New Gnome software emerges

Gnome developers are using third-party standards that could make a more consistent desktop for Linux and Unix

With the latest edition of the Gnome desktop software for Linux and Unix operating systems, the software's developers say that integration is key.

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

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

An example is a new Gnome 2.2 feature called Startup Notification, which signals that an application is in the process of opening, so that the user doesn't feel the need to click on it again. The feature uses a specification from, a project that works on improving interoperability for desktops such as Gnome and its major Linux/Unix rival, KDE. Applications can be written to be compatible with the 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 specifications, including icon themes, recent files and thumbnail management.

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

The rivalry between Gnome and KDE developers has been strong in the past, but there are some signs that the two 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 for developers, called Human Interface Guides (HIGs). As a first step in this process, the projects are planning to create an XML 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 very different 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, email software and office software.

More details about the new Gnome release can be found at the project's Web site.

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.

CNET's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.

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