GEM/2 was released after the infamous Apple look-and-feel lawsuit, and was accordingly crippled.
The GEM/2 "about" box. The dialog border is now a single frame rather than double. When GEM/2 and later versions load resources, forms with a double frame are automatically converted to the single-with-shadow style; this behaviour is optional in the very latest FreeGEM AES.
The other noticeable change is that we're now in VGA mode, and the font in the standard VGA driver is (in my opinion) pretty ugly. Hence SYSFONT which allows an alternative to be installed. VGA support first turned up in GEM 2.2, but when I made these screenshots I didn't have a copy of the original GEM/2 VGA driver. Consequently, these shots were made using the GEM/3 version. When I subsequently did obtain the original GEM/2 driver, I found it looked just the same as the GEM/3 version anyway.
The desktop program now has two fixed-size windows, no trashcan and disc drives go in a "Disc drives" window. The scrollbar sliders are have become thin, and the window controls have changed. Icons are highlighted by drawing a thick border round them, and the "Desk" menu has moved to the right-hand end of the menu bar. Icon highting is now done by drawing a heavy frame around the icon - in my opinion, an inferior effect.
Apparently Apple banned shaded titlebars; so all the titlebars are plain and white.
Disc drives are still not auto-detected.
The three standard desktop accessories were supplied virtually unchanged with all GEM versions. The print spooler is able to print text files in the background; since the only released versions of PC GEM were single-tasking, it wasn't otherwise possible to work while printing.
The preferences screen is almost identical to the same screen in GEM/1 and there are still no dedicated radio button or checkbox controls.
The item selector screen (again, very similar to the same screen in GEM/1) demonstrates GEM text controls - they appear as underlines, with a vertical cursor. The "close" control has been changed to match the new window design; so have the scrollbar arrows and thumb.
Unlike in GEM/1, the 'title bar' of the file list floats above it rather than touching it. This visual glitch depends on which video driver is in use; it appears in EGA and VGA modes, but not in CGA mode.
The GEM/2 cursors. The hourglass has been redesigned, and an extra hollow cross cursor has been added, but otherwise not a lot has changed since GEM/1. All subsequent versions use these cursor designs.
This is GEM/2 running on an Amstrad PC3086, using the Paradise Systems 800x600 driver. This screen also has the distinction of being the only screenshot I made with GEM's own screenshot utility, SNAPSHOT.ACC. SNAPSHOT didn't have enough memory to do the whole lot in one go, so this image has been reconstructed from three separate slices.
SNAPSHOT is supplied with GEM Paint and some versions of GEM/2. It is often installed but renamed (to something other than .ACC), so that it doesn't load.
This is GEM/2 running on an emulated BBC Master 512, thanks to BeebEm. There are a couple of subtle visual differences from other x86 GEM versions, both caused by Acorn's video driver.
Firstly, the font used for icon titles is proportionally spaced. It isn't easy to see, but in "PAINT.RSC" the 'T' is wider than the 'I', for instance.
Secondly, the desktop is white rather than the usual checkerboard pattern. This is caused by the way monochrome video drivers handle requests for coloured inks. All other video drivers I'm aware of convert all the colours (except white) to black. The Master 512 driver maps half of the colours to white, and one of them happens to be the blue used for the desktop pattern.
Acorn also supplied a second black and white driver that maps colours to black like everything else, though according to Yellow Pig's BBC Computer Pages it had to be patched to work properly.
The third Acorn driver is a curiosity - it reports to GEM that it is running at 640x256, but the real screen resolution is 320x256 in 4 colours. Adjacent pixels are merged together when the screen is drawn. The same 8x12 font is used for icon captions and system text such as menus. The default colour scheme is as shown (black/white/red/cyan) but can be changed from a DOS prompt using the COLOUR utility (this is also true for 2-colour drivers).
From GEM/2.2, GEM was supplied with a driver for the MDSI Genius Card, an add-on video card which provided a full-page A4 portrait display. As with the VGA driver, this screenshot was made by copying the GEM/3.1 driver into a GEM/2 system, because I don't have the original GEM/2.2 driver.
This screenshot is from "Presentation Graphics Using GEM", which was written in 1986. The book (produced in association with Digital Research) uses screenshots from two different versions - GEM/1, and this version, which appears to be an early beta of GEM/2 v2.0. The desktop looks like the GEM/2 one (though the menus are arranged slightly differently); the window controls have the GEM/1 shapes; and the design of the titlebars, with text on the left and the close button on the right, is unlike any known GEM version. It's quite similar to the tentative window layout described in this account of the settlement with Apple, though.