The retro-minded GNOME Classic session will see a number of usability improvements in Fedora 31, due for release in October.

Red Hat’s Christian F.K. Schaller shares word of several changes to the session in a summary of work that’s underway ahead of the next major release of Fedora.

Now, at this point you might be trying to remember what the GNOME Classic session is. When I first read about these improvements I thought “Oh neat, he means GNOME Flashback!”.


GNOME Classic is its own thing. While similarly minded it’s technically different to the GNOME Flashback session that’s readily available in most distros’ repos (including Ubuntu’s).

What is the GNOME Classic Session?

GNOME Classic in GNOME 3.8
GNOME Classic was introduced in GNOME 3.8

Introduced in GNOME 3.8, GNOME Classic is a simpler, more traditional desktop shell modelled after the GNOME 2 desktop. It uses a two-panel layout with a regular task list on the bottom, and a traditional app menu at the top.

GNOME Classic is built using GNOME 3 technologies and a small set of GNOME Shell extensions

But unlike the GNOME Flashback session the classic session doesn’t use gnome-panel and a bunch of antiquated applets.

Instead, GNOME Classic is built using GNOME 3 technologies, and uses a small selection of specific GNOME Shell extensions to provide an app menu and two-panel layout.

According to a GNOME Wiki page, the session “…is only available on systems with certain GNOME Shell extensions installed. Some Linux distributions may not have these extensions available or installed by default.”

GNOME Classic is seemingly available in Fedora out of the tub, but on Ubuntu you need to install the gnome-shell-extensions package first (thanks Spike!).

See our guide on how to unlock GNOME Classic Mode on Ubuntu

Anyway, back to the point of this post…

They’ve Axed the ‘Activities Overview’

Aware that many Fedora fans make use of this optional (somewhat overlooked) session, Schaller says work has been done to “improve the experience.”

“[GNOME Design’s] Allan Day reviewed the experience and we decided to make it a more pure GNOME 2 style experience by dropping the overview completely when you run classic mode.”

This change alone is big news. It means that the “Activities” overview “famed” in the GNOME Shell desktop will be junked from classic entirely. Users can manage windows normally! Hurrah!

But the work doesn’t stop there.

Schaller adds that developers have also ‘invested effort’ on improving the workspace switcher available in classic mode. The panel applet, he says, is now ‘feature complete’ and even able to work in the regular GNOME Shell desktop.

“We know this [work] will greatly improve the [classic] experience for many of our users and at the same time hopefully let new people switch to Fedora and GNOME to get the advantage of all the other great improvements we are bringing to Linux and the Linux desktop.

Do you use GNOME Classic? Will these improvements help you?
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