back to article GNOME 45 formalizes extensions module system

GNOME 45 has reached the RC stage, but it has a change that will impact more users: it's altering the way extensions work, which will impose strict versioning requirements. The GNOME project has tagged the latest version as 45.rc, which means it's nearly final. The NEWS document has a modest list of about 20 changes, but they …

  1. keithpeter Silver badge
    Windows

    "If you check the lists of supported Shell versions for each of those, you'll note that they all stopped working many years, and many GNOME Shell versions, ago. The authors stopped trying to keep up with the moving target of GNOME's codebase."

    As LP says later in the article, I hope this move to something like a standard for plugins means that plugins developed now can be maintained easily in the future.

    PS: I have no skin in this game as I use xfce/window managers on my old and slightly broken ThinkPads.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      [Author here]

      > plugins developed now can be maintained easily in the future.

      Quite.

      > PS: I have no skin in this game as I use xfce/window managers on my old and slightly broken ThinkPads.

      Same here. Well, some run Unity, but on any other distro or xNix, Xfce.

  2. bofh1961

    Perhaps GNOME could...

    Consider the option of creating a desktop that doesn't need extensions to make it usable for human beings?

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps GNOME could...

      [Author here]

      > Consider the option of creating a desktop that doesn't need extensions to make it usable for human beings?

      Twould be a consummation devoutly to be wished.

      Or, you know, the other option is for it to undergo what actually happened to Hamlet in the end.

      To be fair, millions use GNOME and get on fine with it. It works. I don't like it either myself but it does the job.

      The GNOME developers think that theirs is the most used desktop on FOSS. I think in real life that's _really_ ChromeOS' Aura Shell, or quite possibly either Deepin or UKUI.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: Perhaps GNOME could...

        Unmentioned is what happens to e.g. Mint in the meantime?

        1. botfap

          Re: Perhaps GNOME could...

          Long term Mint Cinnamon user here. Ive used it exclusively on my laptop, gaming desktop and workstation for the last 5-6 years because its been rock solid stable and the UI has been uncluttered, straightforward and consistent. Its also the standard desktop within my company. However its dependency on Gnome apps is getting worse rather than better, the UI is becoming messy and inconsistent, default themes are a mess and we have had quite a lot of stability issues with v20 onwards. A lot of the default apps now use Gnomes libadwaita for themeing instead of standard GTK themes and look out of place and have different behaviour. Desktop stability has also been a problem since 20.3 with crashes on unlock desktop and coming out of sleep, sound and video stuttering issues across a wide range of dektop and laptop hardware and desktop responsiveness is a bit more sluggish than it used to be. They have also basically said point blank that they have no interest in supporting wayland so Cinnamon is looking like a dead end moving forward. Add to that the refusal to even consider an ARM64 spin even though ARM desktop hardware is now becoming more common

          Its not horrific and not bad enough yet to be planning a change, its too much effort right now for a whole fleet of PC's. I do however have this nagging doubt going forward about what they are currently doing and focusing on. Its a shame they dropped their KDE spin because thats probably what I will be looking at next. Gnome 4x is almost universally hated by our devs and users and most of them consider a default install unusable without at least dash2dock or dash2panel extensions. Sadly those extensions have a habit of breaking, even with minor, distro packaged updated

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Perhaps GNOME could...

            I moved from Cinnamon to Budgie. Similar nice interface. Very stable. They plan to move to Wayland.

        2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: Perhaps GNOME could...

          [Author here]

          > Unmentioned is what happens to e.g. Mint in the meantime?

          Well, Cinnamon is a full fork of GNOME 3.

          I am concerned it will become harder to maintain as time goes by, though. The GNOME CSD rot is already visibly setting in.

          The thing is that multiple projects maintain extensions to make GNOME >=3 more Windows like. Zorin OS, umpteen independent extensions, etc.

          I wish they would all just get together and cooperate.

      2. prajwel

        Re: Perhaps GNOME could...

        It definitely does the job. I have tried all other desktop environments, but Gnome was the only DE that seems to be quite there. For me, it has gotten all the nitty gritties right.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps GNOME could...

      What I'd like to see (or know if it is already possible) is can extensions turn GNOME into something like GNOME 2? If it could it would end the need for a lot of the "GNOME replacement" projects like Cinnamon. Just install GNOME, then install/enable the right extensions and get what I wanted in the first place. If extensions could do that, I wouldn't give a damn how much they continue to screw up default GNOME.

      1. fuzzie

        Re: Perhaps GNOME could...

        The following, coincidentally nearly all the "Frippery" ones, will get you pretty darn close

        > https://extensions.gnome.org/extension/13/applications-menu/

        > https://extensions.gnome.org/extension/4/panel-favorites/

        > https://extensions.gnome.org/extension/2/move-clock/

        > https://extensions.gnome.org/extension/3/bottom-panel/

        > https://extensions.gnome.org/extension/14/shut-down-menu/

        Also throw in these, just because they're awesome

        > https://extensions.gnome.org/extension/906/sound-output-device-chooser/

        > https://extensions.gnome.org/extension/120/system-monitor/

        1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: Perhaps GNOME could...

          [Author here]

          > The following, coincidentally nearly all the "Frippery" ones, will get you pretty darn close

          It's true but you don't need all that. Just install the Classic session and it's done for you. (If you have admin rights, of course!)

          The snag is that

          [1] It's almost totally uncustomisable, unlike the "real thing"

          [2] It only affects the Shell, so you keep all the accessories and so on with CSD.

          If you want the latter then MATE is the answer... but MATE doesn't work with Wayland, while GNOME Flashback does.

      2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Perhaps GNOME could...

        [Author here]

        > What I'd like to see (or know if it is already possible) is can extensions turn GNOME into something like GNOME 2?

        Absolutely yes. It's called the GNOME Flashback session.

        https://wiki.gnome.org/Projects/GnomeFlashback

        Here is how to install it on Ubuntu:

        https://help.ubuntu.com/community/GNOMESessionFlashback

        Arch:

        https://wiki.archlinux.org/title/GNOME/Flashback

        It's installed by default in Fedora:

        https://src.fedoraproject.org/rpms/gnome-flashback

        What I would like to see is the Dash to Panel, the Zorin appearance tools, and so on, integrated into upstream GNOME Flashback.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Perhaps GNOME could...

          Thanks to you both for the recommendations. I'm installing Fedora from scratch on a new PC (been updating since F25 on the current one) so I'm going to play around with this and see if I can make one of these solutions work instead of using Cinnamon again so that I can use Wayland.

          Thanks!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Perhaps GNOME could...

      It is usable for human beings though...my grumpy Manc old man, in his 70s, with virtually no technical ability uses Gnome just fine, he actually prefers it...when I tried to put him on an "easier" DE he nearly shit the bed.

      My entire household is also on Gnome...people ranging from 4 years old to 74 years old...and I have never hear a single complaint about Gnome itself being hard to fathom or use and I don't tend to have to support people using it because they just get on with it.

      I've moved various other pensioners with older machines to Ubuntu Gnome with no issues as well.

      The key thing that all of these people seem to like is that it isn't "busy"...there aren't constant alerts, popups, icons all over the screen etc etc...it's very easy for none technical eyes to handle Gnome because they don't have to dart all over the place to look for things. The way I configure it for people is to completely disable search, apart from applications, and instruct them to hit the "WINDOWS KEY" if they need to find an application. This triggers the full screen overlay with nice big icons and clear text that is easy to read.

      My only gripe with Gnome, which may not actually be a Gnome problem...is how shite it is over Anydesk / Teamviewer etc.

      I'm not a particularly big fan of Gnome, or any DE for that matter, but I don't irrationally hate it either. It is what it is...I navigate almost exclusively with a keyboard and Gnome is pretty good at that.

      Most of the other engineers (devs, network guys, etc) I work with (at various clients) are completely indifferent to Gnome. It simply doesn't matter to them.

      I get the impression that a lot of people that actively hate Gnome for irrational reasons exist purely on the internet because I've yet to meet someone in meatspace that spits venom over Gnome. Professionals are indifferent and regular human beings seem to quite like it.

      I suspect Gnome knows this and they know they will never win over the niche customisation crowd.

      The one net positive that Gnome has over any other DE is that you know it will work first time on pretty much anything. If I spin up a distro that has Gnome on it, I am always pretty confident that it will just straight up work. I haven't had a show stopping problem with it for donkies years...mind you, I don't typically use many extensions (other than dash to dock and really basic stuff like that)...I don't use any wild and whacky themes, icon sets etc etc and if I do, I stick to things that have active development and a level of maturity...because they aren't really necessary, but if you do want a slight visual tweak, you want to ensure that what you use isn't going to be dead in 6 months...this is just common sense though and applies to anything really.

      This all said, I have used other DEs in the past for certain use cases, e.g. XFCE on machines that are particularly underpowered and I have no gripes with XFCE other than it's default visual inconsistencies...it's reasonably rare to find a distro that has a consistent XFCE theme out of the box.

      The only one I check in on that I never use day to day is KDE...there's something about it that I can't quite put my finger on that makes it weird to use and feel a bit unpolished. I appreciate the look of it and the customisation potential etc...but it just doesn't feel as slick as Gnome...for me feel is more important than appearance and Gnome has a much better "feel" than KDE. To me KDE feels really old school. Like Linux used to feel about 20 years ago...fast, but not smooth or slick. This is all a matter of opinion though...some people might like that aspect, I don't know.

      I've also had many show stopping problems with KDE...like the DE straight up failing to load after an update, forgetting settings, themes (even default ones) starting to wear away at the edges and cause visual artifacts...stuff like that. I just don't remember a time in recent memory where I've had issues like this with Gnome...and, discounting the "muh customisations" rants, I don't understand the hate for Gnome...

      Let's be honest about customisations...it's a cool thing to have, but in most cases the screenshots you see online of peoples customisation are fucking ugly. One in every 20 screenshots on /r/unixporn are somewhere decent...but most of them are garbage because when you apply the dots to get the same look, you can achieve a parallel to the screenshot, but in daily use, you can see that the customisation wasn't very deep and the person that did the work, pretty much focused on creating a nice screenshot not a usable customisation.

  3. gv

    'Enterprise' Distros

    An advantage of using an enterprise distro is that it will be quite a while before you're affected by these things.

    1. YetAnotherXyzzy

      Re: 'Enterprise' Distros

      An advantage of using anything but Gnome is that you'll never be afflicted by these things. Xfce for me but there are lots of good choices out there.

      1. karlkarl Silver badge

        Re: 'Enterprise' Distros

        > Xfce for me but there are lots of good choices out there.

        At this point, the bar set since Gnome 3 is so low that even Twm is a good choice in comparison.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems to prove that anything Microsoft and Google can do, open source will too.

    Yet another advance that effectively trashes things that were working and expects users to put up with it while developers do the grunt work.

  5. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    GNOME Shell is quite locked down, which helps the project develop and preserve its strong visual brand.

    So basically "Fuck you, lusers. It's more important that we maintain our strong visual brand than that you get to use your computer as you want."

    If their string visual brand was any good, users wouldn't want to change it.

    1. LionelB Silver badge
      Trollface

      So, like MacOS then.

      (Although I guess the fanbois would argue that the visual brand is a good one... YMMV.)

      1. fuzzie

        To be honest, my reading is that GNOME is very much modelling themselves as the FLOSS implementation of MacOS. They've "justified" a bunch of unpopular decisions by saying "But Apple already did this" which is not winning them any/more friends, cf. client-side decoration, sub-pixel anti-aliasing, and more.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          When Apple have a crap ephemeral idea, everyone copies it. When they have good solid ideas they get ignored.

  6. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Coat

    They can get on with it

    The rest of us will run Gnome free

  7. druck Silver badge

    A desktop...

    ...written in Javascript - no, just no.

    1. robinsonb5

      Re: A desktop...

      I read the article with the word "Ewwww!" on my lips for much of it - but I have to admit to laughing out loud when I got to the bit about the extension connector not working with sandboxed browsers. Hard to believe this exists in the same universe as web browsers that can access a USB port.

      I know I'm getting old, but it feels to me that 15 years ago we were *so* close to getting desktop Linux *right*, and it's so sad to see how much has succumbed to design fads, how much no longer works as well as it used to, and how much has even fallen into disrepair.

      (To be fair, I'm arguably part of the problem - I wrote some software back in the GTK2 days, and I have absolutely no intention of rewriting it to work with a newer GTK.)

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: A desktop...

        "we were *so* close to getting desktop Linux *right*"

        For some people, anything that doesn't change is stale and must be changed. Just speak any "arty designer". Sadly, they seem to think they run the operation and more more than "mere" employees there to do a job. The days of actual "interface design" based in user acceptability and proper usage metrics are long gone in favour of "grab all the metrics you can and then cherry pick the ones that support the pretty "look and feel" we are going to apply anyway"

        1. robinsonb5

          Re: A desktop...

          > Just speak any "arty designer".

          Perhaps we could keep such types harmlessly occupied by encouraging them to design themes? Oh... wait...

        2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: A desktop...

          [Author here]

          > For some people, anything that doesn't change is stale and must be changed.

          You are absolutely right.

          > Just speak any "arty designer".

          Well, here is the thing. In this case I *did* speak to the designer.

          The graphics designer is Jakub Steiner.

          https://jimmac.eu/

          And you know what? He is brilliant. I think GNOME has *the* best graphic design in Linux. It looks wonderful with gorgeous use of gradients and shading and simplification.

          I also spoke with Allan Day, who is one of the project leads on the actual design of the GUI itself.

          https://blogs.gnome.org/aday/

          I asked him why the big redesign from GNOME 2 to 3. He told me "we felt it was getting stale" and that "it hadn't been changing much in years" and there was a need for fresh thinking and a big radical change.

          This, TBH, struck me as utter nonsense then and I still think so.

          If the project is stable and isn't changing much, that is a *good thing*. It means it's finished and it's working and users are happy. Otherwise they'd be calling for changes and improvements.

          GNOME 2 was the default desktop on all the leading Linux distros, and on OpenSolaris as well, and it was an option on FreeBSD.

          https://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNOME#/media/Fil:FreeBSD_gnome2.20.png

          The desktop wars were over. Every major free xNix either made it the default or at least offered it.

          So MS came along and threatened to sue:

          https://www.theregister.com/2007/05/14/microsoft_oss_patent_number/

          https://www.theregister.com/2007/05/14/microsoft_fortune_redhat/

          https://www.theregister.com/2007/05/24/microsoft_novell_patents/

          And everyone panicked. SUSE signed up, as did several smaller players, but Red Hat and Canonical flicked MS the finger.

          Both started work on new desktops. Canonical tried to get involved in GNOME 3 and GNOME told them to get lost, basically.

          So, RH made GNOME 3, which threw out the entire old desktop.

          Canonical revamped its Netbook Launcher into a Mac OS X-like desktop.

          GNOME saw that and threw out its very text-heavy new desktop and made it a lot more Unity-like.

          And here we are.

          https://www.theregister.com/Print/2013/06/03/thank_microsoft_for_linux_desktop_fail/

    2. bazza Silver badge

      Re: A desktop...

      And, even if a web-tech-based desktop was a good idea, JavaScript is the absolute worst choice of all of them... I mean, not even TypeScript? And where will they be if it becomes clear that things like Web Assembly are actally the way to go, stop using tired old JavaScript?

      The idea of a standardised plug in interface suddenly becoming viable, because JavaScript has recently standardised modules, does rather point to how poor a choice JavaScript has been. With native code, we've had the concept of a shared library (or, DLL in Windows lingo) for literally decades. Almost the very purpose of a shared library / dll is to allow extensions to code, and not necessarily by the original authors.

      And, oh, the heavy weight nature of running JavaScript, the lack of threads (at the time they chose it?), the lack of code rigour, the opportunities for hidden found-at-runtime-in-unusual-circumstances bugs. Just the worst possible choice for a fundamental component of a desktop operating system.

  8. BenDwire Silver badge

    Onward, ever onward ...

    I actually quite like Gnome, but only when adorned with several extensions. When Debian went to Bullseye all sorts of things broke (and the article nicely explains why) and I made the switch To KDE Plasma, and so far haven't looked back. It even survived the update to Bookworm without breaking (too much). Maybe this new approach will make life easier for the developers to maintain their work, but I fear that far too many projects will be consigned to history.

    The Gnome people should accept that they, like Microsoft, don't provide an interface all users like. Why not just make things easier for users to tweak to their satisfaction?

    ( checks for airbourne pork ...)

  9. RegGuy1 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Grrr

    So when will I get Gnome to:

    * change the mouse at the window boundary, not some distance outside it?

    * Keep the scroll bar visible when you move your mouse outside the window?

    * put the menu back in gedit (I've stopped using it because I can't save a file with ALT-F, S; something I've done habitually for over 30 years)?

    * ...

    Still, on the plus side it's not Microsoft Windows. I stopped using that decades ago.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FOSS offers freedom?

    This is where folks begin to realise modern software development is nothing like what Richard Stallman promoted all those years ago. So many moving parts with deliberate API breakages across versions guarantees no user can realistically veer away from the path the developers want to take them down.

    MATE still works (thank goodness) and I guess that’s proof enough that FOSS can give us users at least some freedom,

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Engineering Design? None Being Done At Gnome!!!

    Quote: "...preserve its strong visual brand..."

    So.....Gnome2 was perfectly fine.

    Then we get the appalling Gnome3.

    Then we get Gnome4...also appalling....but with GTK4 and no backward compatibility with GTK3. (See the Glade project for additional comments!)

    And now we get Gnome4.5.....surprise, surprise....with new plugins....and no backward compatibility with old plugins.

    Am I getting to see a trend here....the Gnome team are autocrats who think backward compatibility is for those other wimps....i.e. you and me!!

    In case you think I hate Gnome3++ (yup...I do), what I really hate is engineers who set out on a path WITH ABSOLUTELY NO THOUGHT AT ALL ABOUT FUTURE ENGINEERING.

    How many more examples of this will the Gnome team supply in the coming years?

  12. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    re: GNOME Shell is quite locked down,

    which helps the project develop and preserve its strong visual brand.

    Strong visual brand? my [redacted] as a stronger visual brand than this pile of steaming bovine excrement.

    Gnome lost it big time when they went to Gnome V3 and since then they have continued to explore their own back passages.

    It would be interested to know how many just use the current release just to install another WM subsystem. I do exactly that with XFCE.

    Otherwise the Gnome team can go and eat this --> see icon

  13. Pelican Express

    Gnome is no longer a concern for me. Has switched to KDE which I find way better than Gnome in every aspect: Apps, desktop config, custom theming.

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