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After nearly two decades of waiting, GNOME 44 brings you... image thumbnails

The primary desktop in Ubuntu 23.04 and Fedora 38 is getting there

GNOME 44 is reaching readiness, just in time for inclusion in the next versions of the two big distro daddies, Ubuntu "Lunar Lobster" and Fedora 38.

GNOME 44 reached beta in mid-February and now it's moved to the next version, 44.rc, or release candidate.

The removal of Gtk 3 support and its replacement with Gtk 4 continues. The last use in Mutter of legacy OpenGL has been removed, leaving only OpenGL ≥ 3.1 and GLES ≥ 2.0, as has the last use of Gtk 3. However, Mutter has gained preliminary support for HDR, or High Dynamic Range. HDR is a feature in the ThinkPad X1 Carbon that we wrote about last week.

There's now direct support for Wayland's fractional_scale_v1 protocol. A bug asking for fractional scaling support was opened back in 2016, and it first appeared back around GNOME 3.32, five years ago, but integration continues. This is a good thing as it's an increasingly important feature, as we talked about when discussing Mutter last year.

Some X11 desktops can now handle fractional scaling, but it must be system-wide, all monitors use the same scaling factor. If you have a laptop with a HiDPI screen but attach an older standard-definition monitor, or you attach a hi-def monitor to an older SD laptop, a single global scaling factor just isn't good enough, you need to be able to set separate ones for each screen. This is an important enough feature that it alone could force users to switch from X11 to Wayland.

The merged Quick Settings menu at the right of the panel is getting some new options, such as a list of connected Bluetooth devices, a button to take screenshots, and a "Background Apps" list. This replaces status icons in the panel, for example, for chat programs and other tools that keep working even when no window is open.

As well as new features, GNOME 44 also restores some that were removed from older versions – some of which users have been requesting for a while. Expanding folders were removed from GNOME 43, and a bunch of users missed it. Now they're back. This is especially useful as there's no tree view in Files' sidebar. It used to have one, but it was removed many years ago. If you miss such things, the Nemo file manager from Cinnamon is a strong contender.

Something that others requested as long ago as 2004 has at last arrived: when you're using the file-open dialog box to browse image files, in GNOME 44 it can finally show thumbnail previews.

As we mentioned when GNOME 44 went into beta, the Settings app has been revamped in some areas. This now includes better VPN support under the Network section, sharing Wi-Fi passwords by showing a QR code, and a redesign to the pointing-devices section.

Some of these changes are not obvious, but all of them are welcome… especially the long-sought-after thumbnails. GNOME 44 continues to bring together some of the changes in the GNOME 4x release series, and we reckon it will be a crowd-pleasing release. ®

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