Introducing GNOME 3.38: “Orbis”

GNOME 3.38 is the latest version of GNOME 3, and is the result of 6 months’ hard work by the GNOME community. It contains major new features, as well as many smaller improvements and bug fixes. In total, the release incorporates 27896 changes, made by approximately 901 contributors.

3.38 has been named “Orbis” in recognition of the team behind GUADEC 2020. GUADEC is GNOME’s annual conference, which is only possible thanks to the hard work of many volunteers. This year’s event was meant to be held in Zacatecas, Mexico, but had to be moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are very much looking forward to meeting in Mexico in the near future.

Drag to Reorder Apps

GNOME 3.38 replaces the previously split Frequent and All apps views with a single customizable and consistent view that allows you to reorder apps and organize them into custom folders. Simply click and drag to move apps around.

New Welcome Tour

GNOME 3.38 comes with Tour, shown at first login, after the initial setup. It primarily highlights the main functionality of the desktop, giving first time users a nice welcome to GNOME.

Tour is written in Rust.


Settings can now manage parental controls for Standard user accounts through the new Parental Controls option in the Users section. Installed applications can be filtered from the application overview, preventing them from being launched by the managed user. Parental Controls also integrates with existing Software application restrictions, allowing you to select which applications can be installed.

Other improvements to Settings include a new fingerprint enrollment interface for devices with fingerprint readers, protection from unauthorized USB devices when the screen is locked, and an option to show battery percentage indicator in the system menu.

Improved Screen Recording

Under the covers, the screen recording infrastructure in GNOME Shell has been improved to take advantage of PipeWire and kernel APIs to reduce resource consumption and improve responsiveness.

Better Multi-Monitor Support

GNOME Shell can now drive multiple monitors with different refresh rates, making sure that you get the best possible experience out of your desktop. This improvement is only available in Wayland sessions.

A Better Browsing Experience

GNOME Web now features Intelligent Tracking Prevention, a collection of advanced mitigations designed to protect users from cross-site tracking. Learn more about Intelligent Tracking Prevention, which is enabled by default. In addition, the privacy settings now allow blocking websites from storing any local data in your browser.

Web has received a number of other improvements this cycle, including new support for importing passwords and bookmarks from Google Chrome, a redesigned password manager, the ability to mute or unmute individual tabs, and redesigned preferences and history dialogs. To reduce annoyance, videos that play sound are now blocked from automatically playing by default, and new permissions allow controlling video autoplay policy for each website you visit.


Maps has received initial work making the app adaptive for phone use. In addition, it is now possible to display labels in satellite view, and to switch Maps to night mode to emphasize the visual content of the maps.


The “Add World Clock” dialog has been redesigned. Additionally, it is now possible to set a snooze and ring duration for alarms.


Games has received some performance improvements this release. Search results now show up in the overview search interface, making it faster than ever to start playing your favorite game. With support for collections, you can organize games into groups for easy access or simply use the built-in Favorites and Recent collections. Games now supports Nintendo 64 games as a result of some improvements to libretro. Finally, Games is more stable now, running games in a secondary process. If a game or emulator crashes now, the main application won’t.


Screenshot and Sound Recorder have been redesigned to provide a more polished and elegant experience.

And That’s Not All…

As usual, there are also many other smaller improvements in this GNOME release. Here are some of them!

  • Calculator, Cheese, Tali, Sudoku, Robots, Quadrapassel, and Nibbles all feature new icons.

  • Terminal now uses an updated text color scheme. The new colors look better and are easier to read thanks to improved color contrast.

  • Photos has gained a new image filter, Trencin, very similar to Instagram’s Clarendon filter.

  • The system menu has a new Restart option, which also can be used to go to the Boot menu by holding down the Alt key.

  • GNOME 3.38 features the new Tracker 3 alongside Tracker 2. The majority of GNOME’s core apps are updated to use Tracker 3. Major improvements in the Tracker 3 search engine and database make the Flatpak application sandbox more secure by allowing control over what kinds of data your apps can search and query.

  • Fractal has improved video playback in the message history. Previews of videos are now shown directly in the message history, and clicking on a video will open it in a larger viewer. Audio files are now seekable in the improved audio file player. Edited messages are now edited in place, with an icon to indicate the edited status, while redacted messages are now deleted from the message history entirely.

Getting GNOME 3.38

GNOME’s software is Free Software: all our code is available for download and can be freely modified and redistributed according to the respective licenses. To install it, we recommend that you wait for the official packages provided by your vendor or distribution. Popular distributions will make GNOME 3.38 available very soon, and some already have development versions that include the new GNOME release.


The GNOME Project is an international community supported by a non-profit Foundation. We focus on user experience excellence and first-class internationalization and accessibility. GNOME is a free and open project: if you want to join us, you can.