Initially set to be released last week on March 13th, the GNOME 40 Release Candidate is the last milestone in the six-month-long development cycle of the popular desktop environment used by numerous GNU/Linux distributions.
Since the GNOME 40 Beta version, the development team managed to add last minute features and improvements to make GNOME 40 a great release. There are changes everywhere, starting with the Adwaita icon theme, which received full color emblem contrast and new symbolic icons.
The GNOME Display Manager (GDM) received better fingerprint authentication support, RAR support is back in the gnome-autoar utility, GNOM Boxes now uses USB3 on supported operating systems, Last.fm is now enabled by default in GNOME Online Accounts, and new default backgrounds have been added as well.
Of course, the biggest changes are seen in the GNOME Shell and Mutter components, which are the heart of the GNOME desktop environment. GNOME Shell now offers improved minimap previews on multi-monitor systems, improved appearance of the app folders, double super support for opening the app grid, improved workspace handling on secondary monitors, improved interaction when dragging between app grid pages, improved overview performance, a major change, namely to start the session in overview mode by default.
On the other hand, Mutter received better keyboard input for remote desktops under the X11 session, along with remote desktop caps- and num-lock state properties, improved refresh rate calculation, a new presentation-time protocol, as well as the ability to start XWayland on demand when running under systemd.
Also noteworthy are the improvements implemented in GNOME Software package manager, which now features a carousel for featured apps, the ability to update the list of Flatpak repositories when it’s changed via the command-line, the ability to display the release date in version history, and better support for HiDPI screens.
The release of the RC milestone also marks the end of the development cycle for GNOME 40, which will see the light of day as soon as next week, March 24th, 2021. However, it usually takes about two weeks for rolling-release distributions like Arch Linux and openSUSE Tumbleweed to offer the new desktop environment in their repositories.
The GNOME Project uses this Release Candidate to gather last minute feedback from the community to make sure no critical issues are present in the final release. As such, if you want to help with the testing, you can download the installer image, which can also be used to port your GNOME extensions to the GNOME 40 stack.
If you want to install the GNOME 40 Release Candidate using the Flatpak universal sandboxed binary format, you can download the corresponding Flatpak runtimes from Flathub Beta repository. This is useful for application developers who want to target the GNOME 40 platform and test their apps against the of the RC branch.
Linux OS maintainer who want to start integrating the GNOME 40 desktop environment in their upcoming distro releases can compile the Release Candidate milestone by using the official BuildStream project snapshot or the source packages.