Pop!_OS Announced GNOME Based COSMIC Desktop. Here’s how it looks.

3 min

A stunning and revamped GNOME-based desktop announced by the Pop OS team – named COSMIC. Let’s take a look.

Pop!_OS is a Ubuntu-based Linux distribution that features a modified version of the GNOME desktop. Pop OS is primarily developed by the American company System76 who makes Laptops, Desktops, and Servers. The Pop OS comes as pre-installed in System76 devices.

Pop OS follows the usual Ubuntu release cycle and features a customized version of the GNOME desktop environment with additional tweaks based on the user feedbacks received by the System 76 team. However, the team took the user feedback to a new level with this new announcement.

After collecting much user feedback, the team decides to come up with a new desktop named COSMIC, rather than pushing the GNOME 3 changes upstream. As it is a commercial company and it can drive the direction of its Ubuntu-based OS that best suits its business model.

COSMIC Desktop – How it Looks

The first thing I noticed is that the Dock is at the bottom with the option to hide. This does not require any additional extension like Dash to Dock which you need for Vanilla GNOME for the same feature.

COSMIC - Window Tilling with Bottom Dock
COSMIC – Window Tilling with Bottom Dock

The default top bar is not changed that much. It present with the usual Activities menu, system tray, and notifications.

But the bottom Dock and along the top bar consumes precious screen space. An auto-hide dock feature would have been better for the efficient use of screen space.

COSMIC - Workspace View
COSMIC – Workspace View

The workspace view is different as well. You get a list of workspaces on the left side with a small preview of running applications on the right. This is a completely different design than the new GNOME 40 horizontal view of workspaces. And it’s even different than GNOME 3.38 view as well which had vertical workspace view on the right side.

A new launcher was also implemented (see below). It looks like other launchers available today e.g. Krunner in KDE Plasma. The Launcher can be kicked off using the Super key and also using a dedicated icon in the dock. You can search applications and launch them easily.

COSMIC - New Launcher
COSMIC – New Launcher

It is worth mentioning that, the vanilla Search in Application Grid is still present and not removed at all. So, this I believe a good addition to this new desktop. I am not sure whether it is super flexible like Krunner which does a lot of things (such as calculation, search files, etc) other than just application name search.

COSMIC - App Grid
COSMIC – App Grid

That’s more like what we know now. The new COSMIC desktop will be released on June 2021 with Pop!_OS 21.04 release.

Closing Notes

From the initial look, the changes outlined above are purely “extension-level” changes – that’s my first impression. That means, it is not a “core” GNOME Shell changes at all. From the user perspective, it is good that you do not need to install additional extensions or the GNOME Tweak tool in Pop OS for these. And with this change, my guess is – Pop OS may not adopt the new GNOME 40 UI changes at all. So, ideally, it would remain as GNOME 3 “fork”. Let’s see what happens in the coming days.

Image Credits: Pop OS team


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