Chapter 6: What's this Gnome Thing?

Topics covered in this chapter:
What does Gnome mean?
So what is Gnome?
What are the strong points about Gnome?

What does Gnome mean?
Gnome is an acronym for GNU Network Object Model Environment,, it's made by the GNU. Obviously, the GNU is a worldwide team of developers that could include you or I, so anyone can be part of Gnome and the GNU

So What is Gnome then?
Gnome is a GUI system for X. It's totally Free, and at certain arguable points, 'more free' than it's counterpart, KDE. Unlike KDE, it's just a GUI - It does have a suite of lots of programs (like KDE), but it does not have a window manager, so if you were just to have Gnome on its own with no window manager, then you'd get all your apps like Netscape Communicator and GnoSamba with no surrounding window, ie: you couldn't close, minimize, resize or move your windows, something you really need to be able to do. Thankfully, Gnome comes with at least one window manager by default. At the moment, that's Sawfish. Sawfish is a lightweight and highly customisable window manager. Before Sawfish, Gnome used Enlightenment, although slightly bulkier and slower, it was similar to sawfish and gave many of the same advantages. Although Gnome usually ships with Sawfish, there is nothing to say that you couldn't use twm or fvwm as your Window manager, with Gnome sitting just below X.
It's been noticed by a lot of linux pro's that Gnome is preferred by the real Linux geeks/veterans because of it's GNU upbringing, rather than KDE's more commercial background. Thus, large Linux distributors have favoured Gnome over KDE as the Default GUI for use in their distributions. Ie: RedHat always ship both Gnome and KDE with Red Hat Linux, but they have made Gnome the default GUI for all, you have to edit a small configuration file or select from a drop-down menu if you want KDE to be the default. Gnome started life in August 1997, and was brought to life, as most things Linux, through lots of contributors via newsgroups. Both KDE and Gnome have developed into wonderfully mature GUIs in this short period of time. By 1999, it would be safe to say that Gnome was stable and usable enough to exceed the functionability of rival GUIs on the same platform and other platforms (such as Windows / PC).
    Tux says: Gnome is pronounced Guh-nome (no silent G)

At the time of writing (April 2001), Gnome is in revision 1.4, slightly behind KDEs 2.1.1, but I don't really think that version numbers matter when it comes to comparisons. As covered in the previous chapter, KDE uses the Qt toolkit for the base of the GUI, Gnome uses the GTK+ Toolkit for it's efforts.

What are the strong points about Gnome?
  • It is a fully featured Graphical User Interface, but is not a window manager
  • You can choose a window manager from a selection of many, to Display Windows on the screen. Typical Window managers could be Twm, Fvwm, Enlightenment, Sawmill and more
  • There are now two main file managers for Gnome: Gmc (Gnome Midnight Commander) and Eazel's Nautilus (which although still buggy is incredibly feature packed and is really cool!)
  • Gnome is supported by large companies like Red Hat and there are a lot of hackers out there that make the thing really stable
  • On-line help is available often.
  • Most of the Gnome-Compliant window managers are highly customizable and themeable.
  • It has thousands of open source applications, games and utilities available.
  • Possibly moreso than KDE, Gnome has bucket loads of open source programs being created for it every day, some excellent examples are things like GnuCash.

If you want to see a screen show of Gnome, then click HERE.