Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at 23:15

GNOME 40 just released this March. For your information, GNOME is the user interface of Ubuntu, Red Hat & Fedora computer operating systems. I can tell you it is now faster and better designed worth to try. Now it is my chance to review it so our dear readers can try it and love it with friends too. Here we go!

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Download GNOME 40

Forty is available in the latest versions of hi tech operating systems namely GNOME OS, Fedora, and openSUSE. To try Forty you can try any of these three OSes and it does not require installation. Click here to download one of them and try it out quickly.

It's Lightning Fast

I am surprised! I tried to open the  start menu, apps overview ("Activities"), and search and they are now start very quickly than the yesterday's versions. This is what I like the most from GNOME Forty. As far as I can remember, this is the fastest GNOME ever since its birth ten years ago.

New Front Face

I see GNOME Shell (the front face) with subtle changes as we can see a highlight whenever we hover mouse cursor to every item on the top panel.

New Apps Overview

I see the Overview is now welcoming at startup and whenever showing it's with icon per app (for easier identification) and fast. Its shortcut is Super and now added with Super+Alt+Up.

New Dock

I am surprised that now the left-vertical dock is now moved to bottom horizontally. However, to me it is more preferred It is finally similar to KDE (for the position) or Deepin (for the form) at best. It is now features a separation between favorite apps (always-there ones) and non favorite ones as shown below.

New Start Menu

I open the Dash and am surprised. It is fast! I mean, I reviewed some of version 3.x, and I can confirm this one is far more faster than any of them. I love the brand new look too, I think it is very beautiful and polished -- with the ability to rearrange items, group them as I like, and search faster than before.

New Virtual Workspaces

I am also surprised the workspaces are now very visible and work horizontally. For about ten years after its birth at 2011, GNOME 3 was always working vertically and not too visible -- you need to hover mouse to right to show the workspaces.

New Compose Key

Now I can type ² (exponent two),  © (copyright mark), ® (registered trademark), ™ (trademark) with some shortcut keys I chose myself. I do not need to open Insert Special Characters anymore with this ability. This [Compose key] here is an arbitrary key (such as Alt) which when pressed once will show a mark on screen, and I should press Shift+C and then O to make ©. For the superscripts, for example I press Compose key once, then I should press Shift+6, and I press a number. Magic! This can be configured on Settings and Tweaks.


Is now more detailed with additional information if I click a day or hour in a forecast. Below is how it looks like for Jakarta, Capital of Indonesia, by Daily view. You can see the temperature, as well as humidity and wind speed forecasts.


Since few versions ago, I saw Settings look responsive, that was, resizable to a smartphone screen size. The reason is, that GNOME is indeed made suitable for touchscreen devices (tablet and phones) and today it is made a reality thanks to PinePhone & Librem you can check them out. The new changes at Settings I found are under Keyboard section with Input Sources moved there and added with a new Compose Key facility, however I found Dock is missing (and missing also in Tweaks) and I don't know why -- perhaps just like in the past, GNOME developers want to make Dock position permanent unless we change it someway.


Here's the ultimate tool of every desktop user -- the file manager. Files does not change much appearance wish. But I meet a fresh preference window design! It is now a single page only without multiple tabs. Aside from that, what I like the most of Files is, it's still as fast for searching.


When I run it, on both Rawhide and Tumbleweed, it is unfortunately not working as usual by showing nothing on its front page. However, I can still search for applications anyway by ignoring the issue and just install everything I want. I can confirm that it is not my internet access issue. I think this is the urgent issue needs immediate improvements.

The actual improvement I find at Software is now it shows the sources of each application we select whether it is from normal packages or from Flatpak. As example, see picture below, it is GNOME SDK version 40 (the one a programmer need to develop a GNOME app) available to install via Flatpak source shown at Software, with two versions I can choose at the moment namely 3.38 and 40.


As an Ubuntu user, we might falsely think that Transmission is a GNOME app. In fact, GNOME now has its own bittorrent download manager named Fragments. I tried it and it just works, to me it is the simplest new app of GNOME today.


As our dear readers might know, Ubuntu Buzz often brings up Element, an internet messenger based on Matrix technology. Did you know that GNOME has its own Matrix app? It is called Fractal (not to be confused with Fragments).


It's prettier now! It got an improvement I like, that is, Wikipedia integration. Every time I click a city it shows the city name and its Wikipedia photo & information as additions. It's pretty! As my example below showing Jakarta, Capital of Indonesia, with its photos and descriptions from Wikipedia (you see the national monument there).

Running Non-GNOME Apps

Finally, I try to run non-GNOME or non-GTK applications on Forty. It works! As an example, I run KeePassXC, an application created not with GTK but Qt running as an AppImage. It goes well with the GNOME appearance as a whole.


GNOME Forty is fast I encourage you to try it! Everything feels seamless, looks better designed. Maps, Weather, Settings, and Files after the user navigation are now faster and better. However, there's still some issues and in my opinion the most unpleasant is Software as mentioned above. Overall, it is worth trying and waiting for the inclusion on Ubuntu in particular and on GNU/Linux distros worldwide in general. Finally, enjoy your computer with GNOME! Congratulations and thank you to all GNOME developers!

Hardware & Software Details

My computer specification for this review is ThinkPad T430 with Intel Core i5 CPU, 4GB RAM, and Intel Graphics HD GPU. I also run both Rawhide (Fedora 33+) and Tumbleweed (March 2021) on virtual machines with QEMU with 4 cores and 2GB of RAM each. I can confirm for both bare metal and virtual machine of mine GNOME Forty works very well. That's all. 

This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.