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GNOME 2.24 gains "Empathy" IM
Sep. 25, 2008

The GNOME project has released a major upgrade of its desktop environment that adds an instant messaging (IM) client. GNOME 2.24 also features a new task manager, screen resolution tools, and enhanced conferencing support, and spins off a new GNOME Mobile version for embedded devices.

(Click for larger view of GNOME 2.24)

One of the top two desktop environments for Linux, along with KDE, GNOME is upgraded every six months with bug fixes and new features. Existing tools include e-mail, groupware, web browsing, file management, multimedia, and games, says the GNOME project. The last release was version 2.2, and the last major release arrived a year ago with GNOME 2.20.

GNOME's Empathy IM client
(Click to enlarge)

With GNOME 2.24, the project is spinning off its first formal release of the GNOME Mobile desktop based on its GNOME Mobile and Embedded subproject. The group says that GNOME Mobile is already being used in Linux-based mobile device platforms including Maemo, the Access Linux Platform, the LiMo Platform, Ubuntu Mobile, Moblin, and Poky Linux. For more information on GNOME Mobile, please see our coverage on LinuxDevices, here.

The following provides brief summaries of the major new GNOME 2.24 features:
  • Empathy IM client -- Based on the D-Bus-based Telepathy communications network, as well as Nokia's Mission Control connection management utility for Telepathy, the Empathy client comprises a collection of reusable IM widgets. It is said to borrow Gossip's UI and offer access to libempathy and libempathy-gtk libraries. Empathy also supports XMPP/SIP audio and video conferencing on the Maemo-based Nokia N800/N810 Internet Tablet devices.

  • Ekiga conferencing client -- Upgraded to release 3.0, Ekiga is a SIP audio/video conferencing client. Ekiga 3.0 features a new phonebook centered interface, as well as SIP presence support, PBX line monitoring, "accelerated" and fullscreen video formats, and improved video codec support (H.264, H.263+, MPEG-4, and Theora).

    Ekiga 3.0 uses a phonebook interface

  • Task management -- A new task manager indicates tasks and keeps track of how long a user works on each task. The utility includes task categorization by client, type, and other groupings, and provided graphs on how much time is spent on each task type.

  • Improved file management -- The file manager now offers a compact list view, and the browser supports rapid switching between directories in a single windows, says the GNOME project. The file manager also features improved automatic filename completion and conversion of illegal punctuation marks in filenames.

    File manager interface (back to front) icon, list, and new compact formats
    (Click to enlarge)

  • Deskbar -- New plugins are now available for a calculator, Google Search (and code search), Yahoo, and Wikipedia.

  • Resolution controls -- Screen resolution controls have been updated to support multiple monitors.

  • Sound themes -- GNOME now uses sound themes from Libcanberra, with alert sounds that are less likely to interfere with media playback.

  • Improved digital TV support -- Starting with GNOME 2.2, the desktop adopted the GStreamer multimedia framework for digital television (DVB) support. The latest version adds support for multiple DVB tuners, support for high-resolution YouTube videos, and other enhancements.

  • Internationalization -- GNOME 2.24 is said to support 45 languages with over 80 percent of strings translated, including the manuals for many languages.

  • Other features -- Additional touted features include improved keyboard navigation and mouse accessibility, enhanced text-to-speech and braille device support, and new desktop backgrounds. The new release also switches to GLIB 2.18 and GTK+ 2.14.

GNOME 2.24 is available now for free download. More information may be found here.

-- Eric Brown

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