The failure of a storage unit almost caused a debacle on release day: many Gnome servers were unavailable, including the project’s own GitLab instance. Late on Wednesday evening Central European Time, services were restored and the release team released Gnome 45 as planned on September 20th.
Gnome 45 picks up where the previous version left off. The project has ported additional applications to the modern graphics library Gtk4, cleared out the standard applications (core apps) and ironed out quirks in the design of the desktop interface. Fans and especially programmers of Gnome extensions have to be prepared for fundamental changes.
Workspaces instead of activities
One of these quirks is the Activities button, which is located in the top left corner of the panel. Since its introduction with Gnome 3, it has not been well received by many users. There is no other explanation for the many Gnome Shell extensions that modified or completely removed the button and its function.
Instead of the activity button there is now a graphic that shows the number and position of the workspaces stylized like Morse code.
Now the Gnome team has officially replaced the button with a workspace indicator that visually displays the number of workspaces and the position of the currently selected ones in a simple graphic. However, the button retains its previous function: If you click on it, the activity overview opens, showing windows, search and workspaces. With the activity button, the app menu next to it has also been eliminated, which has no longer served a useful function for a long time.
New icons clearly indicate whether an application is accessing the microphone or camera.
There are further innovations in the panel. If an application uses the PipeWire multimedia framework to access the webcam, Gnome clearly indicates this with a colored icon in the panel. The microphone symbol, which has long been displayed during audio recordings, is now displayed in orange. Unlike the indicators for screencasts and screen transmissions, you cannot prohibit access to the hardware using the camera and microphone icon. There is not even an indication of which application is accessing the devices via PipeWire.
The system menu can be opened with the key combination Super+S (Win+S on most keyboards). There is a new switch for the keyboard brightness under the quick settings, assuming compatible hardware. This worked perfectly with our test device (Dell XPS 9365) with the three levels offered. However, the button did not appear on another notebook. The list of background applications not only shows the running apps, but also opens them with a mouse click.
You can now set the keyboard lighting via the system menu. The new, hidden light Gnome theme can also be seen in the picture.
If the panel and menus are too dark for you, you can set a completely light Gnome theme, similar to what has been available for a long time in Ubuntu. The “Light Theme” can currently only be activated via a command line command or via the Gnome extension “Light Style”.
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