Open Source

4 features that make GNOME 3.26 worth the switch

The much-anticipated new release of the GNOME desktop is available now. Here's a look at the improvements, both large and small.

Of all the releases of the GNOME desktop, in recent years, I cannot think of one that was as anticipated as is GNOME 3.26. What is strange about this is that there are no major, ground-breaking features added to this upcoming release. While there are some subtle shifts in design, and a few small additions, the buzz for GNOME 3.26 is, without a doubt, there. My suspicion lies in the one-two punch of this 33rd release of the GNOME desktop and Ubuntu migrating back to GNOME. The anticipation of 3.26 is likely also bolstered by the fact that GNOME has become one of the most stable and polished desktop on the market.

Regardless as to why there is so much hoopla behind this release, the most important aspect is what is included with the upcoming 3.26. With the help of a Ubuntu 17.10 daily build and openSUSE Tumbleweed, anyone can get a glimpse of what's new and improved.

Let's take a look and see if GNOME 3.26 has enough new up its sleeve to entice you to upgrade or make the switch.

Improved Search

This will be a boon to those that depend upon desktop searches. What has changed is the layout for the search. When you go to search for something (within the GNOME Dash), you will now see more results in a much more readable layout (Figure A). A search will display anything related to your string (settings, apps, files, etc.).

Figure A

Figure A

The improved GNOME Search feature as seen through the Ubuntu take on the desktop.

The Search feature also allows users to search for action items, such as the Power Off button and Logout buttons. Search results are also significantly faster than they were (in previous releases). To me, the new GNOME Search has a slight Ubuntu Unity taste to it (which I consider a good thing).

File Search

Speaking of search improvements, Nautilus has made some serious improvements to its built-in search feature. When you enter a search string, you can click the drop-down arrow and define dates and select precisely what you want to search (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

The new GNOME Search tool.

The new search feature allows you to get pretty granular with your searching. What's more, the developers have added a feature that has been long requested—the ability to search within a document ... from the Nautilus file manager. I will say this: Out of the box the in-file search feature doesn't work as expected. At first blush, I assumed this to be a product of the feature being new or of files being indexed slowly. After a bit of digging, it turns out on the Ubuntu 17.10 instance of GNOME 3.26, the tracker application wasn't installed. After issuing the command sudo apt install tracker (and giving tracker a moment to index files), running a search on a string, instantly displayed a test file containing the text in question (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

The Nautilus search feature now functioning.

I have a feeling the missing tracker application is an Ubuntu issue—as I found openSUSE Tumbleweed (also running GNOME 3.26) included tracker and search results for a string instantly popped up a file that included the text in question. The lesson? If you're running Ubuntu 17.10, check to make sure tracker is installed.

New Settings layout

The GNOME Settings layout has been fairly consistent for quite some time. A very simple window with icons denoting various options available to configure. That change has resulted in a much more efficient design. Anyone that has used Android Nougat might recognize the new design philosophy—a left persistent sidebar that offers quick access to all options, regardless of what Setting category you have open (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D

The new GNOME Settings window.

Another long-overdue feature for the Settings tool is a dedicated Wi-Fi category. This category will appear in the sidebar and allows you to easily manage wireless connections. This addition to the Settings tool has been long overdue.

Smaller improvements

GNOME 3.26 includes quite a lot of smaller improvements. Those that will directly improve daily usage include:

  • GNOME Calendar now supports recurring events.
  • To Do now supports Todoist integration.
  • Builder received a complete redesign for the UI as well as code indexing, documentation cards, debugging capabilities, and full-screen mode.
  • GNOME Photos now includes zoom in/out buttons.
  • Display Settings are quicker to access and finally offer easier ways to setup single, multiple, and mirror displays.
  • Simple Scan's editing tools have been redesigned.
  • Polari (IRC client) now includes an initial setup wizard and has support for sending/receiving emojis.
  • Logs now supports event compression (for a better overview).
  • Disks now has the ability to resize partitions and new disk image files.

Deal breaker or maker?

For many, the release of GNOME 3.26 will be a deal maker, at least with regards to Ubuntu. That Ubuntu 17.10 will release with the latest iteration of the GNOME desktop is a significant change, one for the better. For those that don't work with Ubuntu, the release of 3.26 will probably not be either a deal breaker or maker. However, I would suggest you give this new release a chance before you make up your mind. GNOME 3.26 is the slickest release of the desktop to date. Considering how good 3.24 was, that is saying something.

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Image: Jack Wallen

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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