GNOME 42 – Top New Feature and Release Details

5 min

We give you all the important GNOME 42 feature highlights and release information in this article. Read on.

This article contains information about an upcoming release. It is continually updated until the final release announcement.

The GNOME 42 release which is due on next year is going to be much bigger than the Forty series. The changes are significant in terms of the future of GNOME as a desktop. Changes are spread across GNOME Shell, Mutter, native applications and core libraries.

The code for GNOME 42 is under heavy development, many merge requests are pending, features are under discussion. So, many outstanding merge requests may not make to the final release. With that in mind, here’s a summary of the important features of GNOME 42.

GNOME 42 Schedule

GNOME 42 releases on March 23, 2022. Before that, several milestones are to be met. Here’s a tentative schedule.

  • Alpha: January 8, 2022
  • Beta (UI Freeze): February 12, 2022
  • Release Candidate (Code Freeze): March 5, 2022
  • Final Release: March 23, 2022

GNOME 42 Feature

Work on the libadwaita

The major porting work for libadwaita already started since GNOME 41 release, and it continued in this release as well. A major milestone release, libadwaita 1.0 is due by the end of 2021. So, it is expected that libadwaita 1.0 release soon to be included in GNOME 42 with exciting UI changes.

The most important change of this release is porting of all core apps and dialogs to the libadwaita library, which is the modern building blocks for GTK4 applications.

It is difficult to demonstrate individual libadwaita improvements because they are incorporated in every corner of GNOME desktop. In general, you would see flat buttons, nice drop-downs, page animations, toast messages among the few of changes of libadwaita.

If you want to take a look, there is a nice little libadwaita demo application which contains a demonstration of how the various component looks such as Tabs, Buttons, Lists, etc. You can try this out as Flatpak app from GNOME Nightly (instructions are at the end of this page).

System-wide Dark Theme

This release introduces system-wide dark style preferences as a most visible GNOME 42 feature. That means, you would have a settings switch, when turned on, entire desktop and applications that supports dark theme would automatically change to dark style.

So, the native applications require additional changes to honor this system-wide dark preferences.

If an application that doesn’t have native dark preferences, will be dark when this is enabled.

Content based application such as Files, Maps, Text Editor to follow this preference when possible.

GNOME 42 - Appearance Page in Settings showing the Light and Dark Switch
GNOME 42 – Appearance Page in Settings showing the Light and Dark Switch

Rate of Input Events in Mutter

Mutter now sends input events at the device rate to applications. This should significantly increase perceived responsiveness for games and artistic applications. You can read more here.

New Screenshot UI of Shell

The new screenshot UI of the GNOME Shell, which was part of Google Summer of Code 2021, bringing more features and making it a complete native screenshot and screencasting tool for GNOME. The work for making it a complete app may not finish by GNOME 42 release. But, the majority of the screenshot and screen record functionalities are already merged.

Some of the features that are expected in release 42 and which I feel the important ones from the usability perspective.

  • Direct saving of screenshots as file
  • They are also added automatically in the recent files
  • Asynchronous PNG compression for faster workflow while taking multiple screenshots
  • Click on notification to open image
GNOME Screenshot UI
GNOME Screenshot UI

GNOME Control Center

In GNOME 42, the entire Settings and its components are ported to GTK4. It is a huge change considering 30+ modules in Gnome Control Center. Functionality wise, you may not see any differences between GTK3 and GTK4 in settings. But obvious UI differences are noticeable.

Other changes mostly includes bug fixes and code cleanups.

GNOME 42 - Settings Window
GNOME 42 – Settings Window


GNOME Software is perhaps contains more merge requests in GNOME 42. Most of them are minor tweaks, bug fixes, UI design changes in several pages of Software due to GTK4 and libadwaita port.

SEE ALSO:   New GNOME Text Editor - Everything You Need to Know

Adwaita Theme

The default Adwaita theme’s folder icon color getting a revamp. They are now in Blue with white gradient. A couple of days back it was proposed as a blue with green gradient, which looked terrible anyway. So it was dropped. As of writing this post, it is still in progress and likely to complete in coming days.

GNOME 42 - New color in default Adwaita Theme
GNOME 42 – New color in default Adwaita Theme


Apart from the obvious looks change for libadwaita, Files (aka Nautilus) is revamping the rename popup dialog with auto expanding file name text box.

New Text Editor

The default text editor Gedit is expected to be replaced by a new editor called GNOME Text Editor. The new editor looks really nice and loaded with features. It is developed from scratch and well suited for libadwaita UI design principles. On the feature side, it has built-in themes for writing, coding and all the standard features of a text editor. You can read about it in detail in our exclusive write up here: Everything you need to know about GNOME Text Editor.

GNOME Text Editor
GNOME Text Editor

New Default Wallpaper

In each release of GNOME, we get a new default wallpaper with day, night variants for Adwaita. A new wallpaper and its variants expected as well in GNOME 42. This is how it looks as of now (may change in final release). Via source.

Possible new default adwaita wallpaper for GNOME 42
Possible new default adwaita wallpaper for GNOME 42

Other Improvements

So, above items are mostly the visible changes. But there are huge list of bug fixes, performance improvements, code cleanups and Wayland updates landing in GNOME Shell and Mutter plus in the code applications. They are definitely making up to be a well optimized and bug free GNOME desktop.

Download and Test

If you want to try GNOME 42, you don’t have much option now, unless you compile from source. If you want to contribute, you can go ahead and compile. But it is very unstable at the moment.

I tried to compile multiple times in Fedora Rawhide for this write-up, but Mutter and GNOME Shell are very unstable. It did not run and crashing multiple times after a successful compilation, when restarted the shell. Maybe, I will try after a couple of weeks from now, hoping the shell would be a little more stable.

If you want to try the standalone apps only (not the Shell and Mutter), then you can download GNOME OS Nightly from below link. But it contains very few 42 version of the apps.

Also, the best way to check out the 42 version of the apps are to install Fedora Rawhide. Then, from the terminal, install the available GNOME Nightly Flatpak applications. A set of sample commands present below for your reference.

If you managed to test, make sure to report the bugs/crashes/opinions in Gitlab for developers to review and fix.

Sample Commands to setup GNOME Nightly

flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists gnome-nightly
  • List out the available nightly apps
flatpak remote-ls --app gnome-nightly
  • Install a nightly app (example Adwaita Demo) from above list
flatpak install gnome-nightly org.gnome.Adwaita1.Demo
  • Run a nightly app (example TextEditor)
flatpak run org.gnome.Adwaita1.Demo//master

Availability in Linux Distributions

GNOME 42 is expected to be featured in Ubuntu 22.04 LTS Jammy Jellyfish in 2022 and in fedora 36 due in 2022.

Closing Notes

GNOME 42 is shaping up to be another huge release of GNOME History. I personally think, it’s going to be bigger than GNOME 40. The libadwaita port was a long due, and it’s going to be completed, well almost. Such an impactful release from the GNOME team, and definitely would be well accepted across its user base.

So, what do you think about this release and GNOME 42 feature? Anything you were expecting as a feature? Let me know in the comment box below.

Some image credit: GNOME Team

References used for this post

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