GNOME 2.8 Release Notes

1. Introduction

The GNOME 2.8 Desktop is the latest release of the ever popular, multi-platform free desktop environment.

Every new version of the GNOME 2.8 desktop arrives on schedule, with interesting new features and hundreds of bug fixes. This time GNOME makes it easier to work with removable devices and network servers, and provides valuable new tools for system administrators. We have also adopted the popular Evolution email and workgroup client. 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 2.8 includes all of the improvements made in GNOME 2.6, which you can learn about in the GNOME 2.6 release notes.

The Desktop release contains all the applications needed to provide basic user functionality. Major applications such as Gnumeric and 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 2.8

2.1. Desktop

2.1.1. The File Manager

The GNOME file manager now uses an improved and standardized file-type system. This allows applications to tell GNOME that they can open certain types of file. The same system will soon be used by other desktops such as KDE, so this will allow different desktops and applications to work together more smoothly. Because this is a new system, applications must update how they register their file types. This should happen automatically when Linux distributions provide an upgrade to GNOME 2.8.

For each file-type there is a default application that will open the file when you double-click on the it. However, other applications might also be able to open the file type, so you can right-click and choose "Open With" to select one of these applications.

Figure 1New MIME system

In the rare case that an application has not registered itself properly, or when you wish to use a different application to open a certain file type, you can add it manually. You can also use the properties page to select your default application for files of that type.

Figure 2Add a new file handler

GNOME now supports DNS-Based Service Discovery, also known as Rendezvous in Apple's products. This allows you to view locally-available shares in your Network view.

Figure 3Network Shares

Removable storage devices, such as CDs, DVDs, USB memory sticks, and cameras, can now be recognised and mounted automatically. GNOME can even start an appropriate application automatically, such as a music or DVD player, or a photograph organiser. This uses the Hardware Abstraction Layer from, which we also expect future versions of other desktops to use.

Figure 4Inserting a multisession Compact Disc

Other File Manager improvements include:

  • Now allows access to password-protected FTP sites.
  • Copying a folder over a folder of the same name now offers to merge the two directories.
  • The CD burner's preferences dialog has been simplified.

2.1.2. Desktop

GNOME contains several user interface themes, allowing you to change the appearance of your whole environment via the themes control panel. And GNOME 2.8 contains the new "Glider" theme. It's intended to be simple yet attractive.

Figure 5The Glider theme.

2.2. Control Center

2.2.1. Keyboard Layouts

The Keyboard control panel can now show an on-screen preview of each keyboard layout. Just press the key on your keyboard to see how it will be recognised with the layout.

Figure 6Keyboard Preferences - Layouts

2.3. Panel Applets

GNOME 2.8 offers a clearer way to choose panel applets. This replaces the previous hierarchical menu.

Figure 7The panel - choosing an applet

2.3.1. Calendar Integration

Never miss another appointment. The calendar view, available by clicking on the clock, now connects to Evolution to show your calendar and tasks.

Figure 8The clock, showing the GNOME release date

2.3.2. Network Monitor

The network monitor has been improved and now has support for wireless interfaces, showing signal strength in the properties dialog and on the panel.

Figure 9Network Monitor - wireless connection

2.3.3. Battery Support

The battery monitor has been improved dramatically. It now estimates the time remaining as well as the remaining battery capacity. In addition, the low battery warning is now more visible, more informative and vanishes automatically when you plug your laptop back in.

Figure 10Battery Monitor

2.3.4. Weather Alerts

The weather applet now has more locations than ever before. As well as support for the new United Kingdom weather forecasts.

Figure 11Weather Report

2.4. Applications

2.4.1. Evolution

GNOME 2.8 now includes Evolution 2.0, the integrated Email and Groupware client. Evolution supports traditional mail setups, as well as Novell Groupwise and Microsoft Exchange. With Evolution you can read, write, and manage your emails, contacts, and calendar events.

Evolution is already well known and successful, but this new version has some extra features, such as:

  • Support for Novell Groupwise and Microsoft Exchange.
  • Support for S/MIME, for authentication and encryption.
  • View multiple sets of appointments on one calendar.
  • Support for online calendars, in the Webcal format.
  • Improved offline support for IMAP accounts.
  • Support for Usenet newsgroups (NNTP).
  • Junk mail filtering, via SpamAssassin.
  • Many user interface improvements.
Figure 12The email client

2.4.2. Web Browser

GNOME's "Epiphany" web browser, based on Mozilla, has some more enhancements. For instance, working with bookmarks is now even easier:

  • Bookmarks toolbars are easier to manipulate.
  • Bookmarks hierarchies are preserved when importing.
  • Topics can be added directly from the new bookmark dialog.
  • Whole bookmarks folders can be opened in tabs.

Other web browser improvements include:

  • Popup windows can now be blocked for specific web sites.
  • There is now an offline mode.
  • System administrators can now lockdown more features.
  • Users can subscribe to Webcal online calendars in Evolution by clicking on their links in the web browser.

Figure 13The web browser

2.5. System Administration

Based on feedback from system administrators, GNOME 2.8 provides several new features to make their lives easier.

2.5.1. Remote Desktop - VNC server

GNOME 2.8 now includes a VNC (virtual network computing) server, allowing remote control of a user's desktop. For instance, a system administrator could control the user's applications, to make changes, or to just demonstrate how to perform tasks.

The new Remote Desktop Preferences control panel lets users choose how much control should be allowed.

Figure 14Remote Desktop Preferences

2.5.2. System Tools

The new system tools allow you to configure your system clock and your network connection, as well as manage the users and groups on your system. Previously, most Linux/*BSD/UNIX distributors provided their own tools, all with their own problems. The GNOME developers hope that they will work together on these unified tools to provide a consistent and reliable solution.

At present, these system tools are most appropriate for single computers rather than large networks of computers.

Figure 15The Clock, Network, and Users/Groups tools

2.5.3. Network Tools

The new network tools allow users to provide diagnostic information to system administrators when they have problems with their network connection or with certain network services. Although the same functionality is available from the command-line, we think that system administrators will find it much easier to guide users through the simpler user interface of the network tools.

Figure 16A selection of tools for network diagnostics

2.5.4. Configuration Editor

The configuration editor has the following new features:

  • Search the configuration database for a particular key, value, or description.
  • Edit default and mandatory values.
  • See recently-modified keys, in case you need to change their values again.
Figure 17Configuration Editor - searching

2.6. Platform Improvements

The GNOME 2.8 Development Platform adds a few small API improvements, while maintaining backwards compatibilty and API-stability. In particular this time we have:

  • New API in gnome-vfs to allow detection of local servers via DNS-Based Service Discovery.
  • New API is also wrapped in the Platform Bindings, which allow application in programming languages other than C.
  • GNOME 2.8 now includes official Python bindings, in addition to C++, Java, and Perl bindings, via the gtkmm, java-gnome, gtk2-perl, and pygtk projects.

3. Sysadmin, User, and Accessibility Guides

Thanks to the efforts of the GNOME Documentation Project, GNOME 2.8 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 2.6, each application shipped with GNOME 2.8 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 and Kjartan Maraas, GNOME 2.8 offers support for 40 languages (at least 80 percent of strings translated).

Supported languages:

  • Albanian (5 million speakers)
  • Arabic (235 million)
  • Azerbaijani (28 million)
  • Basque (580,000)
  • Bengali (189 million)
  • Brazilian Portuguese (175 million)
  • Bulgarian (9 million)
  • Catalan (7 million)
  • Chinese Simplified (over 1 billion)
  • Chinese Traditional (40 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)
  • Gujarati (46 million)
  • Hindi (370 million)
  • Hungarian (14.5 million)
  • Italian (60 million)
  • Japanese (over 125 million)
  • Korean (75 million)
  • Lithuanian (4 million)
  • Malay (over 17 million)
  • Norwegian Bookmal (5 million)
  • Norwegian Nynorsk
  • Panjabi (60 million)
  • Polish (44 million)
  • Portuguese (43 million)
  • Romanian (26 million)
  • Russian (170 million)
  • Serbian (10 million)
  • Spanish (over 350 million)
  • Swedish (9 million)
  • Tamil (61 million)
  • Turkish (150 million)
  • Ukrainian (50 million)
  • Welsh (575,000)

Note that Basque, Bulgarian, Gujarati, Hindi, Hungarian, Norwegian Nynorsk, Panjabi and Tamil are new supported languages in GNOME 2.8, thanks to the hard work of their translators. Also worthy of mention is that British English and Canadian English are also supported.

Another 9 languages are partially supported, with more than half of their strings translated. Croatian and Mongolian 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: shared MIME database, 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 GNOME 2.8

We recommend that you use official installation packages, such as those for your linux distribution. Vendors are likely to package GNOME 2.8 relatively quickly, and to release new versions soon that include GNOME 2.8. However, many people don't want to wait, and will want to build GNOME from source code, even though that is more difficult.

Building from source is even more difficult than normal this time, because GNOME 2.8 requires your existing applications to register themselves in the new cross-desktop MIME-type system.

As with GNOME 2.6, you must define the XDG_DATA_DIRS environment variable to the path at which your MIME database is installed, for instance <prefix>/share.

6.1. External Dependencies

6.2. Development Library dependencies

  • libpng
  • libjpeg
  • libtiff
  • XFree86
  • libpopt
  • libbbz2
  • zlib
  • libfam
  • libgpg-error
  • libgcrypt
  • libtasn1
  • opencdk
  • gnutls
  • libgsf
  • libcroco
  • mozilla

6.3. GNOME 2.8 Installation Order

  • libxml2
  • libxslt
  • gtk-doc
  • glib
  • libIDL
  • ORBit2
  • intltool
  • libbonobo
  • pango
  • atk
  • gtk+
  • gconf
  • desktop-file-utils
  • gnome-mime-data
  • gnome-vfs
  • audiofile
  • esound
  • libgnome
  • libart_lgpl
  • libglade
  • libgnomecanvas
  • libbonoboui
  • gnome-icon-theme
  • gnome-keyring
  • libgnomeui
  • startup-notification
  • gtk-engines
  • gnome-themes
  • scrollkeeper
  • gnome-desktop
  • libwnck
  • libsoup
  • evolution-data-server
  • gnome-panel
  • gnome-session
  • vte
  • gnome-terminal
  • libgtop
  • gail
  • libxklavier
  • gnome-applets
  • metacity
  • librsvg
  • eel
  • nautilus
  • gnome-control-center
  • gtkhtml2
  • gnome-doc-utils
  • yelp
  • bug-buddy
  • libgnomecups
  • libgnomeprint
  • libgnomeprintui
  • gtksourceview
  • gedit
  • eog
  • ggv
  • gconf-editor
  • gnome-utils
  • procman
  • gstreamer
  • gst-plugins
  • gnome-media
  • nautilus-media
  • gnome-netstatus
  • gcalctool
  • gpdf
  • gucharmap
  • nautilus-cd-burner
  • zenity
  • at-spi
  • libgail-gnome
  • gnome-speech
  • gnome-mag
  • gnopernicus
  • gok
  • epiphany
  • gnome-games
  • gnome-user-docs
  • file-roller
  • gnome-system-tools
  • gnome-nettool
  • vino
  • dbus
  • hal
  • gnome-volume-manager
  • gal
  • gtkhtml
  • evolution
  • evolution-webcal
  • gnomemeeting
  • libsigc++
  • glibmm
  • gtkmm
  • libgnomemm
  • libgnomecanvasmm
  • libglademm
  • libgnomeuimm
  • gnome-vfsmm
  • libgtk-java
  • libgconf-java
  • libglade-java
  • libgnome-java
  • Glib (perl)
  • Gtk2 (perl)
  • Gnome2 (perl)
  • Gnome2-Canvas (perl)
  • Gtk2-GladeXML (perl)
  • Gnome2-VFS (perl)
  • Gnome2-GConf (perl)
  • pygtk


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 2.10 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 2.8, we anticipate that GNOME 2.10 will feature integrated 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 Davyd Madeley.