This article is about the GNOME desktop environment. For other uses of the term, see Gnome (disambiguation).

Template:Infobox Software GNOME (for GNU Network Object Model Environment) is a open source/free software computer desktop environment for Unix and Unix-like operating systems. It is the official desktop of the GNU Project.



The GNOME project was started in August 1997 by Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena to provide an alternative to KDE.

KDE is a free software desktop environment that relies on the Qt toolkit — a piece of software written by Trolltech that did not use a free software license. Members of the GNU project became concerned about the use of such a toolkit for building a free software desktop and applications and launched two projects: "Harmony", to create a replacement for the Qt libraries, and the GNOME project to create a new desktop without Qt and built entirely on top of free software.

In September 2000, after GNOME had become useable and was gaining popularity, Trolltech made the GNU/Linux version of the Qt libraries available under both the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) and the QPL, removing most of the objections that had fuelled years of licensing debates. However, the licensing of Qt is still controversial for many people because the use of the GPL for a library imposes restrictions on the licensing of code linking to it, such as the KDE framework and any applications written for it.

GNOME desktop using the
GNOME desktop using the Bengali language

In place of the Qt toolkit, the GIMP Toolkit (GTK+) was chosen as the base of the GNOME desktop. GTK+ uses the GNU Lesser Public License (LGPL), a free software license that allows software linking to it, such as applications written for GNOME, to use any license. The GNOME desktop itself is licensed under the LGPL for its libraries, and the GPL for applications that are part of the GNOME project itself.

The GNOME desktop is written in the C programming language. A number of language bindings are available, allowing GNOME applications to be written in a variety of languages, such as C++, Java, Ruby, C#, Python, Perl and many others.


According to the GNOME website,

"The GNOME project provides two things: The GNOME desktop environment, an intuitive and attractive desktop for end-users, and the GNOME development platform, an extensive framework for building applications that integrate into the rest of the desktop."[1] (

The GNOME desktop puts heavy emphasis on simplicity, usability and making things "just work". As a consequence of this, two things are given prominence in GNOME development:

  • Accessibility — designing and building a desktop and applications that can be used by everyone, regardless of technical skill or physical disability
  • Internationalisation — ensuring that the desktop and applications are available in many languages


Like most free software the GNOME project is loosely organised. Discussion regarding development occurs on a number of mailing lists that are open to anyone. In August 2000 the GNOME Foundation was set up to deal with administrative tasks, press interest and to act as a contact point for companies interested in developing GNOME software. The foundation, while not directly involved in technical decisions, does coordinate releases and decide which projects will be part of GNOME. According to the foundation's website, the qualifications for membership are,

"Per the GNOME Foundation's charter, any contributor to GNOME is eligible for membership. Although it is difficult to specify a precise definition, a contributor generally must have contributed to a non-trivial improvement of the GNOME Project. Contributions may be code, documentation, translations, maintenance of project-wide resources, or other non-trivial activities which benefit the GNOME Project."[2] (

The membership of the foundation elects a board of directors every November, and candidates for the positions must be members themselves.


Although originally a GNU/Linux desktop, GNOME now runs on most Unix-like systems (*BSD variants, AIX, IRIX, HP-UX), and in particular it has been adopted by Sun Microsystems as the standard desktop for its Solaris platform, replacing the ageing CDE. Sun Microsystems has also released a business desktop under the name Java Desktop System — a SUSE Linux system base with a GNOME desktop. There is also a port of GNOME to Cygwin, allowing it to run on Microsoft Windows.

GNOME is also available in a number of LiveCD Linux distributions, such as Gnoppix, Morphix and Ubuntu Linux. A LiveCD allows a computer to boot directly from a compact disc (CD) without removal or changes to a pre-existing operating system, such as Microsoft Windows.


The GNOME desktop is built from a large number of different projects. A few of the major ones are listed below:

Future developments

There are many sub-projects under the umbrella of the GNOME project, and not all of them are currently included in GNOME releases. Some are considered purely experimental testing grounds for concepts that will one day migrate into stable GNOME applications, others are code that is being polished for direct inclusion. Some examples include:

Although GNOME applications can be written in many programming languages, the GNOME desktop itself and the applications that are part of a GNOME release are currently written purely in C. There is considerable discussion over the inclusion of applications written in other, higher level, languages such as C#, Python and Java. Although each of these languages is already used to develop GNOME applications, their use in core GNOME applications would force the inclusion of the respective language's virtual machine with every GNOME installation. This would increase the minimum specification of machine able to run the latest GNOME desktop. and GNOME is a project to assist interoperability and shared technology between the different X Window desktops, such as GNOME, KDE or Xfce. Although it is not a formal standards organisation, defines certain basic features of an X Desktop, including drag and drop between applications, window manager specifications, menu layouts, recent files lists, copy and pasting between applications and a shared MIME type database, among other things. Following specifications allows GNOME applications to appear more integrated into other desktops (and vice versa), and encourages cooperation as well as competition.

Major GNOME Applications

See List of GNOME applications for a more complete list. Major applications based on GNOME include the following:


Stable versions

Each of the parts making up the GNOME project (see Architecture) has its own version number and release schedule. However, individual module maintainers coordinate their efforts to create a full GNOME stable release on a roughly six-month schedule. The releases listed in the table below are classed as stable. Unstable releases for testers and developers are not listed, nor are bugfix releases for individual modules.

Version Date Information
  August 1997 GNOME development announced
1.0 March 1999 First major GNOME release
1.0.53 October 1999 "October"
1.2 May 2000 "Bongo"
1.4 April 2001 "Tranquility"
2.0 June 2002 Major upgrade based on GTK2. Introduction of the Human Interface Guidelines
2.2 February 2003 Multimedia and file manager improvements
2.4 September 2003 Epiphany, accessibility support
2.6 March 2004 Switch to a spatial file manager, new file dialog
2.8 September 2004 Improved removable device support, adds Evolution
2.10 March 2005 General optimizations, new applets (drive mounter and trashcan), adds Totem and Sound Juicer

CVS version

Most operating system installations include only stable and tested versions of the GNOME desktop. Developers interested in testing, fixing bugs or adding new features use the latest source code repository version of GNOME (note: development code is not recommended for general use as such as it contains many untested modifications and experimental changes). The process of downloading the source code, compiling and installing the entire GNOME desktop manually is a laborious and time-consuming process, and a number of build-scripts (such as "jhbuild") are used to automate it.

See also

External links

Official sites

GNOME versions

  • Release announcements for versions 1.0.53 (, 1.2 (, 1.4 (, 2.10 (
  • Start pages for versions 2.0 (, 2.2 (, 2.4 (, 2.6 (, 2.8 (, 2.10 (

Third-party sites

da:GNOME de:GNOME es:GNOME eu:GNOME fr:GNOME gl:GNOME is:GNOME it:GNOME he:GNOME ku:Gnome hu:GNOME nl:GNOME (desktop) ja:GNOME pl:GNOME pt:GNOME ru:GNOME simple:GNOME fi:GNOME sv:GNOME zh:GNU网络对象模型环境


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