System76 Developing a New Desktop Environment

Nov 08, 2021

The makers of Pop!_OS are currently in the early stages of creating a brand new, non-GNOME, desktop environment.

System76 is never one to settle. Consider what they’ve done to the GNOME desktop environment with their COSMIC treatment. Effectively, the company has made GNOME their own. But that wasn’t enough, so the developers have set out to create a brand new DE, from scratch, using Rust.

Why? Michael Murphy, Pop!_OS maintainer for System76, said, “There are things we’d like to do that we can’t simply achieve through extensions in GNOME. Extensions in general feel like a hack. And what we want to do with our desktop differs from GNOME, so it’s not like the option to merge pop-shell and COSMIC into GNOME Shell would be a welcome thing.”

Although the new desktop will not be a fork of GNOME, the developers do plan on reusing some of the current GNOME tooling, such as Mutter, KWin, and Wlroots. On this issue, Murphy said, “We’re already using gtk-rs for all of our stuff. My assumption is that it’s likely to see some components in GTK for the foreseeable future.” Murphy continues, “The shell itself though is lower level than a traditional desktop GUI toolkit. It’ll use primitives from the window manager it builds upon. If a mature Rust GUI turns up, then it could be used in the future of course. I’d generally like to use the best tools where possible.”

The System76 desktop will also be distribution-agnostic, so it won’t require Pop!_OS to run. As well, the developers plan on sticking to (when possible) the standards, set by FreeDesktop.

Don’t expect this new desktop environment to appear any time soon. Since this is a brand new project, it'll take some time. Keep a close watch on the System76 blog for more updates.

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