Ubuntu – How to revert to GNOME Classic Desktop


I'm used to GNOME Classic and personally don't want to change to anything else, but it seems there is no more GNOME Classic in the Oneiric release. After apt-get installed gnome-session and all, though there comes back the GNOME Classic option in the session listbox, however, after logged in, it seems not the expected one.

There is no System menu in the top bar, and I couldn't customize panels at all. I want to change the appearance(theme), but I can't find Appearance menu at all. And much more differences to my previous experience of GNOME classic shell.

There are multiple valid answers for this question spanning over several versions of Ubuntu. For your convenience an index of each below:

Best Answer

11.10 Overview

The older GNOME 2.x experience has been retired in GNOME, however you can use the GNOME 3.x classic mode (as shown below) to make an approximation of the older experience.

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install prerequisites

In the software center you have the option to install Gnome Shell Install gnome-shell:

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Similarly - search for CompizConfig Settings Manager Install compizconfig-settings-manager and install this package - we'll need that later.

Whilst you are there you can also install gnome-tweak-tool Install gnome-tweak-tool to further customise your desktop.

To quickly install all three of these at once, copy and paste the following into a terminal:

sudo apt-get install gnome-shell compizconfig-settings-manager gnome-tweak-tool

enabling compiz

Now perhaps the tricky part - getting gnome classic to function with compiz:

In a terminal copy and paste the following:

gksudo gedit /usr/share/gnome-session/sessions/gnome-classic.session

Now edit the file shown to contain this line entry:

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How to login to Gnome-Classic

Save, logout and in your session options choose Gnome Classic

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Changing the theme

You'll notice that the default Ubuntu Ambiance theme doesn't look great in Gnome Classic. We can correct this by changing to a Gnome 3 friendly theme.

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... and choosing Appearance enter image description here

Change the theme to Adwaita... enter image description here

Note - see the linked questions below for other theming options.

Changing Icons

Launch gnome-tweak-tool via the menu option:

  • Applications --> Other --> Advanced Settings

Change the icon theme as shown:

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Restructure the desktop layout

Now lets get back the panels to something that we are familiar with...

Press Alt+Win and right-click the top menu bar - N.B. Win is the Windows Symbol key

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(If you are using Gnome Classic (No Effects) i.e. gnome fallback mode then to add to the panel use Alt and right-click)

Choose Add to Panel

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Click the option shown and click the button Forward

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Repeat the Alt+Win + Right Click the date and choose Delete to delete the clock.

Repeat this delete procedure for the other applets on the top-panel.

Note - if an error appears indicating that the Panel has reloaded you can safely ignore this.

Repeat the Alt+Win + Right Click the top panel - add the applet Accessibility.

Repeat the Alt+Win + Right Click on bottom panel - add the applet Show Desktop and move to the bottom left.

Repeat the Alt+Win + Right Click on bottom panel - add the applet Wastebasket and move to the bottom right.

Now we need to change the number of workspaces back to two.

Navigate to Applications - Other - CompizConfig Settings Manager - General Options - Desktop Size and change the Vertical Virtual Size value to 1

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Install the indicator-applet

Now lets install the indicator-applet:

To add to the panel:

Alt+Win+Right click the panel and choose Add To Panel and add the following indicator

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Finish off by Alt+Win+Right click the indicator-applet and move it to the right side of the top panel.


  • You can install fonts-cantarell Install fonts-cantarell if you want to use the default upstream GNOME font

Linked Questions:

  1. Delete extra toolbar on top of the screen in GNOME fallback mode?
  2. How do I revert Alt-tab behavior to switch between windows on the current workspace?
  3. How do I change to a theme not listed in the Appearance screen?
  4. If you use autologin you need to do this: How do I set the GNOME Classic login to be the default with autologin?
  5. How to re-add indicator-applet for 11.10
  6. How to customize the gnome classic panel
  7. Warning: What are some of the issues with CCSM and why would I want to avoid it?