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Exploring System76’s New Rust Based Desktop Environment

Exploring System76’s New Rust Based Desktop Environment

A few months ago System76 announced that they would be developing a new desktop environment based on the Rust programming language called COSMIC.

Their idea is to create a desktop environment that is similar to the one that is currently available for the Pop!_OS operating system, but with a different focus.

System76’s objective is to create something that is faster, more customizable, and free of the limitations of the GNOME desktop environment, and let’s face it, we’re all curious as to how this desktop will look like.

This post will explore how this new desktop environment is shaping up.

The COSMIC desktop is still a work in progress and is not yet ready for use, most of what you’ll see here is a preview and subject to change.

As of right now, Pop!_OS uses GNOME Settings app but System76 is hard at work developing a new version of the settings app for the COSMIC desktop using GTK 4, here’s a comparison between the two.

cosmic_settings

Here’s some of the UI changes I noticed:

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One of the biggest changes is the search feature, in GNOME Settings, the search bar is available at the top of the navigation view, this is problematic when inside nested menus as the user has to go back to the begining to access it, but in COSMIC it’s available everywhere in the app, no matter how deep inside a menu the user is.

Settings at a glance

The search also displays a list of all the settings that match the search criteria and not only where they’re located as GNOME Settings does, this makes it easier to change your settings without having to leave the section you currently are in.

search_comparison

There is already a working version of Pop Launcher, it’s built using GTK.

new_launcher

The new launcher is fairly similar to the one that is currently available in Pop!_OS.

launcher

There aren’t any major changes, but there are some minor ones:

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  • The launcher is a bit smaller and more compact.
  • The launcher selection indicator has a yellow border around it as opposed to the grey one already present in the current launcher.
    launcher_selection

I found a small bug where if you selected an application and then return to search something else the launcher would panic, an issue has been filled.

Pop!_OS recently received an update to the App Library where instead of opening in fullscreen, the app is opened in a floating window.

app_library

COSMIC will also have an app library, but it will be built using GTK.

new_app_library

We can notice that the new app library is very similar to the one that is currently available for the Pop!_OS, the only difference I could notice was the use of colored folder icons.

As expected, there are some bugs present and some features missing, after all this is still a work in progress.

I found a small bug where if you try to navigate the app grid with the keyboard, it opens the second app it selects, an issue has been filled.

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The new dock looks basically the same as the one that is currently available.

new_dock

There’s no visual difference between the two, we expect them to look and work the same.

dock

Here are some small details that I noticed:

  • Currently it’s only possible to drop icons from the app library to the dock.
  • Non-favorite applications don’t show up in the dock.
  • The dock is not expandable to the sides yet.
  • It is not possible to rearrange the dock icons.

This is the first step towards creating a new desktop environment, there’s no doubt that there are many things that will be improved. this is just the beginning.

I hope that this article gives you an idea of what the future of the COSMIC desktop will be like.

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About the author: Roxane Anderson
“The man who can dominate a London dinner-table can dominate the world.” – Oscar Wilde
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