Ubuntu 21.04 Hirsute Hippo will not feature GNOME 40 as the default desktop environment. The Ubuntu team decided to stay on GNOME 3.38 stable with GTK3 in this release.
Ubuntu 21.04 Hirsute Hippo Scraps GNOME 40
Announced in the recent discussion, the team decided to stick to GNOME 3.38 and GTK3 for many critical reasons. Traditionally, the April release of Ubuntu features the latest GNOME desktop that releases just before the final version is out as per the release cadence.
But, the recent changes that are introduced in GNOME 40 is too much with many moving parts. For example, GNOME 40 brings the following critical desktop design and behavioral changes, among others.
- Dock becomes horizontal
- App Grid scrolls also horizontally
- The workspaces are now at the bottom of the screen
All these design changes are completely different than the prior GNOME releases. No one knows how it would play out when it releases, and how it would be perceived by many users who, until today, are accustomed to the vertical nature of this desktop.
Also, GTK4 just released and many Ubuntu components such as Yaru themes and others are not yet ported and tested properly yet.
Ubuntu, in general, is the most used distribution across various use cases today. Considering that, the impact of GNOME 40 changes are huge as well. It requires well tested and careful planning and decision to include this in mainstream Ubuntu packages.
Right now, with GNOME 40, there is no way you can switch between the vertical and horizontal nature of the desktop. Many distributions work well with the vertical left dock. Ubuntu team may think about providing an option for users to switch between horizontal and vertical nature of UI. Probably via a GNOME extension. But that might take additional time and effort.
At this point, it is clear that the October release of Ubuntu 21.10 may feature GNOME 40, probably a customized one. But this decision makes Ubuntu always a “GNOME version” behind in the future. Whereas Fedora remains in sync with GNOME releases. Fedora 34 would feature GNOME 40 already.
In my opinion, it is a wise decision to skip this version in Ubuntu 21.04, by the Ubuntu team considering the impact and nature of GNOME 40 changes. It gives the team ample amount of time to assess feedback post GNOME 40 release and move ahead.