The GNOME project is an international effort to create an easy-to-use computing platform built entirely from free software. This goal includes creating tools which help developers write new stand-alone application software, selecting applications for inclusion in the official product, and working on what is known as the desktop environment — the programs which manage application launching, file handling, and window and task management.
The GNOME project was started in August 1997 by Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena in response to licensing concerns over software used by KDE, a free software desktop environment that relies on the Qt widget toolkit. At the time, Qt did not use a free software license and members of the GNU project became concerned about the use of such a toolkit for building a free software desktop and applications. Two projects were started: the Harmony toolkit, to create a free replacement for the Qt libraries, and GNOME to create a new desktop without Qt and built entirely on top of free software.
The name “GNOME” was proposed as an acronym of GNU Network Object Model Environment by Elliot Lee, one of the authors of ORBit and the Object Activation Framework. It refers to GNOME's original intention of creating a distributed object framework similar to Microsoft's OLE. This no longer reflects the core vision of the GNOME project, and the full expansion of the name is now considered obsolete. As such, some members of the project advocate dropping the acronym and re-naming “GNOME” to “Gnome”.
As with most free software projects, the GNOME project is loosely organised. Discussion chiefly occurs on a number of public mailing lists. Developers and users of GNOME gather at an annual meeting known as GUADEC in order to discuss the current state of the project and its future direction.
Look and feel
GNOME is designed around the traditional computing desktop metaphor. Its handling of windows, applications and files is similar to that of contemporary desktop operating systems; The desktop has a launcher menu for quick access to installed programs and file locations, open windows may be accessed by a task bar along the bottom of the screen and the top-right corner features a notification area for programs to display notices while running in the background.
Since GNOME v2.0, a key focus of the project has been usability. As a part of this, a large effort was put into creating the GNOME Human Interface Guidelines (HIG). The HIG is an extensive guide for creating high quality, consistent, usable GUI programs, covering everything from GUI design to recommended pixel-based layout of widgets. During the v2.0 rewrite, many settings were deemed to be “crack” settings (of little or no value to the majority of users) and were removed. For instance, the preferences section of the Panel were reduced from a sprawling dialog of six large tabs to a much simpler one with two small tabs.
GNOME releases are made in the form of source code, which is compiled by operating system vendors and integrated with the rest of their systems before distribution. Most vendors use only stable and tested versions of GNOME, and provide it in the form of easily installed pre-compiled packages. The source code of every stable version of GNOME is stored in a version control system in the GNOME source code repository.
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 concepts, or for testing ideas that will one day migrate into stable GNOME applications; others are code that is being polished for direct inclusion.