Longing for the look and feel of the classic GNOME desktop in Ubuntu 11.10? Well it’s easier to achieve than you might think.

Although Ubuntu 11.10 ships with the Unity desktop, and GNOME 3 in its repositories, aping the looking of the ‘old’ GNOME desktop is easy. All you need is to install a few extra packages and performing a tweak here and there.

The end result is a desktop like this: –

GNOME 2 style desktop in Ubuntu 11.10

How to

The first step is to install the ‘gnome-fallback-session’ from the Ubuntu Software Centre. Click the button below to do this.

Install GNOME Session Fallback

Next, log into the ‘GNOME Classic (No Effects)’ session from the Ubuntu login screen.

classic gnome no effects

This will present you with a desktop that looks something like this: –

It’s GNOME 2-ish, but with a few tweaks we can make the Classic Session look like this:

GNOME 2 style desktop in Ubuntu 11.10


Change the panel background

  • Alt+Right click on the top panel
  • Choose ‘Properties’
  • Select the ‘background’ tab
  • Select background image and click the button
  • Navigate/select ‘usr/share/themes/Ambiance/gtk-2.0/apps/img/panel.png’

Install Ubuntu indicators

  • Add ‘ppa:jconti/gnome3‘ to your Software Sources
  • Update, then install ‘Indicator-applet-complete’.
  • Alt+Right click on the top panel
  • Choose ‘Add Applets’
  • Add ‘Indicator Applet Complete’

Add the Ubuntu Logo to ‘App Menu’

  • Open a new Terminal
  • Run: gksu gedit /usr/share/themes/Ambiance/gtk-3.0/apps/gnome-panel.css
  • Add ‘-PanelMenuBar-icon-visible: true;’ (sans quote marks) to the bottom of the ‘PanelMenuBar.menubar.menuitem’ item (see image)
  • Save
  • Logout and back in to see change take effect
Ubuntu 11.10 GNOME
Changes To Be Made

To move/rearrange panels/item

  • ALT+Right click on a panel or item to add, move or edit it


The GNOME Classic Session doesn’t play too nice with Compiz in Ubuntu 11.10. But we can fix that.

  • Open a Terminal
  • Enter: gksu gedit /usr/share/gnome-session/sessions/gnome-classic.session
  • Change the line:


  • to:


With this fixed you can login to your GNOME 2.x style session using ‘GNOME Classic’ instead of the ‘GNOME Classic (No effects)’.

Like the wallpaper used in our screenshots? Grab it from the following link:

Winter Cut-Out Wallpaper by ~d0od


How To gnome ubuntu