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Sneak Peeks at openSUSE 10.3: SUSE-Polished GNOME 2.20

September 20th, 2007 by

openSUSE has been driving innovation on the Linux desktop, and in today’s serial we’ll be discovering just what has been happening on the GNOME front. Among other things, openSUSE 10.3 is set to contain, and be among the very first to have, the new GNOME 2.20. We’ll see what new things you can expect from this version, what additional polish openSUSE brings to the desktop, and finally we’ll be talking to JP Rosevear (jpr), an openSUSE and GNOME developer, to find out a little more.

New in GNOME 2.20

The new GNOME release, as always, brings convenient new features to every new user. These can often present themselves in a beautiful way. For example, take a look at the new “World Clock Applet” (intlclock) developed by SUSE engineers:

World Clock Applet

It allows you to very easily view the time in the various timezones you are tracking, as well as get a nice overview of sunset/sunrise all over the world.

Hack Week

SUSE’s Hack Week last June saw a bunch of improvements being added to GNOME. Many ideas were posted for Evolution (Mail and Calendar), Tomboy (Desktop Notes), F-Spot (Photo Browser) and others. We’ll take a quick look at two of these:

Tomboy Note Syncrhonisation

Many people have to work on multiple computers. Whether it is at work, a friend’s house, or your home computer, you often want to have your notes easily accessible. The new Note Synchronisation feature allows you to synchronise your notes with all the computers that have Tomboy:

Tomboy Note Syncrhonisation

Evolution Attachment Reminder

As the result of another Hack Week project, Evolution now has a handy little feature that will never let you accidentally forget to attach a file when you intended to. If you mention an attached file in an email you are sending, and forget to attach it, Evolution will now pop up a little reminder asking you if you really wish to send the email without an attachment:

Evolution Attachment Notification

As always, all of these features have been developed and integrated into upstream GNOME, to benefit all.

GTK YaST: New Look and Integrated Feel in GNOME

Though a lot of work was done during a 2006 Google Summer of Code Project, one of the largest developments that the GNOME and YaST teams have been working on is a GTK+ (the development toolkit that GNOME uses) front-end to YaST.

This means that all users can still have a fully integrated feel when launching YaST, whether they’re in KDE or GNOME. Below you can see the result of the new port, as it displays all the available YaST modules:

YaST with integrated feel in GNOME

Below you can take a look at the YaST modules for Bluetooth, Software Management, and AppArmor respectively:

YaST Bluetooth Module YaST Software Management YaST: AppArmor Module

As always, you can see that for just about any administrative or standard computer task, YaST has a module covered and prepared for it, and this greatly contributes to openSUSE being the world’s most usable Linux.

The new version will even have a native GTK updater applet, which can inform you of all security updates, as well as software upgrades (with the click of a button). See it below:

GTK Updater Applet

YaST now defaults to the GTK front-end if you are using GNOME, but don’t worry — for older time openSUSE users, if you wish to you can still enable the Qt+ front-end by going to: YaST -> /etc/sysconfig editor, then clicking on System -> Yast2 -> GUI. Then simply change the values of WANTED_GUI and WANTED_SHELL from auto to qt.

Desktop Improvements

A Better Panel and Menu

In the past, extensive usability studies in the SUSE usability lab lead the GNOME team at SUSE to re-design the GNOME menu and panel. The result was SLAB, a new menu for GNOME. After further testing in openSUSE 10.2 and SUSE Linux Enterprise 10, a few additional changes were made to the menu that improve usability, ease-of-use, and of course top it up with a polished and professional look that gives you a better desktop:


F-Spot and Banshee: Photo Browsing and Music Player

Two other light, usability-centric and accessible Mono applications available in openSUSE 10.2 were F-Spot and Banshee. Each of them have seen a great round of improvements over the last openSUSE release, and several new features have been added.

The new F-Spot saw several additions, including view mode improvements, a better red-eye removal algorithm, possibility to export images to PicasaWeb (flickr, too, has always been supported), and much more:

F-Spot Photo Browser F-Spot “Edit Image” Mode

Banshee has also had its share of improvements. You can now share local playlists over DAAP (the iTunes protocol), there’s a new interactive rating menu item, and as always comes with full MP3 support if you install helix-banshee from the Non-OSS repository. Here are a few up-to-date screenshots:

Banshee Music Player Banshee

With the additions and improvements that keep going into F-Spot and Banshee, it has become clear that they’re most comprehensive and easy-to-use applications for their purpose available in GNOME.

Try it now!

All of the features and applications will be available with the new openSUSE 10.3, and you can help testing this right away with the openSUSE 10.3 Release Candidate. Note that though the RC1 does not contain the actual GNOME 2.20 (it missed the deadline), it contains a very near version to it; the full version will be available in RC2 (internal release).


Talk with JP Rosevear

I caught up with jpr, an openSUSE and GNOME developer to find out a little more.

How well has the GNOME 2.20 release cycle gone so far? What have been the main tasks?

The GNOME 2.20 release cycle went fairly well upstream, lots of nice little features, especially when compared to GNOME 2.16 which was shipped in openSUSE 10.2.

Integration is always a big task, especially as you have a moving target with GNOME in development underneath you. Updating patches, checking for breaks, figuring out if bugs are upstream or downstream. We also spent time making sure as many SLED 10 SP1 improvements (like the world clock) as possible made it into 10.3 as well as straight up bug fixing.

What was involved with porting YaST to GTK+? Who has been working on it?

Ricardo Cruz as a Google SoC student was the real leader on this, under the mentorship of Michael Meeks starting in 2006. The main work was to implement the UI abstraction layer of YaST (Qt and ncurses are other implementations). Ricardo and Michael did a fantastic job and we felt it had to be included in 10.3.

What kind of targets does the GNOME team have for the future?

We’re actually just getting ramped up on planning openSUSE 11.0 right now. Boyd Timothy and Scott Reeves have been working up a plan to organize GNOME information better in the wiki (including feature planning). See opensuse.org/GNOME/Wiki_Layout

We have also started to flow some ideas for 11.0 on the openSUSE.org/openSUSE_GNOME_post-10.3_ideas

For me personally some high level targets would be building up the GNOME:Community build service repository with a lot more packages, upstreaming a lot of our patches into GNOME proper and implementing more little polish features like the printer autoconfig Chris Rivera wrote for 10.3

It would be great if people who want to get involved can join the #opensuse-gnome IRC channel and the opensuse-gnome@opensuse.org (subscribe) mailing list.


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39 Responses to “Sneak Peeks at openSUSE 10.3: SUSE-Polished GNOME 2.20”

  1. kyle

    Wow, nice! linux is taking on better looks then windows (which is good for us people who like pretty things)! This is the beginning of the rise of linux! make the UI look good, the’ll come running, and then you’ll have more peeps to help make the engines work better! Open source is sweet ;-)

  2. Erunno

    I’m usually a KDE user but I have to admit that the openSUSE implementation of GNOME looks gorgeous, especially the new GTK+ Yast frontend which looks far better than its Qt counterpart. Very well done, GNOME team.

    • jospoortvliet

      What is it with these guys and their hatred for Qt they’re even willing to rather spend time to get rid of it than actually doing something usefull for the Free Desktop? If they would’ve spend that time on the Qt fronted, it would’ve been much better now than the current GTK one… Or spend it on something else.

      Aaah well. I prefer KDE over Gnome, so of course I’d rather seem them work on that. But I don’t see what problem they needed to fix with this. I mean, I don’t have a problem with GTK apps if there isn’t a better KDE app?!?

      • Erunno

        I had the chance to install the GNOME flavor of 10.3 on a spare partition and in this case I have to tell that the result was well worth the effort. Yast and the control center are now almost perfectly integrated with each other, it’s pretty transparent to the user where the GNOME control center ends and Yast starts. In addition, the UI is designed to look similar to the application browser so the whole desktop makes a very coherent impression (except where Yast simply behaves differently than GNOME, for instance instant apply). I would like to see this kind of integration as well in the KDE desktop and hope that this was not done simply because of the impending release of KDE4 and not because of lack of resources.

        The only thing I really don’t like after a 2-3 hours of use is the new installation application in GNOME. It doesn’t show which dependencies will be installed before you hit the accept button (I never now if Thunderbird will be installed if I just select the translations package), has some confusing up and down arrows without any explanation of what they do and I personally find the application browser to be a total mess. It’s slow to use, leaves very little space for descriptions and feels generally cramped. In my opinion it’s worse than the Qt counterpart which wasn’t perfect to begin with. Plus, I find it highly frustrating that I can’t see which applications get installed from third-party repositories. If I click on details I only get to see the patches but I have no idea which additional packages will be installed as well.

        The new application browser has also some usability quirks. For instance, it cuts of descriptions without an obvious way to see the whole. Mouse over doesn’t work and clicking on an entry simply starts the application itself.

        All things considered it’s a good first effort with some finishing touches required around the edges.

      • Jack

        just so everyone knows, suse is VERY involved in kde development at the moment
        (suse/novell employs more kde devs than anyone else)

        the only thing is, they are really focusing on kde 4, so although we are not seeing their contrabutions directly, they are a huge part of kde 4, which is due to be released in december.

        btw, kde 4 is looking like it will be amazing you should check it out some time

  3. Great job! I love the new features and the new artwork!

    Thanks to Francis for this news!

  4. anonim

    I would love to have those specific gnome patches accepted upstream.

    • To be honest, I can’t comprehend why upstream GNOME didn’t want the SLAB menu. I’m a KDE user, but I just don’t find GNOME usable enough for a significant amount of time, and openSUSE is pretty much the only distribution where it is for me.

      SLAB is a huge — or, rather, a HUGE — improvement on the selection of menus that the default GNOME has. The applications most used are accessible straight away, it has an integrated search at the top (not the bottom, like XP badly does — studies show people don’t find the search when it’s down there). The menu has been proven in huge enterprises and it’s gone through extensive testing in the SUSE usability lab.

      It also features the “More Applications” in a prominent place, so you don’t have to go digging around menus to find what you’re looking for.

      • Igor

        I use both, GNOME default and SLAB menus. “More Applications” feature is very nice, but the problem is that it consumes too much of CPU. Since SLAB menu is default, I think that default GNOME menus should look like as they look on “vanilla” GNOME. Or at least it should be supplied without KDE icons.

      • Uno Engborg

        Yes, standard GNOME really should include the SLAB. It’s usability have been tested on real users by Novell and found superier to the standard GNOME way of doing it.
        This kind of research should not just be wasted. At the very least it should be possible for the user to chose between the two ways of starting apps. After all, as I understand it both the SLAB and the standard GNOME menu are panel applets, so the infrastructure to add and remove them is allready in place.

  5. Kurt

    2001 called. WinXP wants it start menu back.

  6. 2009 called. Said not to bother with Vista-esque start menus because they failed.

  7. karellen

    I hope yast it’s faster than the last time I’ve used it…

  8. psv

    The slab has only a passing relationship to XP’s start menu. Like most GUIs have with other GUIs. And unlike XP, you can change the menu layout to your liking, hacks or otherwise.

    I never understood why other distros failed to use Yast – if I recall, it has been GPL’d? Why reinvent the wheel when Suse’s implementation is concise?

    • Yup, YaST has been licensed under the GPL for years; there’s nothing out there to quite match it at all.

      • Isaac

        Only they have to get rid of the name. “YaST” is a remnant of the geeky period of Linux. It should be renamed to “Control Center” or something similar.

        • Jack

          well im using 10.2 with kde, in the menu at least, the kde control center is called “Configure Desktop” and yast is called “Administrator settings”

  9. dark

    the graphical interface is still horrible! You have bad designers!

    • malloch

      please supply a link so we can see your designs and learn from a master as to how good graphical interfaces should look…

  10. Gordon Latimer

    I love Opensuse. I have just installed OpenSuSe 10.3 on one of my PC’s. I have OpenSuSe 10.2. on the other PC. But why does it have to take 3 hours to install OpenSuSe 10.3?. PCLinuxOS, Fedora, Mandriva, Ubuntu all install in half an hour.

    • apokryphos

      > But why does it have to take 3 hours to install OpenSuSe 10.3?. PCLinuxOS, Fedora, Mandriva, Ubuntu all install in half an hour.

      That’s because you left the “add online repositories before install”, which (i) downloads all the repository metadata, (ii) installs all the non-oss stuff so it’s ready for you out-of-the-box. The other distros don’t even give you that option.

      If you disabled that it would take around half an hour as well.

  11. I love Opensuse. I have just installed OpenSuSe 10.3 on one of my PC’s. I have OpenSuSe 10.2. on the other PC. But why does it have to take 3 hours to install OpenSuSe 10.3?. PCLinuxOS, Fedora, Mandriva, Ubuntu all install in half an hour.

    Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS install in half an hour because they install a basic system; everything else has to be downloaded. (And Fedora didn’t install in that time for me.) With OpenSUSE you install the whole thing at install time from the DVD.

    Has OpenSUSE 10.3 got rid of the DBus problems which sprang up when it tried to auto-mount an inserted CD or DVD?

  12. Igor

    I’m a long time Red Hat and GNOME user (currently using Fedora 7 on my desktop), but I’m definitely gonna switch to openSUSE 10.3. I’m currently playing with openSUSE Factory and I also noticed that openSUSE’s implementation of GNOME is much better that it used to be. There are some useful GNOME applications I didn’t find on repos, such as Glipper (clipboard manager for GNOME), Totem-Xine, GNOME Specimen and so on, but I hope you will include it once. The only thing I don’t like is that “standard” GNOME main menus look too KDE-ish and I think you shouldn’t modify that at all. Leave it as it looks like on “vanilla” GNOME.


    • Sefk

      1: for missing package, you should try gnome-community repo and third party repo like guru and packman(sometime for legal reasons)
      2: For slab: it’s a matter of personal preference. I prefer slab to classic gnome menu because it’s faster to access fav apps, but I prefer more kickoff is much better than slab. But still, if you like classic gnome menu, why don’t you just switch to it?

      • Igor

        I use GNOME Community and Packman repos, but I didn’t find these packages. Some of them I rebuild myself, some of them are from Fedora repos… Well, I found GNOME wishlist so I gues GNOME repos will growth…

  13. Sefk

    Totem xine doesn’t exist int suse, because the package is libxine-gnome-vfs from packman.

    For glipper: wait and see :p

  14. Anonymous

    Can you please add kernel ?!

  15. VIDAS

    I’m occasionaly here so don’t condemn me. I’m lack old sorting files feature by extension that’s click on file icon in file manager column. It’s more like as group of the same type.

  16. sesh

    I’ve used SLED 10 (dual-boot) with Win XP on my computer. I tried with all my might (kinda taking baby steps in GNU/Linux), but couldn’t find a way to switch to the “vanilla” GNOME menu. Is this option available on openSUSE 10.3? I’ve got the image burnt to the CD, and I’m thinking of installing it. Any pointers?


    • Basurero

      To use the standard GNOME menu, just add it to your panel by right-clicking on it and selecting the “menubar” applet. You can also remove the new menu by right-clicking on it and choosing the “Remove from panel” option. (I’m working on a localized version, so the names may be different)

  17. Sunny Yadav

    Currently I am Ubuntu user and I really liked that OS. But I like lots of eye candies and ubuntu is not upto that mark. i use GNOME interface as there are some stuffs i dont like in KDE such as its panel and konqueror. I will give suse a shot and ofcourse I will use GNOME version as it looks pretty cool. I have a question, is there any good theme for openoffice in Suse or it still looks like office 95.

  18. Gary

    The use of SLAB in GNOME was a VERY BAD IDEA!! This is NOT a better desktop. This great act of genius REMOVED the capability to have several desktops that are an INTEGRAL part of GNOME. We users should have been GIVEN A CHOICE to have this slab of a SLAB or the ELEGANCE of the STANDARD GNOME menu and status bar.

    In addition, making the “Start” menu look like M$ Windows is NOT a benefit. Again, the STANDARD GNOME pull down from the top line menu was far easier and more useful.

    This DE-Hancement is the ONLY thing keeping me from recommending SUSE Linux to my customers who will be leaving M$ Windows for a better operating system. As one who has been evaluating several distributions of Linux and GNOME, I was sadly disappointed by the use of SLAB instead of the STANDARD GNOME interface.

    I strongly hope this error in judgment will be fixed as a well polished GNOME 2.20 was severely tarnished by this act.

    Otherwise, you would have had an EXCELLENT distribution of Linux-Gnome.

    • Beineri

      > REMOVED the capability to have several desktops that are an INTEGRAL part of GNOME.

      Hu? Add the “Workspace Switcher” applet and define as many desktop you want.

      > We users should have been GIVEN A CHOICE to have this slab of a SLAB or the ELEGANCE of the STANDARD GNOME menu

      Hu? You have that choice, use whatever menu applet you like more.

      • Kermit

        Workspace Switcher? Nope that’s gone as well. Can you say Depreciated?

        also new to 10.3, it’s very difficult to add to the panel. Applets (which have been
        an excellent way to tailor the local environment) are much harder to find or add to a panel or to a drawer (which now presumes to write into the panel)

        Yes, the documentation for Gnome still tout’s WorkSpace switching as a benefit. No it’s not there anymore.

        back to the menu choice? Have you tried to change the format of Menu selection? The standard Menu interface/selection applet is also missing in action. Perhaps it’s an oversight. The rpms where Gnome used to keep the basic applets does have the appletes, and there isn’t anything to point to where the applets are now deployed.
        Control Center has been crippled in the area of Workspace and Menu modification.

        other parts of Gnome are much better. But I find my self still using BlackBox more, just to
        get access to multiple workspaces and to have better control over the menu.

    • Francis Giannaros

      > We users should have been GIVEN A CHOICE to have this slab of a SLAB or the ELEGANCE of the STANDARD GNOME menu and status bar.

      If you relaxed for a little while you would probably see:
      (i) even if you personally dislike the menu, it’s been proven to function better for a plethora people, performed very well throughout usability studies, and IMO it’s insanely better than the complicated mess of three menus that the default GNOME has
      (ii) that you can still change to have the old menu layout should you really want to.

  19. Gary

    Thank you for your replies, Beineri and Francis Giannaros, to my post about SLAB.

    I have several concerns on this SLAB issue. Your feedback will help me to better explain my position on this concern. For that I am grateful.

    1. One should NOT have to install anything to REGAIN STANDARD function.

    2. While you and I have the skill to install applets and such, most new users who will leave M$ Windows and come to Linux will NOT. I have been looking at Linux since 1999 with the hope that the “average Joe” will be able to find it easily accessible. 2007 is the FIRST year that I can see that the average person will be able to take the leap and NOT have to “Geek” himself — call it laziness or whatever, it is a fact of life that most people will not “Geek” themselves. When M$ Windows Vista came out I told my customer base that IF they needed a new computer RIGHT NOW then get an Apple Mac. I can now broaden this advice and say get the computer you want and you can install Linux and have the basic functionality and EASE OF USE. SLAB removes some functionality and ease of use. The STANDARD GNOME interface has all the important items EASILY accessible, like the several Desktops. For a new average user this is EXTREMELY helpful.

    3. I recognize and recognized that some consider SLAB to be worthwhile. This is why I indicated that people should be GIVEN A CHOICE upon installation. Again, one should NOT have to install anything to REGAIN STANDARD function. (Example: Install SLAB the SuSe menu control or use the Standard Gnome menu control?) Even the people at Micro$oft understand this concept, (note, I am being as polite as possible with my M$ reference.).

    4. I am perfectly relaxed as I recognize that SUSE is not the only distribution of Linux. However, short of this flaw with SLAB it WOULD HAVE BEEN THE BEST! It only takes one small toxic impurity to make an otherwise healthy glass of water into poison. I am more disappointed that with all the EXCELLENT features SUSE has provided in its Linux distribution that it shot itself in the foot with this removal and of a STANDARD FUNCTION and the necessity to “geek” it back. A hard lesson I have had to learn is that average people do not like to “geek” things.

    5. I want Linux to become more mainstream. And as has been demonstrated, much progress has been made over the past eight years to facilitate the effort. None of the sophisticated abilities of Linux have been removed for the inspired person who is willing to “geek” himself in order for the average person to find Linux accessible. The Linux community may have been slow to realize and achieve this goal, yet like the story of the “Tortoise and the Hare”, slow and steady wins the race.

    Yet, to overcome the inertia of the common person and allow him to leave M$ Windows he has to see that it will be NO more difficult and an many cases an improvement. The average person will be looking for excuses NOT to change and use Linux. I see the STANDARD FUNCTION as an improvement NOT the SLAB; others disagree. So again, we should have been given a CHOICE. We are given a choice at installation time in other areas, like GNOME or KDE; install games or don’t install games, so why not here with the interface — a most important area, too.

    It is my hope that these concerns will be positively considered and used to improve what could have been the best Linux distribution so far.

  20. Tyler

    I am having a major problem with opensuse 10.3 gnome 2.20 ..i am not able to manually change the Dns n i even tried and changing resolv.config as root
    as given in http://en.opensuse.org/Bugs:Most_Annoying_Bugs_10.3_dev under the heading OPENSUSE 10.3 alpha 2……….but it does not seem to work cause
    when the connection is refreshed the dns is again reset to the same old wrong one….i have W%dows xp and all i have to do there is go to tcp/ipv4 properties and
    enter the dns manually and click on obatin ip automatically; with these 2 choices the nets cool n fast…..but in opensuse 10.3 gnome 2.20 i want to replicate the xp settings i.e. i want to the ip add , default gateway, subnet to be detected automatically but want to manually enter the dns so that in the connection information i have my dns (primary n secondary) n have the rest automatically detected…..
    i wud appreciate an appropriate reply asap

  21. Dave

    I’m new to openSuSE and just recently installed the 10.3 version. I have used Linux for a little over 10 years now, with Fedora being my favorite. For a few months I also dabbled with Ubuntu.

    One thing I do not enjoy with openSuSE is how slowwwww YaST runs when installing updates or additional packages. Second, it doesn’t show me what updates are being applied. Of course, I am using the GUI front-end. If there’s a CLI for YaST, it sure would be nice to know about it. There isn’t a man-page for YaST, so if a CLI of it exists, it sure is hidden well.

    IMO, Fedora/RedHat’s “yum” beats YaST’s software updater hands-down.

    Lastly, I definitely have to agree with the comments above that were presented by “Gary”. OpenSuSE is not as intuitive as other distros like Ubuntu or even Fedora. I guess one of my biggest problems after installing openSuSE over my Fedora 8 installation was that the Gnome menu-bars were both displayed together at the top of the screen, without a single applet available. I had to add all of my applets, the Gnome standard toolbar, etc. I would imagine that a Linux-newbie would have screamed in terror if something similar had occurred with their installation.