GNOME gives peek into next-gen Linux desktop

An Alpha version of GNOME 2.0 gives developers a head start with a host of new features

Free-software developers have released the first pre-release of the next generation of GNOME, one of several Linux desktop environments that make the operating system simpler to use.

The first alpha version of GNOME 2.0 appeared on Thursday and is available from the ftp site. It isn't what mainstream users would think of as a preview version, however, as it can't be installed and run, but is rather a technology preview for developers.

GNOME, along with other GNU/Linux offshoots like KDE and Ximian, is designed to put a user-friendly face on what is essentially a very powerful, very technically-oriented operating system. GNU/Linux, often simply called Linux, is a Unix variant whose developers are required to make their accomplishments freely available to other developers.

As such it is cheap, and its stability and power makes some -- including Microsoft -- consider it a potential rival to Microsoft's dominant Windows platform.

Changes from version 1.4, the latest full version of GNOME, include improved multilingual text support and use of unicode text throughout the environment; a more standards-compliant XML library; an improved package configuration scheme; and other new features.

Separately, Ximian announced another step in its quest to create the "definitive" personal information management program for Unix-like systems, with the release of Beta 5 of its Evolution software on Wednesday. The program is in the last stages of bug-catching and the first release candidate is now scheduled for 29 October.

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