Updates to the Core GNOME 3 User Experience

GNOME 3.8 is packed with new features and enhancements. Here are some more of the many improvements that can be found in the latest version of the core user experience.

Activities Overview

In addition to the new applications and search results view, the Activities Overview also has a substantially improved window selector. This uses space more efficiently, making window thumbnails much larger and easier to recognise. Window thumbnails are also scaled to reflect the size of the actual windows, again making recognition easier. These changes result in much more effective window switching.

Holding Ctrl will now keep the Activities Overview open while you launch applications. As before, it also functions to launch additional windows for running applications.

Notifications & Messaging

In GNOME 3.6, the Message Tray could be displayed by resting the pointer against the bottom screen edge. For GNOME 3.8 this action has been updated to react to the force with which the pointer is pressed against the screen edge. Only a determined push will cause the Message Tray to open. This enhancement avoids accidental triggers and is quicker and more immediate.

From GNOME 3.8, the Message Tray can also be opened and closed using the Super+M keyboard shortcut. This is really handy for quickly checking your outstanding messages and ongoing conversations.

The Super+N keyboard shortcut has also been added. This allows you to expand and focus a notification when it is being displayed. One use for this is to reply to chat notifications with just the keyboard.


The GNOME Settings application (formerly known as System Settings) has been substantially improved for 3.8. The main Settings interface has been improved, with a new back button and updated toolbar design. The new version also includes a total of four new settings panels:

  • Notifications: this allows you to configure which applications display notifications and how much information they include in popups. These settings are particularly useful if you do not want personal information being displayed on the screen.

  • Privacy: here you will find controls for the behavior of the Screen Lock, whether your name is displayed on the screen, whether features which show your recent activity should be enabled, and allows you to purge your Trash and Temporary Files

  • Search: these settings let you decide which applications display search results in the Activities Overview as well as the order in which they are displayed. The new Search settings also include fine-grained controls over which content is included in search results.

  • Sharing: this lets you control which content you share with others, as well as remote login. It includes settings for Personal File Sharing, Screen Sharing, Media Sharing and Remote Login.

A number of other panels have also been substantially revised, often with new designs:

  • Region & Language has been redesigned. The new panel allows you to easily get an overview of your settings, and includes new dialogs which make selecting languages and input methods much easier.

  • Color also has a more refined design.

  • Network has been substantially improved. It includes a better Wi-Fi network list and a new wireless network History dialog. Many of the network settings dialogs have been improved to make them more usable, and support has been added for multiple Wired configuration profiles.

  • Power has a new interface as well as new Power Saving options.

  • Printers includes many user interface refinements. Samba printers are now supported and will be automatically discovered.

Initial Setup

GNOME 3.8 has a new Initial Setup assistant, which helps you quickly set up GNOME 3 when you use it for the first time. Initial Setup also helps new users learn about GNOME 3 thanks to a new set of Getting Started video tutorials.

Online Accounts

OwnCloud is a Free Software personal cloud service which provides online storage for files, photos, contacts and calendars. You can run it on your own server or through a commercial OwnCloud provider. GNOME 3.8 provides integrated OwnCloud support through GNOME Online Accounts. Once you have set up your OwnCloud account, GNOME applications will automatically connect to it, so that you can seamlessly access your OwnCloud files, contacts and calendars.

GNOME Online Accounts now also features IMAP and SMTP email account support.

Universal Access

3.8 includes several enhancements to GNOME's Universal Access features. The high contrast mode has been enhanced through the addition of many more high contrast application icons, making it much more complete. Orca, the GNOME screen reader application, has gained a new profile switching feature. This allows quick changes between different profiles, making it far easier to access multilingual text and environments.

Other Improvements

Other enhancements to the core user experience include:

  • Like the Message Tray, the Activities Overview hot corner has also been updated to use pressure sensitivity. This means that you are less likely to accidentally activate the hot corner.

  • The metadata for GNOME applications has been reviewed and updated during the 3.8 development cycle. This makes searching for applications more reliable.

  • New context menus have been added for changing the wallpaper and clearing the Message Tray.

  • GNOME's keyboard shortcuts for system actions have been updated, in order to increase consistency. See New keyboard shortcuts in GNOME 3.8.

  • The animated transition from the login screen to your session has been improved. The transitions within the Activities Overview have also been refined.