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GNOME 2.20 arrives on Linux desktops
Sep. 20, 2007

The first major update of GNOME, version 2.20, has arrived almost two and a half years after GNOME 2.10, its last big step forward. GNOME 2.20 boasts not just improvements to the desktop itself, but multiple significant improvements to GNOME's applications as well.

This release also marks GNOME's 10th birthday. The project was created as an alternative to KDE in August 1997 by Miguel de Icaza, better known in recent years as the lead developer for Mono.

As always, GNOME's focus is on ease of use, stability, and first-class internationalization and accessibility support. Specific improvements for users in this edition include:
  • desktop search integrated into the file chooser dialog
  • better support for right-to-left languages, such as Hebrew
  • enhanced browsing of image collections
  • simplified system preferences
  • efficient power management
  • much more accurate laptop battery monitoring
Additionally, developers receive more help with application development thanks to a new version of the GTK+ toolkit, improved tools, and an improved GNOME documentation Web site.

GNOME 2.20. GNOME continues to have a clean, attractive interface.
(Click to enlarge)

The applications have also had new features added to them. Evolution, the excellent email and groupware client, now has a warning message for times when you've forgotten to attach a document or other file to your message, a new message alert, and tools to make it easier to transfer your Evolution email files from one computer to another.

Evolution. The new Evolution scheduler makes tracking appointments easier than ever.
(Click to enlarge)

In addition, Evolution's calendar feature has been augmented by an advanced search, which also allows for saved calendar searches. There is a new Show drop-down menu item that provides quick access to the next seven day's appointments and to active appointments.

GNOME's built-in Epiphany Web browser, image, and document viewers have also all been made easier to use. GNOME's multimedia player, Totem, is also more user friendly. With the latest Totem, if you try to play a file that you don't have the correct codec for, the program will automatically give you the option to search for and install the correct multimedia codec. The actual details of how this is done will be implemented by your Linux distribution creator.

Totem codec search. The new Totem can automatically help locate the appropriate multimedia codec without any fuss or muss.
(Click to enlarge)

GNOME's Power Manager now saves profile information about your batteries over time, to provide a far more accurate estimation of the time remaining, even with old, worn-out batteries. The program also comes with information about the battery models that have been recalled by their manufacturers. With this feature, GNOME has set a new standard in battery management for any desktop operating environment.

With this release, GNOME is getting to be friendlier for system administrators. It now includes a collection system administrator tools that can help with large corporate deployments, and with situations where machine lockdown is required.

The Sabayon User Profile Editor allows administrators to set up user profiles inside a live, interactive GNOME session. When a profile is created or edited, a nested GNOME session is started up, which the administrator can use to change GConf defaults and mandatory keys in their own GNOME session. (Note: this management program is not the same as the Sabayon Linux distribution.)

Within the nested window, a system administrator can create personalized profiles based on job description (e.g. receptionist, data entry clerk, human resources manager, etc.). These profiles can then be saved and deployed to various desktop machines saving the system administrator deployment time. The profiles can also be modified and fine tuned as needed based on user feedback. Since the profiles are in a centralized server they allow easy maintenance and deployment.

In GNOME 2.20 the User Profile Editor can also be used to set default preferences for OpenOffice applications in addition to the existing support for GNOME and Mozilla applications.

At this time, to the best of our knowledge, only Foresight Linux 1.4 comes with GNOME 2.20 as a default desktop. Ubuntu and openSUSE 10.3 RC 1 will both be making the desktop available within the next day or two.

-- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

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