18 reasons to use Gnome on its 18th birthday

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Gnome cake

Photo by Marco Barisione; modified by Rikki Endsley. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Today the Gnome desktop turns 18. To celebrate, we created a list of reasons to use it:

  1. De-facto desktop environment: A lot of Linux distributions have their own Gnome installation. Popular Linux distributions such as Fedora, CentOS, and Debian are using Gnome as their default desktop environment.
  2. Available everywhere: Even if you don't have Gnome installed as your default desktop environment, Gnome is extremely portable and there's a way to install it on pretty much every distribution.
  3. Support: Because Gnome is an option for almost any distribution, if you need help there's a big chance you can get it from someone in the Gnome community.
  4. A different design approach: The transition from Gnome 2.x to Gnome 3.x didn't exactly go as planned, partially because Gnome decided to make a bold change in its design. Some people liked it, others didn't, but now that the transition is over, Gnome provides a user experience that is drastically different from other Linux desktop environments, Windows, and OS X.
  5. Performance: Many users report that Gnome uses fewer system resources than KDE or Unity, leaving more RAM and processing power available for applications. The desktop environment doesn't stand in the way and lets you get the job done.
  6. Themes: There are many different Gnome themes available. My favorite one is Paper (warning: currently not stable), which brings material design to Linux. If that's not for you, there are still plenty of other choices.
  7. Extensions: Gnome shell has many available extensions. Once you have Gnome installed, installing extensions is as easy as finding one that you like and flipping on the switch from its website.
  8. Notifications: Although one of the biggest features for Windows 10 was the introduction of the notifications system, Gnome shell implemented its own notifications system a couple of years ago. The system allows you to receive notifications from a large number of applications, and it's extremely customizable. So, if some application notifications annoy you, just turn them off.
  9. Applications: Many applications have been developed specifically for Gnome, which ensures their system integration is top-notch. Gnome keeps a list on its wiki of more than 100 applications developed with Gnome in mind.
  10. Nautilus: Gnome's default file manager is another good reason to switch. Nautilus is lightweight, full of features, and does its job perfectly. Not a lot of people pay attention to file managers nowadays, but having a great one is extremely important.
  11. Online accounts: Gnome provides a quick and easy way to integrate your desktop applications with your online accounts, which allows your applications to sync their data across your devices. You can integrate your system with Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Google, and Outlook accounts. In return, you don't have to authenticate every single one of your apps with your online account. Gnome does it for you.
  12. HiDPI support: To be sure that it looks good on monitors with a huge pixel intensity, Gnome has built-in hacks so your apps shine on HiDPI monitors.
  13. Community: What makes an open source project great is its community, and Gnome has a huge one! There are hundreds of developers working on Gnome, which is sponsored by a large number of companies to ensure that its development continues to move forward.
  14. Good development environment: If you want to develop Linux applications, consider making them Gnome-compatible. Not only does Gnome have a huge fanbase (as seen in our recent desktop poll), it also has its own programming language called Vala, which is pretty easy to learn.
  15. Gnome Love: Want to contribute to Gnome, but don't know where to start? The Gnome Love page provides a big list of resources, including a mentors list.
  16. Good code base: As proof that Gnome has a pretty good code base, its code gets forked. Unity, Mate, Cinnamon, and elementary OS's Pantheon are all either forks of Gnome or share some similar principles.
  17. Google Summer of Code internship: For 10 years now, Gnome has been a Google Summer of Code participating project that allows students to intern by working on it. Talk about a good internship opportunity!
  18. The Gnome Foundation: Last but not least, Gnome is coordinated by a great nonprofit organization called The Gnome Foundation. It was founded 15 years ago by Compaq, Eazel, Helix Code, IBM, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems, and VA Linux Systems. Today, its advisory board includes Canonical, Debian, Free Software Foundation, Google, IBM, Igalia, Intel, Linux Foundation, Mozilla Foundation, OLPC, Private Internet Access, Red Hat, Software Freedom Law Center, Sugar Labs, and SUSE.

If you're already a Gnome user, join me in celebrating Gnome's 18th birthday on August 15. Show your support by using the #HappyBirthdayGnome hashtag and by changing your profile picture to this one.

Thanks to the Gnome community for making an awesome desktop environment! I appreciate your contributions to the open source community.

Do you have additions to our list? Let us know in the comments.

Aleksandar Todorović
I'm a part of the tech department for an awesome investigative journalism network called OCCRP. I'm really passionate about open source software, artificial intelligence and information security. My open source contributions are now merged with projects like reddit, elementary OS and the Tor Project. I'm running a personal blog where I share my personal stories.


I love the article Aleksandar! I love Gnome also. It's my preferred Linux desktop. I wish I knew how to install it rather than the default Unity on Ubuntu. I liked Fedora 22 but couldn't get it to play nice with my wireless adapter and had to revert to Ubuntu and Unity. Red Hat used to have a Blue Curve GUI which was based on Gnome. I really liked that too.

I'm a KDE user myself, so I don't know how good or bad my advice is, but you could install Ubuntu Gnome:


Or, to install Gnome on your curren Ubuntu install, from a terminal:

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-gnome-desktop

(or search ubuntu-gnome-desktop in the Software Center).

Hope it helps.

In reply to by Don Watkins

One reason *not* to use Gnome. A great many of those nice extensions stop working when Gnome gets upgraded. This is also true of many of the themes.

I use only Gnome as it suits me best, I have tried others but does not work well for me, gnome 2 was ok, gnome 3 is great and i love it, epiphany needs improvement as it does not work well for me , so i use opera.

I have been using Gnome 3/Gnome-Shell since it first came out. I got used to just searching for the apps I need and I've learned to customize it with the extensions offered at extensions.gnome.org. Now, after using Gnome-Shell so long, I can't go back to the traditional menu system.

I use gnome 3 on archlinux and so easy and simple to use, i am forced to use windows at my workplace and find it more time consuming and harder than gnome to get work done in windows .

Very good article. Having written "9 reasons to use KDE" on this site, I found your reasons very informative. I will have to try GNOME again.

I do think you stretched it a bit - quite a few of the reasons just aren't true or at least debatable. Starting with the first - according to most surveys, Unity is the most used Linux Desktop with KDE second and GNOME not even always third.

I would also put the order different - eg 11 is imho the biggest innovation on the Linux desktop in at least 5 years and deserves a 1st spot.

Going by the numbers:
You can debate 4 - being different for the sake of it won't be considered a plus by all people but that's indeed an opinion.

for sure, though, I still have to see the first report which supports 5 - most say XFCE or LXDE are far, far lighter.

6 and 7 - well, they work, yes. I don't think this was ever very important to the developers but users demand it ;-)

8 is honestly a disgrace, breaking the desktop and creating issues for app developers. We at ownCloud hate that GNOME had to go and create their own notification solution even though there was a decent standard which they could've improved or provided feedback upon. Right now, we don't support ANYTHING for our desktop client as supporting different standards is a pita. So yes, this hurts all Linux users and I find it shameful and arrogant.

9 - applications are porting to Qt, but ok ;-)

10 - sure.

11 - biggest innovation/improvement on the linux desktop in years, if you ask me! You sure should've made this number 1.

12 - absolutely nice work there

13 - yeap, GNOME ppl are nice, like most free software folks ;-)

14 - Qt is the de-facto standard now, and I'm glad for it as it is cross-desktop and cross-platform while GNOME/GTK3 is not. Please care about Linux users outside of the small GNOME desktop share and don't promote the use of GTK3 for new apps...

16 - that was more due to personal differences than technical things.To really let the GNOME Shell vision come to life, I can imagine the GNOME devs didn't want to spend a lot of time on creating a great, re-usable infrastructure like the KDE guys did and that made different visions in one code base impossible - like KDE's Plasma has mobile, desktop, netbook, tablet and media center interfaces which share 99% of their code. Again, this was never the goal for GNOME - which is totally fair. But that's what the forks show, not that it is a great code base ;-)

17 and 18 - yup they do great work.

In reply to by r3bl

Thanks for the great article :)

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