Restoring Ubuntu Gnome experience in 17.10, reference steps

For those who just couldn’t get used to the new gnome that has a unity twist in it after upgrading from Ubuntu Gnome…

Don’t try this yet as pointed out by popey this could cause problems.

But hey I wrote a script to automate all those steps as well as handling restoration afterwards

Don’t take this wrongly Ubuntu desktop team did a great job creating the new Ubuntu experience based on gnome. It’s just after testing I missed the original Ubuntu Gnome

  1. To restore gdm3 theme (at least they are nice enough to keep that css there)

sudo update-alternatives --config gdm3.css
then pick gnome-shell.css


sudo mv /usr/share/gnome-shell/theme/ubuntu.css /usr/share/gnome-shell/theme/ubuntu.css.bak
sudo ln -s /usr/share/gnome-shell/theme/gnome-shell.css /usr/share/gnome-shell/theme/ubuntu.css

  1. meta packages ubuntu-gnome-desktop and ubuntu-desktop will be reinstalled if they were removed prior. So a bunch of default gnome apps will comeback. Remove them then auto remove carefully

sudo apt remove --purge ubuntu-desktop
sudo apt install -packages that you wish to keep but are marked for auto removing-
sudo apt autoremove --purge

  1. Install gnome-session if it’s a fresh ubuntu install

sudo apt install gnome-session

  1. You can remove ubuntu-session to get rid of those login entries. An autoremove afterwards will remove the indicator extension that came as an system extension as well as the Ubuntu customized dash to dock. xcursor-themes might get autoremoved too so you might want to install that back for xorg Gnome session to work. Oh and you’ll have to change /usr/share/xsessions/gnome-xorg.desktop to specify --session=gnome after removing ubuntu-session.

sudo apt remove --purge ubuntu-session
sudo apt install -packages that you wish to keep but are marked for auto removing-
sudo apt autoremove --purge
sudo sed -i ‘s/Exec=gnome-session/Exec=gnome-session --session=gnome/’ /usr/share/xsessions/gnome-xorg.desktop
sudo sed -i ‘s/TryExec=gnome-session --session=gnome/TryExec=gnome-session/’ /usr/share/xsessions/gnome-xorg.desktop

This should restore most of the Ubuntu Gnome experience that we loved. Type ahead search in nautilus is gone since Ubuntu desktop team stopped patching nautilus for unity to include that feature. We can no longer enable that through gsettings or dconf :frowning:

Step 3 is unnecessary and will stop working the next time that package is updated. Just install gnome-session

If you uninstall your metapackage (ubuntu-desktop), you could have more issues when you upgrade to new Ubuntu releases.

I think the intent of this site to collaborate on making Ubuntu better. I think your post is better suited for the Ubuntu Forums or maybe Ask Ubuntu or your personal website.

Step 3 assumed that gnome-session was installed since it was targetting users tho upgraded from Ubuntu Gnome

To reiterate what Jeremy said, and as a warning to new users, removing the ubuntu-desktop package is likely to cause problems in the future.

Installing the “gnome-session” package is a safer, if a little less vanilla, way to experience an upstream GNOME desktop, and new users should be aware of the risks of trying out these steps.


I’ll also add my voice to @willcooke and @jbicha - this line is “short term gain, long term pain” personified.

Later down the line, when a user wishes to upgrade their system, they will often find something they did 6 months ago which comes back to bite them, and breaks the upgrade. This is the #1 example of that. Users who randomly remove packages from the install may find their experience ‘better’ but when they come to upgrade their system they will likely completely forget they did this, and may not realise the impact either. They will likely come to our support channels and complain that upgrades are broken, and it’s our fault. This is incredibly frustrating for volunteers giving their time to support Ubuntu. It also helps perpetuate that Ubuntu upgrades are ‘broken’ when in fact it’s often the case that the user ‘broke’ their system 6 months ago, but completely forgot they did it. :frowning:


That’s an interesting point but I’m quite uncertain about that. Whenever a user removes a package that comes pre-installed by the the meta package ubuntu-desktop, such as ubuntu-session, the meta package will get removed as well. Will that cause the same problem?

Yup! Happens all the time.

I frequently “fix” systems by telling users to apt install ubuntu-desktop^ to re-install the task. It’s surprising how much gets put back which was missing.

This has been an issue for many years dating back to scripts people used to use to trick out their systems. Anyone remember automatix?

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Was about when I first pitched up on the forum in 2007. Saw it mentioned in places, saw it being frowned on in the forum, ignored it - probably a good call :wink:


/me shivers just thinking about it :slight_smile:

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It’s funny that you bring up automatix, but isn’t that Wimpy did with the software boutique? It’s a list of very carefully curated software that runs scripts to install 3rd party software on to your system. Was automatix rubbish? Well, yeah, okay, you got me there. It was a bit head of its time, and I think it laid the ground work for some future programs on how to install non-repo applications.


No :slight_smile:

Automatix did some pretty nasty things under the covers, way beyond just adding a repo and installing a package. What @Wimpress does with Software Boutique is way more considered, and supported by someone who works on the platform. Automatix was a hack.



Thank you for the reply.

WHY!! WHY!! WHY!! why on earth would you remind anyone of “Automatix” that thing was the bane of most “Ubuntu Linux” users and converts… Popey really is an evil man!

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Any reason why:

sudo apt install vanilla-gnome-desktop

Isn’t simpler?


Don’t you think that some of those, who play with/modify their system do it for checking out how far they can go? Even, if they use that modified system for daily use, they’d keep their data in another partition, and that even if the system breaks, it really doesn’t matter as you can always reinstall a fresh system. And, that kind of testing actually helps, of course, if they don’t pester other users to help to correct problems they created themselves.

Let me explain. 1TB is not a big deal these days in laptops, so you can have quite a few Ubuntu derivatives. Just about 12GB partition is enough to hold a derivative. And, all of them can have all the apps you like in each one. You save your data in another partition, which can be accessed from any distro/derivative. So, if one system dies, no big deal. You just re-install.

EDIT: Just looked in my Ubuntu 18.04 installation. I had uninstalled ubuntu-desktop, but had left the ubuntu-session. I had done this at the very beginning. This install had been downloaded the first day the 18.04 daily was released. I had immediately purged Ubuntu-dock. Simply, because I never liked Dash2Dock. The other thing is that Dash2Panel consolidates both dash and the top panel. Then added GnoMenu, removed Applications icon from the panel, disabled the top left hotcorner, enabled bottom left hotcorner. Now, I have a workable easy-on-the-wrist system. I don’t have to look at the full-screen default applications menu. I had the same thing done in 17.10.

I won’t install gnome-session without ubuntu-session, for it has only one session, can’t remember which. I had done that test.

Never knew that it was there. Thanks!
I am not a gnome guy. Just installed it, removed ubuntu-session. Got a lighter colour desktop without any enabled system extensions. They are there, but not enabled by default. Can get rid of them manually but won’t as their existence doesn’t trouble. Nice test bed!
Hope, this vanilla-gnome-desktop will be around.

I’ve been using this vanilla-gnome-desktop for work the whole day today. It appears easier to use than the default Ubuntu. It is just the former Ubuntu-Gnome.

I’d be interested in hearing what specifically you found easier with default Gnome over the tweaks Ubuntu have made for 17.10.

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No default enabled system extension Dash2dock fork, so nothing really to uninstall by force. The available system extensions in vanilla-gnome-desktop are not enabled by default, so can be easily ignored. You are free to install any extension as you wish. No restrictions.