January 08, 2001, 11:19 AM — GNOME is an acronym for GNU Object Model Environment. That by itself doesn't convey much information, though the GNU part (itself an acronym for GNU's Not Unix) is a tip-off that the GNOME Project is part of the GNU Project. But more about GNU later. GNOME's fundamental goal is to make Unix and Unix-like operating systems easier to use, especially free or open-source operating systems such as Linux and the BSD variants -- FreeBSD, OpenBSD and NetBSD.
The key to GNOME (pronounced guh-nome) is that it strives to be completely free: All of its components are distributed freely under open-source licenses.
Ease of use for GNOME means the GNOME desktop, which offers an easy-to-use, windows-based environment. It also means giving programmers a development platform with a rich set of tools for building powerful applications. Finally, it means building an office-productivity application suite, GNOME Office.
Familiar User Interface
GNOME is most visible as the default desktop environment installed with recent versions of Linux from Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based Red Hat Software Inc. It's the graphical user interface (GUI) that greets you after installation.
Anyone who has used a modern operating system with a GUI, such as Microsoft Corp.'s Windows or Apple Computer Inc.'s Mac OS, will find the GNOME GUI at least vaguely familiar and shouldn't have any problem running applications that use it.
The GNOME development platform includes the GNOME architecture as well as GNOME libraries, development tools, advanced graphical programs and other tools for building software that integrates into the GNOME framework. This results in a consistent interface across applications as well as an advanced component architecture.
Part of GNU
The GNOME Project is a part of the GNU Project, the brainchild of Richard M. Stallman. He began writing free software full-time under the aegis of the GNU Project in 1984, faithful to his stated belief that software should be free and that while there's nothing wrong with selling the service of programming, the sale of proprietary software is immoral.
Though the GNU Project's original goal for was to create a completely free Unix system, the GNU operating system has been eclipsed by Linux and, to a lesser degree, the open-source BSD variants. GNU has succeeded in producing some popular tools, including the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP), a free software replacement for San Jose-based Adobe Systems Inc.'s Photoshop; emacs, a powerful text editor; GCC, a free compiler collection for C, C++ and other C-related languages; and GNOME itself.