The System Settings now allow users to configure online accounts for Facebook; launching the IM client will then automatically cause the client to retrieve chat contacts from the social media site and enable users to chat with their friends without any further configuration. The developers have extended the Windows Live account support and enabled GNOME Documents to access documents that are hosted on SkyDrive. GNOME Online Accounts now supports the Exchange Web Services (EWS) component; this means that the account manager can now be used to set up an Exchange connection that is then accessed by the Evolution mail client.
The GNOME User Accounts manager now supports the configuration of Active Directory connections; details are available in a blog post by Stef Walter.
The GNOME Shell's activities overview no longer offers the option to switch from the window view to the application view. This can now be reached using a new grid button that is located at the bottom of the dash.
The message tray at the bottom has been restructured and is now considerably bigger than before. It no longer appears when the mouse pointer is moved to the bottom right corner during normal operation; users must briefly move their mouse pointer to the bottom edge of the screen or simultaneously press the super key (on PCs, this is usually the left Windows key) and the M key. This causes the window area to shift upwards so that the tray doesn't conceal application windows.
If an application is running in full screen mode, the GNOME Shell will only display important notifications at the bottom of the screen. The Shell will only hide these notifications once the user has interacted with the system to ensure that nothing goes unnoticed.
After receiving much criticism in the early phases of GNOME 3, the developers have now incorporated a menu item for powering down the system. It replaces the item that previously allowed users to put their systems into standby; the standby option can now be shown by holding down the Alt key. A system can also be put to sleep by closing the laptop lid or pressing the power button.
The planned auto update feature for GNOME Shell extensions was not completed in time; it is now scheduled for integration into version 3.8. Therefore, users who don't obtain their updates from their distribution's package repositories must, for now, continue to update manually or use a page on extensions.gnome.org.
As was the case when GNOME 3.4 was introduced, many programmers had not yet updated their extensions for the new version of GNOME. As a consequence, the extensions web site for GNOME 3.6 currently only offers just over twenty extensions; the web site offered more than two hundred extensions for systems with GNOME 3.4.2.
When a system is locked, GNOME 3.6 displays a lock screen that includes a date and time feature and allows users to adjust the speaker volume. On this screen, GNOME can also display incoming messages and an interface that allows users to control multimedia players such as Rhythmbox while the system is locked; these features can be enabled and disabled in the system settings.
To unlock the system, users must dismiss the overview screen using a mouse gesture, the escape key or the return key, before a password can be entered. The developers have also modified the design of the unlock dialog to match that of the log-in screen shown by the GNOME Display Manager (GDM).
- In the mouse and touchpad configuration module, "Natural Scrolling", which makes the screen content scroll in the same direction that the finger is moving, can now be activated for touchpads. The developers have also extended the support for Wacom graphics tablets.
- GNOME 3.6 now supports Intelligent Input Bus (IBus), a framework for using input methods such as those for Chinese, Japanese and Korean glyphs.
- The printer setup program has been improved in various ways; users can now specify the address of a network printer and can define a default driver.
- The network configuration program now lists all known Wi-Fi network connections. The GNOME Shell's Wi-Fi network connection feature will display the networks with the best signal quality at the top of the list.
- The GNOME 3.6 components are intended for use with the current versions of Clutter, GLib and GTK; instead of GStreamer 0.10, many GNOME programs now use GStreamer 1.0, which was released earlier this week.
- As with the GNOME applications, the developers have also already planned ahead regarding the core components for GNOME 3.8, which is scheduled for release in late March 2013. GNOME Keyring is expected to be marked as "deprecated" and superseded by Libsecret, a component that accesses the Secret Service API and the DBus services that are accessible via this API. Most of Libsecret was developed by two programmers who also developed the GNOME keyring and the KWallet KDE software.
- The GNOME developers are thinking about removing the 2D fallback mode in version 3.8 as, thanks to Llvmpipe, the GNOME Shell now works on many systems for which 3D graphics drivers are unavailable; furthermore, a wiki page notes that the fallback mode is hardly being tested anymore. However, the wiki also states that Llvmpipe doesn't work on some processor architectures and that it might not work on BSD derivatives such as OpenBSD.
- More information about the new features of GNOME 3.6 is available in the release notes, in a blog post by GNOME developer Allan Day, and in a series of posts on Matthias Clasen's blog; Clasen usually posted a description of added features, with screenshots, when a new preview of GNOME became available.
Users who want to try out GNOME 3.6 without installing it can use the GNOME Live image available from the Getting GNOME web page. The ISO image can be burnt to CD or copied to a USB stick which can then be safely booted on a system for evaluation. The same page also includes instructions on how to get GNOME 3 on Ubuntu and other Linux distributions.
GNOME 3.6 offers a wide range of improvements for daily life that add further finishing touches to the already well-rounded desktop environment. However, certain features take some getting used to before their full purpose becomes clear, and other changes could have done with a little more fine tuning. For example, it will annoy some users that the message tray can no longer be accessed as quickly using the mouse, and that unlocking the system now requires an extra mouse click or keypress.
Users' opinions of the Nautilus changes will vary. Some of the new features are rather nifty. However, some users will miss the compact view and those who have spent years using a secondary screen with programs such as Norton or Midnight Commander may find it hard to accept that a similar feature in Nautilus must now be implemented with tabs or by setting up two Nautilus windows.
Linux distributions and GNOME 3.6
The main version of Fedora 18, scheduled for release in late November, will use GNOME 3.6 as its standard desktop. Those who install and update the alpha version of Fedora 18 will receive quite current preview versions of the GNOME 3.6 components; the Fedora build system already offers the final versions that the developers soon plan to distribute via the update repositories.
The situation is similar with Ubuntu 12.10, which is scheduled for release in October and will include many, though not all, GNOME 3.6 components. For instance, the Ubuntu developers plan to use the GNOME 3.4.2 version of the Nautilus file manager. In the distribution's current development releases, the Brasero disk-burning program and the Totem multimedia player are also GNOME 3.4.2 versions; the GNOME 3.6 versions are available in a PPA. Several members of the Ubuntu community are working on an "Ubuntu GNOME Remix" that will use the Shell of GNOME 3.6 as its standard desktop instead of Unity.
openSUSE's Factory development branch already includes many GNOME 3.6 components. A member of the openSUSE GNOME team recently announced that the developers are preparing a package repository that will allow users to install the new GNOME in openSUSE 12.2.