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The GNOME project aims to provide the user with a desktop environment, and it does consist of many pieces of software. There indeed is a foundation called the GNOME foundation, and there is a desktop environment called GNOME, but well, can GNOME itself be called software?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

"GNOME" is four things:

  1. A development environment encompassing several desktop features, functions and processes, one example being GTK+.

  2. A desktop environment using software based on the development framework.

  3. A foundation that supports other software not neccessarily part of either of the first two (although usually using GNOME libraries).

  4. A little ceramic man, often with a hat, occasionally with a fishing rod or a wheel barrow. A garden ornament.

All of these are collections of software although each has different organisational features and aims. The third is more of an organisational "umbrella" than a discrete set of software but the first two are fairly discrete and yes, could easily be called software. Garden ornaments are rarely thought to be software.

Hearing "GNOME", one would usually infer the person was talking about the desktop environment... But just as people get angry about people not calling Linux "GNU/Linux", they might prefer you to use the longhand.

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One important thing you left out: GNOME is a project to develop a libre desktop, just like you can say Ubuntu is a project to develop a Linux-based distro. – Tshepang Apr 12 '11 at 10:15
@Tshepang I thought that was covered by #2, just with less flowery language. – Oli Apr 12 '11 at 10:20
Since 1, 2, and 3 are all software (and 4 must be a joke: who ever heard of a garden gnome in all capital letters?), I think it would be appropriate to add to this answer that yes, GNOME is certainly software, though it would not be right to call it a program. – Eliah Kagan Nov 28 '11 at 7:38
@EliahKagan To say it is not a program and to call it software doesn't make any sense. Of course its a program. It has a set of instructions correct? Then it's a program. Maybe you are confusing application with program. – Matt Nov 28 '11 at 11:07
@Matt There is no reasonable sense in which GNOME is a program. The broadest definition of "program" is "a sequence of instructions written to perform a specified task with a computer". GNOME contains many such sequences but is not a single such sequence; to say GNOME is a program in that sense is like saying that Firefox 8 and a particular PCA pump's firmware, considered together, constitute "a program." A box of video games and tshirts isn't a program either. – Eliah Kagan Nov 28 '11 at 11:19

It would be unusual to refer to the 'GNOME software', but as you say, GNOME consists of many pieces of software, so it wouldn't be wrong to say GNOME is software.

Of course the GNOME Project and the GNOME Foundation are orgnanisations that you wouldn't describe as software.

A similar example: KDE was recently renamed to the KDE Software Compilation.

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That's what I'm unsure about. It's just a project that gathers software - i wonder if it makes it itself a piece of software. Do we call The Free Software foundation, or the GNU Project a software? They also consist of many pieces of software, but aren't software itself. – Rafał Cieślak Jan 9 '11 at 19:43
@rafalcieslak GNU is an Operating System (using the Linux Kernel), the two cases aren't really comparable. – Stefano Palazzo Jan 9 '11 at 19:44
The difference is that The Free Software foundation doesn't release software in a bundle that's referred to as The Free Software Foundation" - however the GNOME organisation does release the GNOME Desktop Environment. – 8128 Jan 9 '11 at 19:44
This still makes it just an umbrella-project for many pieces of software, that using some references from GNOME project, cooperate and work well together as a desktop environment. – Rafał Cieślak Jan 9 '11 at 19:48

IMHO, for me if it consists of many pieces of software (which it does), then I'll be calling it GNOME Desktop Suite probably, but yeah, it's hard to define it as just "software".

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