10 Features Why GNOME 42 is the Greatest Release Ever


We think these GNOME 42 release features make it one of the great releases in GNOME’s history. Here’s why.

The GNOME Desktop is the most widely used desktop environment today. And it is probably the only desktop that new users to Linux experience for the first time. GNOME is the default desktop environment for Ubuntu and Fedora Linux. Hence its user base is in millions. 

The upcoming GNOME 42 releases soon. And perhaps it’s one of the best releases so far in terms of new features, adoption of modern tech and moving away from the legacy codebase. 

The core, look and feel under the hood changes – everything looks different for new and experienced users.

GNOME 42 Desktop

In this article, we would like to give you a tour of 10 features of GNOME 42, which makes it a significant release. 

Great Features of GNOME 42 Release

1. Libadwaita and GTK4

The libadwaita library is the modern building block for GTK4 applications. It’s the GTK4 port of the libhandy library that defines the visual language of the GNOME desktop. The adoption of libadwaita is complex, and it impacts almost every modules component of the modern GNOME desktop, including the native applications. Imagine how difficult it is for a complete libadwaita and GTK4 adoption in development efforts, testing and other regressions.

The work started in GNOME 41 is now nearing completion in this GNOME 42 release. But what are the changes?

The libadwaita and GTK4 changes are visible in every user interface of the entire desktop. For example, you can see the flat buttons, well-justified labels, new colours, rounded corners, refined controls, etc. 

Hence, from Files to Web, the Shell controls, menu items – everything would look stunning with libadwaita and GTK4 in the GNOME 42 release.

2. Updated GNOME Shell Theme

The GNOME default Shell theme changed in several places. In this release, those items’ menus, notifications, and overall look are more compact.

The menu items at the top bar, such as the Calendar or the system tray menu, are now closer to the top bar. The spacing between the text and options inside the menu is decreased. 

GNOME 42 Shell updates

The on-screen display notifications are changed. Earlier, it used to be the large boxes with notification labels that are now changed to “pills” with a lesser display footprint. 

Revamped OSD and menu in GNOME 42

And also, some inside performance boost makes GNOME 42 much faster than its predecessors.

3. Adaptive Dark Theme

If you love dark themes and want your app to honour the system’s dark look, you are in for a treat. The GNOME 42, with the help of libadwaita, brings native dark mode for all the supported applications. 

If you choose a dark theme for GNOME Shell, the apps also follow that shell’s system style.

For example, if you choose the below option in the new Text editor, it changes to a dark theme when you change the GNOME Shell theme.

This option makes it follow dark and light theme automatically

However, this feature needs to be implemented by the app developer to consume the exposed Shell settings.

4. Revamped System Settings with new Appearances

The fulcrum of the entire GNOME desktop is its settings window. From the settings window, you can tweak most of the desktop behaviour. The setting application itself is a complex app, and it’s ported to libadwaita. So, the looks of it changed with new styled widgets and controls. 

One of the vital changes in the Settings window is the new Appearance page. This page gives you the option to view and toggle the desktop theme between light and dark. 

The Sharing page in the settings window gives you a redesigned remote desktop dialog showing options and preferences for remote desktop connection via RDP (not VNC).

Appearance page in Settings

5. Wallpaper that switches automatically with theme

The above appearance page in settings also gives you a nice side-by-side look of the light and dark version. And when you change the system theme, the wallpaper also changes automatically! This is by far the most remarkable feature that GNOME 42 release brings.

6. Files icon change

The default folder icons in Files (Nautilus) didn’t change for many years. In my opinion, everything changed over the years, but this piece remains the same. In GNOME 42, the folder icons colour in the Files file manager changes to light blue. 

Arguably, blue might not be the best colour considering every aspect. But blue still goes well with GNOME’s default wallpaper and other component pallets. And a change to the default Files look is always welcome.

Files with new color folders in GNOME 42

7. A brand new text editor

A new Text Editor replaces the famous and fabulous Gedit in GNOME 42. The Gedit is a powerful and time-tested utility, and replacing all of its functionality takes time. The new Text Editor is built in GTK4 from scratch and brings some outstanding features, including built-in themes and light and dark mode. More features are expected to arrive in Text Editor in future.

To be clear, Gedit doesn’t go away. It’s still there in the respective Linux distribution’s repo, and you can install it whatever you want.

You can read our exclusive piece on Gedit and GNOME Text Editor below.

Features about GNOME Text Editor

Why Gedit is the great text editor

8. A native screenshot tool

One of the best features of the GNOME 42 release is the built-in screenshot and screen recording tool. You do not install any additional app for this. Your life will be easier with this tool, which takes care of the screenshot and screen recording with its nifty user interface when you press the Print Screen button.

In earlier releases, hitting the Print Screen takes the entire desktop screenshot and saves it. Now, you need to hit Enter key after pressing Print Screen from the keyboard. 

GNOME 42 introduces new screenshot tool

9. Stunning Wallpapers

A set of awesome wallpapers is about to treat you and give your favourite GNOME 42 desktop a visual uplift. And the wallpapers also have a dark version, which is set automatically when you choose dark over light.

10. Other Changes

Some of the misc changes in the GNOME 42 release is the Eye of GNOME (image viewer) received a much-needed performance boost, Web browser GNOME Web now support hardware acceleration and user interface update in Maps. Also, a new Console application is a nice add on to this release which replaces GNOME Terminal.

So, that’s about significant changes. But many changes make GNOME 42 release is one of the biggest releases in its history. 

How to get GNOME 42

GNOME 42 was released on March 23, 2022, and you get to experience it via GNOME OS right away.

If you plan to get it via Linux Distribution, you have to wait for a little. Ubuntu 22.04 LTS will feature GNOME 42 (partial), due April 2022. And Fedora 36, which is expected in April as well.

If you are an Arch Linux user, GNOME 42 will arrive soon in the main extra repo. Keep a watch on this page or check your Arch system via the usual pacman -Syu command.