February 6, 2003 10:20 AM PST

Revamped Gnome wants to get along

The launch of the latest edition of the Gnome desktop software for Linux and Unix operating systems marks a new attitude among its developers: Integration is key.

Gnome 2.2 arrives about five months after the landmark 2.0 release. It includes a number of new features, such as context-sensitive menus that call up other applications and "properties" dialog boxes that display detailed information for media files.

But the release also highlights a growing trend among developers of relying on common specifications in order to ensure that desktops and applications work consistently together.

"Standards support is a big plus for Gnome users," the Gnome project, which develops the Gnome graphical user interface, said in a statement. "Interoperability support improves the user experience by allowing Gnome, KDE, and other applications to work together more easily."

An example is a new Gnome 2.2 feature called Startup Notification. This signals that an application is in the process of opening, so that the PC user doesn't feel the need to click on it again. The feature uses a specification from Freedesktop.org, a project that works on improving interoperability for desktops such as Gnome and its major Linux/Unix rival, the K Desktop Environment (KDE). Applications can be written to be compatible with the Freedesktop.org Startup Notification specification, without having to be written specifically for Gnome, KDE or any other desktop.

The Gnome project said that version 2.2 has added support for other Freedesktop.org specifications, including icon themes, recent files and thumbnail management.

The rivalry between Gnome and KDE developers has been strong in the past, but there are some signs that the two communities are beginning to cooperate more on common specifications.

At the beginning of this week, the two groups of developers announced that they would begin examining how they could reconcile their two separate sets of design guidelines, called Human Interface Guides (HIGs), for developers. As a first step in this process, the projects are planning to create an XML (Extensible Markup Language) document in which both HIGs will be available.

"Having a shared document will...allow us to start looking at commonalities between the documents and perhaps create common chapters or sections on basic guidelines and lessons that are desktop and toolkit-independent," Aaron J. Seigo of the KDE project said in a statement.

In September, dominant Linux vendor Red Hat raised some hackles in the Gnome and KDE developer communities by creating a single interface, called Bluecurve, that airbrushes the differences between the two desktops.

While the two interfaces perform roughly the same function, they look and are managed differently. Each one includes not only basic components such as icons and scroll bars but also higher-level functions such as Web browsers, file managers, e-mail software and office software.

KDE developers released a new version of their own desktop software last month, with a focus on encouraging the recent trend of Linux desktop adoption by businesses and governments.

ZDNet U.K.'s Matthew Broersma reported from London.

CNET News.com's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.

 

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