Improvements in GNOME 2.24 and Ubuntu 8.10

It'll be really hard for me to keep track which feature was done by which, so I'll post GNOME 2.24 and Ubuntu 8.10 as one. How is it hard? Well, I used to think that most of the things in Ubuntu were done by GNOME, but I was proven wrong when I looked deeply into the progress of Ubuntu 8.10 from alpha to final. I learned the new quit menus were taken from OpenSUSE (not to be confused with the quit menu being split up into three parts in System part of the Menu Bar; that was by GNOME), that most of the work on the new FUSA applet was done by Ubuntu, and there's some things that Ubuntu takes out of GNOME that I noticed in Foresight's unedited version of GNOME that I couldn't see in Ubuntu's GNOME.

1. Improved file browsing with Nautilus.

First, tabbed Nautilus, of course. Displayed a thousand times over the Internet, but I thought I'd display my version of it, fresh-install 8.10, with no changes whatsoever:

And of course, the new Compact View option (which isn't new at all; the compact view option was available in the previous GNOME, and the previous, and the previous, etc. The only change-up in this version was that before, to create a compact viewing environment, you had to set 3+ options. Now it can be done with a simple click:

Plus, there are two features unmentioned in the releases notes, (one of which people are already aware of) and they are:

  • The eject icons for removable media in the Places sidebar:
  • Restore [to Original Location] right-click option for files in Trash:
And very very little changes too:
  • Right-click on a file -> Delete in Trash renamed to right-click -> Delete Permanently:
  • Right-click on CD_DVD Icon in computer:/ -> Eject renamed to right-click -> Eject Volume to match rest of the system wording (Mount Volume, Unmount Volume, Eject Volume):

2. Menu and panel items switch-up.
A lot of menu-moving around this time of Ubuntu in the Menu Bar panel applet.

The only thing done by GNOME is in the Places section. The CD/DVD drive icon is displayed even there is no CD inserted:

Then on to Ubuntu-made changes.

First, Network Manager. Network Manager version 0.7 changes network configuring so much that now, network configuring is no longer an administrative tool in System -> Administration -> Network, but in System -> Preferences -> Network Configuration as a preferences application. Nice, except for the fact that the "Network Configuring" item is not translated, and is not available for translation on Launchpad. :(

Clicking the menu item brings up a new control center for all network-related tasks:

Second, Dictionary got moved to Applications -> Office (it was previously located in Applications -> Accessories):

And third, Document Viewer (Evince) and Image Viewer (EOG) are hidden by default, because they can be opened anyway by double-clicking a PDF or image file, and simply waste menu space if left visible by default. Formula ( Math) is installed again (it was left out in Hardy for lack of space on the ISO), although it is hidden by default in Applications -> Office.

Apparently the devs forgot to make an icon for it in the Human theme, (notice that the image for it is round, while other application icons are square).
Another clearly visible change is that Applications -> Accessories -> Bluetooth Analyzer, which was set visible by default in Ubuntu Hardy, has disappeared completely from the Accessories section. Further investigation reveals that it has been moved to Applications -> System Tools, and is hidden by default for complexity and inactivity of use.
For some reason the devs have chosen to hide System -> Preferences -> File Management (Nautilus file browser preferences) in 8.10. I think they were trying to hide System -> Preferences -> Encryptions and Keyrings, (which is right above) and screwed up. At any rate, it should be set back, because unlike normal applications' preferences, Nautilus is a literal shell for GNOME and makes up all of the Places section in the Menu Bar, therefore making it extremely important and earning a merit to have its preferences dialog displayed by default in Ubuntu.
Finally! System -> Preferences -> Multimedia Systems Selector, has been hidden! I always believed that it was too complicated and had too little descriptions for the average end-user to understand anything, and finally, the devs removed it from view! Of course, this doesn't prevent advanced users from just enabling it via the menu editor if they feel the need to use it.
OnBoard has been moved to System -> Preferences and has been removed from view by default.

And some panel switch-ups too:

The [Fast] User Switcher applet has been moved to the far end of the top right corner, and a Separator has been put between it and the other applets.

That is all the menu change-ups that I have noticed.

3. New way to quit computing.

Just say no! (Lulz, lame joke reference to smoking: quit smoking, quit computing, just say no.....get it?)

Ubuntu, after seeing how ugly inefficient the new GNOME quit menus were, with no descriptions of what each option does, and no Help button, decided to take refuge in OpenSUSE.

So the devs accepted GNOME's action on splitting the Quit... menu into three pieces, (Lock Screen, Log Out... , and Shut Down...) but as I already said, they couldn't accept the new menus:
(I wasn't there before Ubuntu replaced GNOME's by OpenSUSE's, so I couldn't produce my own screenshot. Thank "Keir" for this.

So they took OpenSUSE's, in fact the best quit menus a set of human eyes can come upon, in my opinion:

Beautiful set of icons, and with descriptions underneath and a Help button, integrating seemlessly with the GNOME desktop (did I mention the beautiful big icons and the Help button that provides seamless integration with the GNOME desktop?).

But according to Mr. Shuttleworth on his post about the FUSA applet in 8.10 Intrepid, he has mentioned a feature he and his slaves employees didn't have enough time to implement: It speaks of the FUSA applet hiding from view System -> Lock Screen, System -> Log Out, and System -> Shut Down... if it is running; then, when the applet is removed, they all return to view. This is to prevent two ways to quit your computer and prevent confusion. (Bad move, in my opinion; the quit menus have Help buttons and descriptions, while the FUSA applet quit options are only one-two lettered words.) This is to arrive in intrepid-updates or if not, definitely by jaunty.

4. More programs to manage.

Sessions Preferences got more complicated! Now you can manager tons of more startup programs that were previously uncontrollable, such as the splash screen, login sounds,
the remote desktop server, and the window manager!:

5. Two way to set time and date.

Wow. With GNOME 2.24, there are to ways to set the time and date. First, the classic way: time-admin (System -> Administration -> Time and Date). And second, by use of the Clock panel applet. Huh? What do I mean? Aren't they the same thing? I'll explain.

Open Clock Preferences by Clock panel applet -> right-click -> Preferences:

You see the button Time Settings? Yeah well, in previous GNOME versions, it simply opened up time-admin, you entered your password, and set the date and time, etc. But no longer. The devs thought, "Hey, we're in Clock Preferences, so why are we opening up an administrative tool? Plus, why is setting the date and time for one user administrative?"

So now, clicking Time Settings brings up a whole new redesigned-from-the-ground-up window to set time, just for that user. And if you want, you can click Set System Time... where you will be prompted for your password, and then the time you just set only for your account saves as the system default.

6. Useless GNOME Screenshot improvements.

Here I go again. GNOME's screenshot program (Take Screenshot) "improved" with version 2.24. Now comes the ability to include your cursor in the screenshot or not:

And after taking your screenshot, there comes another "cool" feature, the ability to copy the image to your clipboard:

Amazing. But I'm still waiting for ability to make a selection of my screenshot, which GIMP's screenshot taker, and GScrot can already do.

7. Subtly changed Alacarte.

Same as ever, Alacarte, GNOME's menu editor, still has the bugs that existed since its creation, and none have been fixed. Only visible change is that the Properties and Delete buttons are no longer accessible only through right-click on an item. They have made buttons for it in the right sidebar.

8. Advanced language support.
Once I reported a bug that Language Selector (System -> Administration -> Language Support) didn't show its icon on the top-left of its window titlebar. The developer never got back on the bug report, but he must have seen it, because when I checked Language Selector in Ubuntu 8.10, it was fixed.

But the most amazing change in the version included in Ubuntu Intrepid is that now, you can manage which language files you want to have support for on your system. Just look!:
If you actually cannot see what is different in this version by looking at the above screenshot, please locate the red parentheses that I have conveniently inserted and regard the text in between the symbols.

. Third-party application updates.

Ubuntu includes many useful applications th
at are not from GNOME, hence the term "third-party". Some of which are Firefox, GIMP, Transmission, etc. Note that I am not an Ubuntu fanboy who ignorantly thinks that everything in Ubuntu is done by Ubuntu. If you have seen some of my other posts (which I have greyed out) I am not a huge Ubuntu fan.

Transmission 1.3x line!

The 1.3 line is amazing. One obvious change is the load of options. If anyone has noticed, the 1.2x line in Ubuntu Hardy had one tab for preferences: one tab only! And bizarredly, the 1.3x line has five tabs! That's load of configuring, but I'm glad this happened:

GIMP 2.6!!!!! :)

Too happy to express it in words. Updated translations, less menubar clutter, and faster and better! (Just read the release notes)A mere screenshot cannot display my happiness on the inclusion of this update despite it being released far after Intrepid's feature freeze, but I'll post it anyway:

F-Spot 0.5.x.

I don't know what's so amazing and what the change is from the 0.4.x line, mainly because I never used it before. But seeing as how one of my commenters on my blog on new features in Ubuntu 8.10 (which is no longer active) got all hyper about it, I'm assuming a really cool thing is in F-Spot 0.5.

Pidgin 2.5.2. Woot!

Not really anything special in this version, except for a few icon cleanups, memory leak fixes, and some translation updates. One thing, however, catches the attention of all IMers around the globe. And that is:

Don't understand? Well, by clicking that square next to the "Available - Waiting for..." you can easily set an icon for your IM account, no matter what protocol it is.

Brasero 0.8.x.

Two really important updates in the 0.8.x string. First, a new project option added to the start window:

And then, a new plugin, Normalize, that will enable you to set a constant volume for your music:

That's all, folks!

10. CD/DVD/volume insertion prompt.
I am loving this. Not only does GNOME 2.24/Ubuntu 8.10 better recognize when I insert CDs or DVDs, (in GNOME 2.22/Ubuntu 8.10 it took five minutes of taking out the CD/DVD, then reinserting it, and repeating the process just for my system to recognize that I had inserted a disk) but now, a window pops-up when you insert a CD/DVD! It asks what you would like to do, if you want to do this always for these kinds of removable drives, and oh, you can eject the CD/DVD right from there if you want.

And if you insert a volume (Curiously, my USB stick had no specified device name, so GNOME classified it as "No Name":

11. [Fast] User Switcher [Applet] upgrade.

Just take a look at this screenshot of the User Switcher panel applet:

There's a new Guest session entry for lending your laptop so your friend can check their emails quickly, or letting them IM with their buddies, etc. And you can manage your whole system from there! No need to go System -> Shut Down... only to have another dialog pop-up and choosing Shut Down again. Just click on the applet, click Shut down, and you're set!

And look what happens to the applet when Empathy or Pidgin (internet messengers) is run:

You can manage your IM status just from the applet. This feature works with Pidgin, Empathy, and Kopete, Mr. Shuttleworth claims, at least. Pretty neat, if you ask me.

12. Miscelleanous cleanups throughout GNOME.

First up is GNOME Volume Control. Though I cannot produce a screenshot, in Ubuntu Hardy, GNOME Volume Control, despite it being a preferences application, actually had its own menubar (File Edit View etc.). That was the first and last time I have ever seen a preferences application have a menubar and not buttons.

What exactly was it like? It had a File, Edit, and Help (if I remember correctly). Under File, it had Quit and under Edit it had Preferences and under Help it had Contents and About. Now compare that to the re-layouted version in GNOME 2.24:

Help -> Contents converted to a Help button, (like all other preferences applications) File -> Quit removed (you can quit by pressing Close) and Edit -> Preferences replaced by a huge Preferences button. Needless to say, the About dialog is not necessary. Wow, a huge cleanup, looks better in GNOME 2.24, doesn't it?

Passwords and Encryption Settings, (System -> Preferences -> Encryptions and Keyrings) like Volume Control above, has gotten a re-layout also. Previously, there were approximately six tabs in it. But now, there are only two:

Imagine how confused a newbie would be. That much options? Six tabs? It's a good thing the devs minimized it to two this time around in GNOME.

File Roller (Applications -> Accessories -> Archive Manager) now supports four new file types: ALZ, CAB, RZIP, and 7ZIP. This was achieved due to resorting to P7Zip for certain tasks. Finally, no more "sudo aptitude install unalz && unalz /home/exsecrabilus/Desktop/archive.alz"!

13. "Create a USB startup disk".

No opinions. If you ask me, it should have been hidden by default, in Applications -> System Tools. So much things wrong with this application that I'm not gonna rant again and attract flames.

14. Mount archives like removable drives.
I'll get on with it: Nautilus (File Browser) has a new part of it that can manage archives by itself. (I don't know why this happened, and the developers of File Roller must be pissed at Nautilus for taking its job and now becoming an ultimate bloated application.)

But basically, this is how it works: You locate to the archive, right click on it, and press "Open with "Archive Mounter"":

A new icon will appear on your desktop, and it will actually act like a removable drive. You can right-click -> Unmount Volume, you can eject it from the Places sidebar in Nautilus, etc.:

From there, you can just copy and paste the contents, like you've extracted it. This is particularly useful when you have a 1000 GB archive and want to extract one image from it.

(The window to the left is what it is when it's first opened; obviously, it only displays one folder, so I opened that one, which displays the contents in the window on the right.)

15. Jockey becomes THE hardware managing tool.

Wow. Tell me if there's a better hardware drivers manager than Jockey (System -> Administration -> Hardware Drivers) in Linux. With version 0.5 (which is still in beta stage, BTW) you get information if it's been tested by the developers, if the driver license is free, and the best of all, you finally get more printer support!: When a printer is inserted and it will not work automatically, Jockey will select the right driver from and help you make the best of your printer. Though I cannot produce a screenshot due to the fact that I don't own a printer that doesn't automatically work, here is an overview screenshot:

16. GNOME finally submits to Compiz.
To edit the number of workspaces on your desktop, you just right-click on the Workspace Switcher panel applet, press Preferences, then you can add and remove desktops.
But, of course, if you tried changing it while running Compiz, the terror began. No matter what you changed in the workspace preferences, the number of workspaces stayed the same--that is, until you switched back to Metacity. And the only solution was to install CCSM and even from there, it was difficult because of "Horizontal Virtual Size", "Vertical Virtual Size" and "Number of Desktops". Huh?

GNOME has finally done something about it. Starting with version 2.24, the Workspace Switcher detects if you are running Compiz, and if you are, switches its preferences mode so that the number actually changes.

The current 2.24 version Workspace Switcher Preferences, which didn't change at all from version 2.22:

And the new mode of the exact application above, changed to if Compiz is detected as running:

Neat huh? This is a step in the right direction for GNOME, since Compiz is becoming more and more popular. However, there are still unresolved issues, such as the Compiz Wallpaper plugin, that won't work if Nautilus is drawing the desktop icons (see here for more information).

17. Other Ubuntu-related changes.

The Ubuntu website for version 8.10 is surprisingly ugly and bad. Look!:

The one for 8.04 Hardy is hot and has a very nice style with smooth colors, but this is just ugly! They even forgot to capitalize the "s" in "Ubuntu shop". Bad, bad, bad.

Other than that, a new wallpaper:

Oh yeah, and Human-Murrine got renamed to Human, effectively destroying the old. ugly, and slow theme, Human. The newly renamed Human theme:

There is also a dark theme, called DarkRoom--it was previously known as NewHuman. It's a very nice dark theme, but for some reason, it refuses to display itself correctly on my computer, so therefore I cannot take a screenshot of it.

18. Ability to theme sounds just like appearance.

That's right! All you have to do is 1, make a folder, 2, put your sound files with the correct theming name, then 3, somehow (I am not a themer so I don't know how) make an index.theme file, finally, 4, move it to '/usr/share/sounds', and voila, you just set a whole sound theme in seconds without having to go through the pain of setting each one manually! (Of course, actually making a theme file is not easy. See the full specification for more information.)

19. Quick search feature in Synaptic.

*Clap* No words. No words.

There is also a new feature in Synaptic[in the process of getting the screenshots] that displays, if the package is in Ubuntu Main, a message at the end of the package's description that the package will receive security updates until April/May 2009. If the package is in Universe, Multiverse, or some third-party repository, it will say that Canonical cannot do anything about bugs caused by the package.

Overall, GNOME is getting better, with Ubuntu's choice of third-party applications. But, there are still little setbacks. So let's hope we can see more in the next GNOME.