System76 is working on its own rust-based desktop environment for Pop! _OS



Pop! _OS is a popular Ubuntu-based distribution that uses one of the most popular desktop environments, GNOME. However, System76 in Pop! _OS 21.04 released COSMIC, a fork of GNOME. While this move in and of itself was enough for me to start speculating on what custom DE Pop! _OS might use in the future, and I gave up the same thought that developers will likely want to stick with GNOME because creating a DE from scratch is tons of work.

It turns out that the developers of System76 are indeed working on a new Rust-based desktop environment, which came as a surprise to many. So what exactly should we expect from this upcoming project and what will it look like? Here’s everything you need to know about it.

Pop! _OS COSMIC: a new direction

We first learned about this from a poll posted on Reddit. The user asked if Pop! _OS will ever get an official KDE release or will it forever be GNOME only, to which System76 engineer Michael Murphy replied, “It will be his own desktop,” confirming as well as they are actually working on a new desktop environment. He also said that it will not be a fork of GNOME and will follow free desktop specs.

We are already doing our best to follow freedesktop specs with our software. There is therefore no reason to believe that we would do otherwise.

Responding to a new name suggestion, Murphy said they will stay with COSMIC. When a user asked if the operating system would use the gtk-rs bindings or the GUI library built from scratch, Murphy replied:

We already use gtk-rs for all of our stuff. My guess is that he is likely to see some components in GTK for the foreseeable future. The shell itself is, however, lower level than a traditional desktop GUI toolkit. It will use the primitives of the window manager on which it is based. If a mature Rust GUI appears, it could of course be used in the future. I would generally like to use the best tools when possible.

Asked about plans for the window manager, Murphy said:

The status is still the same as when it was first announced a month or two ago, I think. We’re just experimenting, but our focus is on the 10/21 release for now. We have a branch of COSMIC as a Rust Mutter plugin if you want to play around with it. Who knows, maybe we could make something that supports multiple window managers.

And yes, you may be asking yourself this question already; Why another office environment when others are already well established? Murphy said:

Choice is the best part of open source. None of us would be here today if people weren’t brave enough to take the next step with a new solution to an existing problem. You are probably now using software that was recently developed as an alternative to something. Distributions and people will naturally gravitate towards the best solutions over time. And sometimes the best fit for an individual isn’t the most popular office environment.

What will the new COSMIC look like?

I wouldn’t be surprised if this didn’t resemble the current GNOME-based COSMIC in many ways. Of course, there will be a lot of changes under the hood and even on the UI side, but it shouldn’t be too different from the current COSMIC DE.

When will the new COSMIC be released?

Unfortunately, we have no information on this. However, given the scale of the task of building a complete desktop environment from scratch, we don’t expect it to be ready anytime soon.

What do you think of the new upcoming COSMIC? Let us know your views and opinions in the comments section below.



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