GNOME 45: Best New Features and Improvements

6 min

Explore the revamped GNOME 45 desktop environment and discover new features, customizations, and performance upgrades.

GNOME is a free and open-source desktop environment for Linux and Unix-like operating systems. It is one of the most popular desktop environments in the world and is used by millions of people via mainstream Linux distributions such as Ubuntu and Fedora alike.

The GNOME 45 release is expected to be a major update with many new features and improvements.

Some of the new features include porting to the latest libadwaita widgets, new GTK version porting, performance upgrades and more.

GNOME 45 Desktop
GNOME 45 Desktop

Let’s take a look at the new improvements.

GNOME 45: Top New Features

libadwaita & GTK

At the core, this version introduces the latest libadwaita 1.4. This version brings the following widget types across GNOME core modules & apps.

  • AdwBreakpoint
  • AdwBreakpointBin
  • AdwNavigationView
  • AdwNavigationSplitView
  • AdwOverlaySplitView
  • AdwSpinRow
  • AdwSwitchRow
  • AdwToolbarView

In addition, the GTK version is bumped up to GTK 4.11.4 in this release.

GNOME Shell & Mutter

The KMS thread is a promising new feature that can potentially improve Mutter’s performance. This is a new thread that is responsible for handling cursor movements. This allows the main thread to be freed up to handle other tasks, which can improve the overall performance of Mutter. You can learn more at MR2777.

When a background app takes time to close due to processing or any other reason, the GNOME desktop now shows a spinner in place of the close button, affirming to the user that the app is working and should be closed soon. MR2732

Spinner during closing of background apps
Spinner during closing of background apps

To open the quick settings “quickly“, you can now press Super+S. This is so helpful during any workflow. A totally underrated feature. You can also customize it from the keyboard section under settings.

Mutter introduces YUV colour support in Wayland. YUV is a colour space commonly used for video and image processing. It is more efficient than RGB for storing and displaying images, especially when there is a lot of motion. This new feature lets applications offload YUV->RGBA conversions to the compositor. This means that the compositor can take care of converting the YUV data to RGBA, which is the format that most displays use. This can improve performance and reduce energy consumption, especially on mobile or embedded devices. This feature is essential because it can improve the performance and energy efficiency of GNOME Mutter on mobile and embedded devices. It can also make Mutter a more attractive development platform for people working on software for these devices. Read more about this in MR2191.

GNOME 45 also implements top-level surface rounding as needed by the fractional-scale-v1 specification. This will enable pixel-perfect rendering when you enable fractional scaling under Wayland. In addition, “stable rounding” for Wayland subsurface positions also arrives in this release. You can learn more in MR2726.

Shell’s screenshot/screencast feature fixes several bugs with some code cleanup.

Settings dialog

First of all, the new adwaita styles are coming in Settings where you can see the “split headerbar” design in Settings. You can see a clear contrast on the left pane with the right pane with header is seamlessly integrates itself.

Split headerbar in settings
Split headerbar in settings

The about dialog is changed to make things simpler. This is in preparation for a more significant redesign effort in settings. In GNOME 45, you get a simple About screen with additional details at the separate pop-up, as shown below. You can also copy the system information as a markdown to the clipboard. More info at MR1703.

Changes in About System Panel
Changes in About System Panel

The Online Accounts tab introduces more clarity with titles for connected accounts, more details about available cloud providers and descriptions for the panel. More info at MR1669.

Revamped Online Accounts (mockup)
Revamped Online Accounts (mockup)

In the prior release, GNOME introduced the new file selection dialog. You should see this new dialogue in Settings, whenever you need to browse your file system for a file. For example, while selecting wallpapers, you can now enjoy the revamped file chooser dialog in the Appearances panel. As you already know, the new dialog also shows thumbnails. More info at MR1560.

New file selection dialog in settings
New file selection dialog in settings

Furthermore, a few changes were introduced to incorporate newer libadwaita widgets. For example, the WiFi panel now shows AdwMessageDialog while forgetting a connection. In addition, a new confirmation message is also introduced when you click “forget connection”. More info at MR1701.


  • OS update indicator: This new feature will make it easier for users to know when their system is up to date with the latest security fixes. Another notification also will show when a system update is downloaded so the user can plan for a reboot.
  • Flatpak uninstalls: Software now allows users to clear the app storage for Flatpak apps when uninstalled. This can help to free up disk space and prevent the app from leaving behind any residual files.
  • Flatpak EOL: In GNOME 45, the Software app will notify users if an installed Flatpak app has reached the end of life. This can help users know when to find a replacement app.
GNOME 45 Software now shows when a Flatpak app reaches EOL
GNOME 45 Software now shows when a Flatpak app reaches EOL

Files (Nautilus)

Nautilus is bringing a faster and more responsive search experience. This is a welcome improvement, as Nautilus is the default file manager for many GNOME-based distributions. The Tracker search engine code has been modernized to use TrackerSparqlStatement and caching for multiple query executions. This has fixed several bottlenecks that needed to be fixed for the search engine to be faster. As a result, search queries can now return elements within milliseconds instead of seconds to minutes.

In addition, Nautilus introduces “global search” where you can see a button to search your entire filesystem instead of home folder – when a file is not found.

The column chooser in Nautilus now uses the list-view of adwaita instead of TreeView.

New column chooser (before and after)
New column chooser (before and after)

Files also received a split headerbar view as per the new adwaita styles. Moreover, the progress indicator and a new label “Places” are introduced in the left pane.

Split headerbars in Files
Split headerbars in Files
Progress indicator in Files left pane
Progress indicator in Files left pane

All your starred marked files and folders now show in Grid view as well. Earlier, it was only available in list view.

While pressing CTRL+F a second time, the focus goes back to the Files search bar, making it more user-friendly and consistent with standard behaviour.

Epiphany – GNOME Web

You may notice some cool updates if you use GNOME Web (aka Epiphany). The Tab overview is now fully migrated to the libadwaita widget, showing the fluid snapshot of websites.

New tab overview in GNOME Web
New tab overview in GNOME Web

In addition, the web apps now show the “new window” option, while the address bar dropdown shows fullscreen in narrow view mode.

The “Sync now” button from the Sync options window moves to the header bar to fix a bug.

New tab overview in GNOME Web
New tab overview in GNOME Web

New image viewer

In GNOME 45, a new application Loupe will replace the “eyes of GNOME” image viewer. However, the Loupe still lacks many features that would be implemented later. The merge request is available here.

New cursor theme

The Adwaita icon theme introduces a refreshed cursor set for this release. The new set looks crisp, is easy to view, and improves productivity. The merge request is available here if you want to learn more.

New cursor theme refresh
New cursor theme refresh

Keyboard Backlight control in Quick settings

GNOME 45 introduces a dedicated control in the quick settings, allowing you to change the keyboard backlight intensity by a slider. If your keyboard supports backlight, then it would be nice to control it from GNOME Shell without installing any extensions.

Keyboard backlight control in GNOME quick settings
Keyboard backlight control in GNOME quick settings

When available?

GNOME 45 was released on September 20, 2023. The following leading distros should offer this desktop as per the below schedule:

DistroAvailable date as a stable version
Fedora 39October 17 – 24, 2023
Ubuntu 23.10October 12, 2023
Arch LinuxOctober 1st week, 2023 (may change)
Debian unstableOctober 1st-2nd week, 2023 (may change)

You can also try GNOME OS from the below page to test this version today.

Wrapping Up

With the GNOME 45 desktop, you have the ability to customize your workspace to meet your specific needs. This release has made it simpler to use the desktop in alignment with the HIG guidelines, making it more user-friendly. Additionally, there are important accessibility changes, updates to the Web, and behind-the-scenes improvements that are essential.

This release is a moderate update compared to previous ones, but still, a necessary one considering under-the-hood changes.

A few image credit goes to GNOME dev team.


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