The final version of GNOME 3.16 is here, and this is no mere bug fix release.
The latest version of the GNOME desktop offers a revamped notification system along with visual improvements, updated applications, and a trio of new application previews. In total, GNOME 3.16 includes a whopping 33,525 changes made by over one thousand people.
If you haven't given GNOME a try in a while, you should. GNOME and the GNOME Shell desktop interface have improved dramatically from the initial GNOME 3.0 releases.
The latest version of GNOME offers a revamped notification system. Notification banners now appear more to the center of the screen under the top bar, making them more noticeable and less likely to interfere with applications while you're using them. Those notification pop-ups are still actionable, so you can click them to take the default action or click the buttons on them to perform other actions.
The old dedicated message tray has been removed. Instead, notifications that have already popped up appear in the calendar drop-down window. Click it to see notifications as well as event reminders, times for other locations in the world, and a calendar for the current month. The GNOME Project plans on adding weather information and birthday reminders to this drop-down interface in the future, making this drop-down a one-stop place to see exactly what's happening.
It's a bit like the centralized notification interfaces you'll find on most platforms these days, from Windows 10's Action Center to Chrome's notifications interface to similar features on Android and iOS.
Foursquare, cats, and scroll bars
GNOME 3.16 offers other improvements too. The desktop interface has a more modern look, with more use of dark gray colors. Scroll bars now automatically hide for a minimal look, a bit like Google Chrome's scroll bars.
The Files application saw some work, with larger previews in the grid and list views and a pop-up interface for quickly tweaking view settings. There's a new, easier-to-discover undo function, so you can delete files just by pressing the Delete key--you can always undo that later, after all. The Image Viewer also received tweaks, with less interface chrome and more room for looking at your pictures.
The Maps application saw a variety of improvements, and it's now possible to check in with Foursquare. There's a new sliding-blocks game called Taquin that comes with built-in cat image puzzles.
The Boxes application is also improved, making it easier to work with and use virtual machines on GNOME. Automatic codec installation has been integrated into the GNOME Software application, and various applications saw other performance and bug improvements. Soon, you should be able to install fully sandboxed applications that will work on any Linux distribution from the Software application.
You'll also find preview versions of Calendar, a calendar application that can show information from your online calendar accounts; Books, an e-book viewer; and Characters, a character map application for quickly inserting characters that don't appear on your keyboard.
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Take it for a test drive
GNOME 3.16 will soon be coming to a Linux distribution near you. If you'd like to try it yourself, you can grab an official GNOME 3.16 live demo image and burn it from a CD, put it on a USB drive, or boot it on a virtual machine. For more details, examine the official GNOME 3.16 release notes.