Debian 12 Bookworm: Best New Features

5 min

We give you a summary of the new features and enhancements of the Debian 12 Bookworm release.

Debian 12 was released on June 10, 2023, after more than a year of development. This release comes with several new features and improvements, making it an exciting release for Debian enthusiasts. In this article, we will discuss the best new features of Debian 12 Bookworm and how they can benefit users.

Let’s take a look.

Debian 12 Bookworm GNOME Desktop
Debian 12 Bookworm GNOME Desktop

Debian 12 Bookworm: New Features

Linux Kernel

This release features Linux mainline Kernel 6.1, released in December 2022. Timeline-wise, Debian 12 is only one Kernel release behind as of now. Hence, you get the latest and greatest hardware support with stable Kernel 6.1.

Highlights features of this Kernel include initial Rust framework support, updates to Intel and AMD’s upcoming CPU/GPU line-ups, performance improvements of btrfs and other file systems and more.

We already have a dedicated article about Kernel 6.1 features if you want to learn more.

Non-free packages in the installer

A critical change related to the Debian ISO files arrives in Debian 12. Since the beginning, Debian has provided different ISO files for “Free” and “non-free” packages. The proprietary “non-Free” packages are part of separate ISO files. Hence, if you need driver support for your special hardware, then you can download separate ISO files for your laptop/desktop/servers.

However, this experience makes it a little confusing for the end user to pick the correct Debian ISO. The Debian team launched a community voting last year to pick the best option to handle “non-free” packages.

As per the results, the primary ISO files now contain both free and “non-free” ISO files.

So, what changed?

When you try to download official Debian ISO files, you only need to choose one ISO file (DVD size) containing everything. Furthermore, the small net-installation ISO is also present, including “non-free” firmware.

You can look at this guide regarding Debian ISO.

Pipewire by default for GNOME

If you use GNOME desktop in Debian Linux, then a piece of good news for you.

Debian 12 with GNOME desktop making Pipewire and Wireplumber manager by default sound server, replacing Pulseaudio. The modern Pipewire is already introduced in Ubuntu, Fedora, Pop!_OS and other leading distros.

Pipewire in Debian 12
Pipewire in Debian 12

A new version of Apt (2.6) package manager

Debian 12 is introducing the latest version of apt package manager version 2.6. Apt 2.6 version specifically handles the non-free ISO image support introduced in this release. The changes include the non-free firmware will be enabled by default, and apt will show updates to the non-free packages.

Desktop environments

All the major desktop environments are now up to date in Debian 12, except GNOME. Because GNOME 44 was released just a few days back, it won’t make it to Bookworm due to schedule conflicts. Debian 12 is already on hard freeze.

Hence, in Debian 12, you get the GNOME 43 version which is not that far behind compared to the latest release. Furthermore, if you are shifting from Debian 11, then it will be a huge GNOME upgrade.

Fortunately, KDE Plasma 5.27 is now available in this release. KDE Plasma is the final Plasma 5 version and is likely to become LTS until Plasma 6 is ready. Hence, it was a significant upgrade. The KDE Plasma maintainers managed to pull this off.

In addition, Xfce 4.18 in Debian 12 is bringing an improved desktop experience with stunning Thunar features. Also, LXQt 1.2, MATE 1.26 and LXDE 11 are the latest versions featured in Debian 12.

Here’s a summary:

  • GNOME 43
  • KDE Plasma 5.27
  • LXDE 11
  • LXQt 1.2
  • MATE 1.26
  • Xfce 4.18

Core modules and applications

Most of the major applications are refreshed. Notably, Python 3.11 is included in Debian 12, which would help the developers and many use cases. In addition, LibreOffice 7.4 and Firefox 102.9 ESR are two noteworthy updates. Here’s a small list of key applications and package updates:

  • LibreOffice 7.4.4
  • Firefox 102.9 ESR
  • GIMP 2.10.32
  • OpenJDK 11.6
  • PHP 8.2
  • Python 3.11+
  • Samba 4.17

Miscellaneous Updates

  • Debian 12 now detects Windows 11 while using in a dual-boot setup.
  • Screen reader support is enabled by default for the Cinnamon desktop in Debian
  • Automatic launching of speech synthesis after 30 seconds timeout
  • Easier detection of multipath devices
  • Support for multiple initrd paths
  • Support for new ARM and RISC-V devices
  • Experimental DMRAID support is dropped

You can learn about additional changes here.

Default theme and wallpapers

In every release, Debian introduces some stunning artwork from the community. Debian 12 default artwork themed as “Emerald”.

Elegantly polished and chiseled, or in their raw and natural state, gemstones can have an infinite number of shapes.”

With the Emerald theme, the creator wanted to combine light and minerals in a clean, almost ethereal design.

The default theme and banners are visible across the installer, animated Plymouth, wallpaper and all the places. 

Here are some of the images picked up from the official gallery.

Default wallpaper
Default wallpaper
Debian 12 Plymouth
Debian 12 Plymouth

How to Download Debian 12

If you are running Debian 11 bullseye, you can open the /etc/apt/sources.list via any text editor and add the following lines. Make sure to verify the mirror URL and change the following command. Also replace all the bullseye lines with bookworm.

deb bookworm main
deb-src bookworm main

deb bookworm-security main
deb-src bookworm-security main

deb bookworm-updates main
deb-src bookworm-updates main

If you want to add non-free packages, see the next section.

After adding those, refresh the apt cache:

sudo apt update

And then, run the following to get the update.

sudo apt dist-upgrade

You can also read the comprehensive upgrade guide in this tutorial.

For fresh ISO download, visit any of the below links.

Non-Free Firmware in Debian 12

Note: From this release onwards, the Debian team created a new repo non-free-firmware to include all non-free packages for better control and user benefits. If you need specific non-free firmware, add the following lines in /etc/apt/sources.list file. Then run the system update, or use apt to install specific packages.

For more details, see here.

deb bookworm main contrib non-free non-free-firmware
deb-src bookworm main contrib non-free non-free-firmware

deb bookworm-security main contrib non-free non-free-firmware
deb-src bookworm-security main contrib non-free non-free-firmware

deb bookworm-updates main contrib non-free non-free-firmware
deb-src bookworm-updates main contrib non-free non-free-firmware

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, Debian 12 Bookworm is an impressive release that brings several new features and improvements. From the latest desktops to a new kernel and updated packages, this release has a lot to offer for both new and experienced Debian users.

With its focus on stability, security, and open-source principles, Debian 12 Bookworm can be the best choice for those seeking a reliable alternative to Ubuntu and a versatile operating system.

The final release of this version is expected on June 10, 2023.

Via –

Official release announcement

Change log


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