Introducing Maui Shell, a convergent desktop shell for Linux desktops and mobile devices

The Nitrux development team today unveiled their Christmas surprise to the Linux community, a new convergent desktop shell for Linux desktops, phones and tablets called Maui Shell.

If you regularly read, you probably already know that the makers of the Debian-based Nitrux distribution are also developing a series of in-house built apps created with the Maui Kit, called Maui Apps.

Well, today Nitrux introduces a brand new shell for the Linux desktop called Maui Shell that can be converged to also work on mobile devices such as Linux phones and tablets.

“The goal of Maui Shell is to implement a convergent desktop shell with a variety of form factors, from mobile phones and tablets to desktop computers. Maui Shell will adapt to different form factors, and there is no need to run multiple versions targeting different form factors,” said Camilo Higuita.

Maui Shell consists of two main components, Cask as the shell container and Zpace as the composer. Think of them as GNOME Shell and Mutter for the GNOME desktop environment.

As a shell layer, Cask takes care of the top panel, which is placed very discreetly and cleanly at the top of the screen, the launcher, which is presented to the user as a pop-up card in the center of the screen just above the dock, similar of System76’s Application Library launcher in Pop!_OS Linux 21.10.

In addition, Cask takes care of all other desktop elements that the user interacts with, such as notifications, popups, maps, and the dock. The Maui Shell also offers a notification center à la macOS 10.15 Catalina.

Because Maui Shell is a convergent desktop shell, it looks great on smaller screens, such as those of Linux phones and tablets. In tablet form, Maui Shell’s windows have no decorations and are displayed in full screen, and can display two windows per workspace, side by side or stacked.

On the phone’s form factor, the launcher and panel cards take up all available space. Users can slide from the left side of the top panel to access notifications and the calendar, or from the right side to access the status and quick settings switches.

The second component, Zpace, takes care of all the work under the hood for the converging desktop shell. It uses the Qt Wayland Compositor API, which means it runs on top of Wayland, but it also supports X11.

Zspace supports multiple workspaces and controls window positioning on the various form factors presented above. Workspaces support an unlimited number of windows that support client-side decorations (CSD) and can be floating and stackable.

If you want to take Maui Shell for a test drive, download the Nitrux 1.8 distribution release, which also came in today with a lot of goodies, just in time for the Christmas holidays.

Don’t get too excited though, as there is still a lot of work to be done before Maui Shell can become a viable alternative to popular desktop environments like KDE Plasma or GNOME. For now, it’s just a simple launcher that can be used in a standalone session (X11 or Wayland), and it doesn’t include a session manager.

It also lacks support for multi-screen setups, a control center to adjust various settings, as well as an XWayland shell extension. The developers are currently working on an XDG shell extension, Bluetooth support, PulseAudio support, network switches, MPRIs control, drag and drop support, dock and panels, launcher and workspaces.

Maui Shell’s first stable release in the fall of 2022.

Last updated 8 minutes ago

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