Early Look at GNOME Shell’s New Look

Early Look at GNOME Shell’s New Look

GNOME Shell looks a little different in GNOME 42, which is currently in active development.

I wasn’t able to showcase the shell theme tweaks in my GNOME 42 alpha post but, over the weekend, fuelled by coffee ????, I managed to get the correct branch up and running on my Fedora install. I figured I’d write a short post to share some screenshots of the changes I’ve spotted thus far.

Just keep in mind GNOME 42 is under active development. Everything shown here is a work in progress and very much subject to change.

GNOME 42 embraces libadwaita and its rounder, softer look. So it’s no surprise that the latest GNOME Shell theme tweaks echo these changes within the Shell UI. That said, while the overall effect of the changes is pronounced (i.e. you’ll notice it’s change) we are still talking subtle refinement on what went before, rather than a wholesale departure.

For example, most Shell elements now use a darker background colour with a brighter text/icon colour. You can see these changes here in the Status Menu, which also gains a new sub-menu style with inset rounded highlights (echoing Libadwaita’s highlight effect):

a screenshot of the GNOME 42 status menu theme changes
Left: status menu before; Right: status menu after

Also visible in the comparison above is the new treatment of “pop over” elements. These no longer use a “call out” triangle pointing at their origin in the panel. The change is effected throughout the UI including on the notification shade. Drag the slider below to compare the differences:

Left is GNOME 41, right is GNOME 42

Other tweaks are noticeable in the notification shade, such as the calendar embed having a reduced gap beneath the weekday header row and first dates of the calendar itself. The calendar widget feels much tighter with this change. Also neat, the colouring of the weekday in the calendar header is recessive to the date.

And the “do not disturb” toggle has a much more obvious toggle.

It may be a discrepancy in my virtual machines so don’t take this as read, but when switching between the styles on in my tests the notification shade in GNOME 42 is narrower with this update, though there is no deprecation in the amount of information shown.

Also: how much nicer do the media player controls look now?

Answer: very

The control buttons used an inordinate amount of space before, often leading to artist names being truncated. As you can see above, Chunk, no Captain Chunk! are now spared that indignity! ????

A number of other elements pick up a refresh through the rest of the Shell UI including the alt + f2 run prompt, the alt + tab switcher, on-screen keyboard, and the search results page, the latter using borderless results pods:

Search results changes

As GNOME 42 is all very much a work in progress nothing in the screenshots above is fixed, and may change by the time the final, stable release rolls around in the middle of March.

Let me know what you think of these changes (and GNOME 42 in general) down in the comments.