And how will it improve other GTK themes such as Ambiance or Elementary?

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The GTK+ 3 release notes gave the basics of it. GTK+ 3.x will not directly change/improve themes like Ambiance, in fact, most of these themes won't work as yet, as they have to be ported.

However, you can expect to see some improvements all around as things progress with GTK+ 3.x.

*This answer is now outdated, and needs an update.

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GTK+ 3 is a major new version of GTK+, containing far too many changes to list them all here. The major highlights include:

  • Cairo drawing throughout. GDK no longer wraps the antiquated X11 drawing API; we've made a clean break and exclusively rely on cairo for all our drawing needs now. This has also enabled us to remove several other X11-centric concepts such as GCs, colormaps and pixmaps.

  • Modern input device handling. The input device handling in GDK has long been a sadly neglected area. This has changed; with 3.0, GTK+ steps into the modern world of XI2 with full support for multiple pointers, keyboards and other gizmos.

  • A new theming API which sports a familiar CSS syntax for theme configuration and other improvements such as animated state transitions.

  • More flexible geometry management, with support for height-for-width, for both widgets and cell renderers.

  • Multiple backend support for GDK. With GTK+ 2.x, you had to recompile your application to have it work with a different GDK backend. In GTK+ 3, multiple GDK backends can be built into a single library and selected at runtime.

  • Easy application support. With the integration of D-Bus support in GIO, we could finally add a GtkApplication class that handles a lot of the platform integration aspects of writing an application, such as keeping track of open windows, ensuring uniqueness, exporting actions, etc.

  • Of course, there's some new widgets as well, such as a switch and an application chooser.

Source: https://mail.gnome.org/archives/gnome-announce-list/2011-February/msg00022.html

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  • 1
    Missing however is support for resolution independence, which makes GTK3 effectively dead going forward. – trampster May 24 '13 at 1:05

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