes a number of improvements to the underlying platform that should be appreciated by developers building applications on top of GNOME's powerful framework.

2.6.1. GTK+

GTK+ 2.4 adds significant new functionality while maintaining source and binary compatibility with GTK+ 2.2. Major new features include:

  • New file selector widget, with improved UI, filters, previews, customization, and optional use of the GNOME vfs system.
  • New ComboBox widget with improved API, UI, and model/view separation.
  • New Expander widget, useful for hiding complex user-interface options.
  • Action-based toolbar and menu API.
  • Bidirectional improvements, for languages such as Arabic and Hebrew. GTK+ now automatically determines the direction for widgets based on their contents.
  • Automatic text completion option for ComboBoxes and Entry widgets.
  • Speed-optimization option for TreeViews.
  • General performance improvements.

2.6.2. gnome-vfs

The GNOME Virtual File system allows applications to support several protocols and file systems via the same unified API. Improvements in GNOME 2.6 include

  • Support for sftp and Windows SMB protocols.
  • Improved authentication, with password keyring storage.
  • Detection of mounted drives and network volumes.
  • Improved MIME type system, via the shared standards.

2.6.3. GStreamer

The GStreamer multimedia framework is gradually maturing, and is now used by several applications, such as Sound Juicer, Rhythmbox, Totem, and Marlin.

Improvements in GNOME 2.6 include

  • Support for the ALSA sounds drivers used in Linux kernel 2.6.
  • Support for more formats, and better support for existing formats, including MP3, Ogg/Vorbis, FLAC, Wave, and mod.
  • Improved error notification.
  • Error messages are now translated, so applications can report problems in the user's own language.

3. Sysadmin, User, and Accessibility Guides

Thanks to the efforts of the GNOME Documentation Project, GNOME 2.6 comes with comprehensive and professional documentation. Careful attention has been taken to detail using free software's most complete documentation style guide. As in GNOME 2.4, each application shipped with GNOME 2.6 includes full user documentation.

Learn to how to use GNOME with the Desktop User Guide. The User Guide and other documentation, including guides to system administration and GNOME's accessibility features, can be found on the GNOME Learn page.

4. Internationalization

Thanks to members of the worldwide GNOME Translation Project, under the leadership of Christian Rose, Kjartan Maraas, and Danilo Segan GNOME 2.6 offers support for 36 languages (at least 80 percent of strings translated).

Supported languages:

  • Albanian (5 million speakers)
  • Arabic (235 million)
  • Azerbaijani (28 million)
  • Belarusian (7 million)
  • Bengali (189 million)
  • Brazilian Portuguese (175 million)
  • Catalan (7 million)
  • Chinese Simplified (over 1 billion)
  • Chinese Traditional (40 million)
  • Croation (5 million)
  • Czech (11 million)
  • Danish (5.3 million)
  • Dutch (over 21 million)
  • English (341 million)
  • Finnish (over 5 million)
  • French (over 75 million)
  • German (100 million)
  • Greek (15 million)
  • Italian (60 million)
  • Japanese (over 125 million)
  • Korean (75 million)
  • Lithuanian (4 million)
  • Malay (over 17 million)
  • Monglolian (10 million)
  • Norwegian bokmål (5 million)
  • Polish (44 million)
  • Portuguese (43 million)
  • Romanian (26 million)
  • Russian (170 million)
  • Serbian (10 million)
  • Spanish (over 350 million)
  • Swedish (9 million)
  • Turkish (150 million)
  • Ukranian (50 million)
  • Welsh (575,000)

Note that Arabic, Bengali, Croatian, Lithuanian, Mongolian, Ukrainian, Russian, and Turkish are new supported languages in GNOME 2.6, thanks to the hard work of their translators. Note that British English and Canadian English are also supported.

Another 15 languages are partially supported, with more than half of their strings translated. Slovak and Norwegian Nynorsk are particularly close to "supported" status.

5. Standards Compliance

GNOME works closely with groups such as Standards support is a big plus for GNOME users. Interoperability support improves the user experience by allowing GNOME, KDE, and other applications to work together more easily, and following open specifications helps ensure that user data is not trapped in proprietary formats.

GNOME developers are working hard with other members of the free software community through on the development of standards to allow interoperability. Those standards include: icon themes, recent files, thumbnail management, and the system tray specifications. In addition, GNOME supports CORBA, XML, Xdnd, EWMH, XEMBED, XSETTINGS, and XSMP.

6. Installation of the GNOME 2.6 Developer Platform and Desktop

We recommend that you use official installation packages, such as those for your linux distribution. Vendors are likely to package GNOME 2.6 relatively quickly, and to release new versions soon that include GNOME 2.6. However, many people don't want to wait, and will want to build GNOME from source code, even though that is more difficult.

6.1. External Dependencies

6.2. Development Library dependencies

  • libpng
  • libjpeg
  • libtiff
  • XFree86
  • libpopt
  • libbbz2
  • zlib
  • libfam
  • mozilla

6.3. GNOME 2.6 Installation Order

  • libxml2
  • libxslt
  • gtk-doc
  • glib
  • libIDL
  • ORBit2
  • intltool
  • libbonobo
  • fontconfig
  • Render
  • Xrender
  • Xft
  • pango
  • atk
  • shared-mime-info
  • gtk+
  • gconf
  • gnome-mime-data
  • gnome-vfs
  • esound
  • libgnome
  • libart_lgpl
  • libglade
  • libgnomecanvas
  • libbonoboui
  • hicolor-icon-theme
  • gnome-icon-theme
  • gnome-keyring
  • libgnomeui
  • startup-notification
  • gtk-engines
  • gnome-themes
  • gnome-desktop
  • libwnck
  • scrollkeeper
  • gnome-panel
  • gnome-session
  • vte
  • gnome-terminal
  • libgtop
  • gail
  • gnome-applets
  • metacity
  • libgsf
  • libcroco
  • librsvg
  • eel
  • nautilus
  • control-center
  • gtkhtml2
  • yelp
  • bug-buddy
  • libgnomeprint
  • libgnomeprintui
  • gtksourceview
  • gedit
  • eog
  • ggv
  • file-roller
  • gconf-editor
  • gnome-utils
  • gal
  • gnome-system-monitor
  • gstreamer
  • gst-plugins
  • gnome-media
  • nautilus-media
  • gnome-netstatus
  • gcalctool
  • gpdf
  • gucharmap
  • nautilus-cd-burner
  • zenity
  • gnome-speech
  • at-spi
  • gnome-mag
  • gnopernicus
  • gok
  • epiphany
  • gnomemeeting
  • gnome-games
  • gnome2-user-docs


If you do not wish to manually build each module yourself, then you might consider using GARNOME, a GNOME source code distribution based on the GAR ports system. GARNOME automatically downloads the tarballs and builds them for you. However, GARNOME is ususally used only for testing of unstable development versions of GNOME.

To find out more information visit the GARNOME web page.

7. Looking to GNOME 2.8 and Beyond

GNOME operates on a time-based release philosophy, an attempt to continuously provide the best of our developers' efforts to users as quickly as we can. Six months after GNOME 2.6, we anticipate that GNOME 2.8 will feature integrated email, contacts, calendar, and multimedia funtionality, and further advances in accessibility, usability and internationalization.

8. Getting Involved

The core of GNOME's success is its many volunteers, both users and developers.

As a user, your contribution can be as simple as filing good bug reports. You can file bugs in our Bugzilla using the simple bug assistant. If you want to contribute more, you can join our active bug-squad.

For developers, there is much exciting progress to be made in any of our active developer groups - Accessibility, Documentation, Usability, Translation, Web, Testing, Graphics and Desktop & Platform Development. Many of these sub-projects have web pages on Choosing a role that suits you may be difficult at first, but here is a guide to help you make your decision.

Helping on GNOME can be an incredibly satisfying experience, allowing you to meet a wide range of motivated, skilled, and helpful people all working towards a unified goal. Join us today and see what a difference you can make.

A. Credits

These release notes were assembled by Murray Cumming, Colin Charles and many more.