Linux

How to install GNOME 3.8 on Ubuntu

If you want to try Ubuntu 13.04, but prefer a different desktop than Unity, Jack Wallen shows you how you can install the latest iteration of GNOME Shell (3.8) and why you should give it a try.

Ubuntu 13.04 has recently hit and, from my perspective, it's a "raring" hit. And though I find Unity one of the finest user interfaces available, there are those that haven't had the same experience. For those people, I'm going to run a short series on installing other desktops, so you don't have to avoid the Ubuntu experience.

In this first entry, I'm going to illustrate how you can get the latest release of GNOME installed and running. It's not even remotely difficult -- but must be done through the command line.

But first... why GNOME? Isn't GNOME 3 just a launcher away from being Unity? Yes and no. Some might find that the built-in compositor, Mutter, is far smoother than that of Unity. The desktop also takes a much more minimalist approach (without losing functionality). Other features to 3.8 that have made improvements over previous iterations, are:

  • Figure AEasier application launch: When you view the application overlay, you will notice a new tab at the bottom -- Frequent/All (Figure A, click to enlarge). With this tab you can more easily find the apps you frequently open (without having to clutter up your launcher with too many apps).
  • Docs: Is the default document viewer for GNOME and includes built-in support for Google Docs.
  • Search optimization: From within the Search Settings pane (in the Settings tool), you can fine-tune search results.
  • Message Tray accessibility: Click Super+M to open and close the message tray and click Super+N to expand a notification.
  • Privacy: There's a new settings pane (in the Settings tool), where you can configure privacy and notification.
  • ownCloud support: Connect to your ownCloud account directly through the GNOME online accounts management tool.
  • Improved graphics rendering: You should find 3.8 to be a vast improvement over previous iterations of GNOME 3 in the way of graphics rendering. Video playback is much smoother and animations are seamless and slick.

If I've managed to tempt you enough to try, let's install.

Installation

Here are the steps for installing GNOME 3.8 on your Ubuntu desktop:

  1. Open up a terminal window.
  2. Add the GNOME PPA repository with the command: sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3
  3. Hit Enter.
  4. When prompted, hit Enter again.
  5. Update and install with this command: sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install gnome-shell ubuntu-gnome-desktop
  6. When prompted, select the login manager of choice (LightDM is the default Unity manager and GDM is the GNOME default -- either will work).
  7. When the installation completes, close the terminal and reboot the system.
  8. Select GNOME at the login screen and log in.

To test to make sure you have the latest version, open up a terminal window and issue the command gnome-shell --version. You should see something like GNOME Shell 3.8.1.

But if there are those that prefer the old GNOME, you can get your Classic GNOME on with a simple command. Do this:

  1. Open up a terminal window.
  2. Issue the command: sudo apt-get install gnome-session-fallback
  3. Log out.
  4. Select GNOME Fallback.
  5. Log in.

You can now enjoy the old-fashioned, two-panel GNOME.

You don't have to avoid Ubuntu 13.04, just because you're not a fan of Unity. Remember, one of Linux's strong points has always been choice. Give GNOME 3.8 (or GNOME Classic) a try and see if you don't find a desktop that better suits your needs. I would, of course, highly recommend you give Unity another try. With the continued improvements seen in 13.04, I believe Unity has become one of the most efficient and user-friendly desktops available. But... everyone has their own opinion (and I highly respect those opinions).

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

25 comments
dokadya
dokadya

i installed gnome-fallback and gnome-shell


i am logging in for GNOME and not GNOME CLASSIC.. still its showing classical one. why ?

kronictokr
kronictokr

  1. Open up a terminal window.
  2. Add the GNOME PPA repository with the command: sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3
  3. Hit Enter.
  4. Update and install with this command: sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install gnome-shell gnome
  5. When prompted, select the login manager of choice (LightDM is the default Unity manager and GDM is the GNOME default -- either will work).
  6. When the installation completes, close the terminal and reboot the system.
  7. Select GNOME at the login screen and log in.
bobc4012
bobc4012

What you say may be good for Linux gurus such as yourself, but not for the newbie coming from an XP environment or used a WUBI install of Ubuntu with a Gnome 2 desktop or even those who are somewhat adept at figuring things out and just want to get work done. I had been a long time Ubuntu user but they lost me with the switch to Unity. Nor did Gnome 3 impress me either. At my age, if I can't remember where I just put my glasses or car keys, asking me to remember some application name that I have to type in the search box vs clicking on the start menu and seeing familiar categories where I suspect what I want to be found out. that is akin to going back to the command line days. At least back then, my mind was much sharper and I knew how to invoke Help - even how to request the arguments for various commands I could remember off the top of my hair-thinning head. Personally I agree with some of Jack's statements in various articles. The Linux community needs to get its act together and decide upon a basic standard distro - usable at the basic level - and let the differences be the "bells and whistles" that they can add on - like "turnkey systems". That would bring a lot more converts to Linux. As far as the "gurus", they really don't need the help in figuring things out. They can load and tailor the packages they want. I also don't want newbies having to back up data and restore and reconfigure everytime an upgrade messed up (more than once I had to re-install because an Ubuntu upgrade went south (or maybe to Pluto or wherever)). Yes, I know its smart to make backups of your data regularly, but many don't do it until they get stung. Even then you can get burnt if your backup volume gets nailed somehow (Windows 7 did this to 2 of my external drives during backup 1.5TB lost and struggling to recover what I can).

bobc4012
bobc4012

I experienced similar problems. I found it easier to download Linux Mint with MATE (there are some sites that provide Mint with KDE, MATE or Cinnamon - pick your ...). I believe Mint also has a longer LTS cycle than Ubuntu (until 2017 - can't remember if it was 13, 14 or 15). One big beef I have with Linux (at least within a given distro) is you can't burn an ISO and install over an existing installation and maintain all your configuration settings. WHile Brainstorm's reply about the Home directory is a good one and a favorite among more experienced Linux users, it is confusing for newbies and the like and scares off users looking to leave Windows - go into system files?!?! It is bad enough to tell them to use the command line, but to muck around with system files (even if it is just one)?

bobc4012
bobc4012

I worked with command lines longer than that and always had a problem with Unix's cryptic command lines. Those in MS DOS are far more intuitive than "nix" commands. I know the history of both and Unix was never developed (at least not to my knowledge) to be sold as a product, but moreso to get the Bell Lab projects done. I suspect if the developers of Unix, C, et al could have foreseen the future, they may have made a few different development decisions - then again, maybe not. Regardless, Unix was developed with a much sounder base than Q-DOS (whoops, I meant MS-DOS). For those unaware, Q-DOS (Quick and Dirty DOS) was bought by Microsoft from Seattle Computer Products for $40K as the story goes.

kitico
kitico

After installing GNOME3 I did get some aspects of the gnome interface, but I think the video driver was a little messed up and some UI features of gnome didn't work as a result. Some systems windows were not fully visible and could not scroll. Some windows did not respond to their close boxes. Multiple desktop panels did not switch with keyboard shortcuts and had no system menus when clicked. It was a mess. The Unity interface bothers me, but I'm worried that I may have to switch to another distro if it continues to really bother me.

rkircher
rkircher

It didn't work for me either. The ideal replacement for Unity is Xfce. I have just replaced my crippled Ubuntu with Xubuntu 12.04.2 LTS and so far it seems likes a usable Desktop graphical interface that is better than the un-achievable Classic Gnome. Unity was a bad attempt to go the way of Windows 8. Now that Microsoft is admitting defeat and replacing Windows 8.0 with 8.1 and going back, there is no reason Ubuntu should not do the same and revert back to Ubuntu 11.04 that had a Classic Gnome that worked.

alzie
alzie

my window manager selection. There isnt any any more, and i cant back out of this change. Huge bummer!

mike.walsh
mike.walsh

Well that didn't work so well!! I have Ubuntu 12.10 running and I followed steps 1 to 7 of the installation instructions above, and I chose LightDM as the login manager. But after I rebooted I did not get the login screen described in step 8. My computer is dual boot, windows XP or Ubuntu. It is a Lenovo Thinkcentre desktop. When I start my computer I choose Ubuntu from GRUB. When my PC re-started after this Gnome installation, the background for the Grub boot selector is now a dim blue instead of the previous dark maroon. I chose Ubuntu and pressed Enter. Then after a short while a graphic background appeared on my monitor consisting of vertical stripes shaded blue, mid-blue and gray. This remained for a few seconds then it went straight to the normal Unity login screen. No Gnome. There is no choice to choose Gnome or Unity. How do I find out what went wrong, and then either: 1) Fix it, or, 2) Remove it, or, 3) Perhaps upgrade to Ubuntu 13.04 (Would that cure the problem?). Perhaps the Gnome was mugged by a Dwarf? I am sympathetic to Linux. The first time I installed it was Red Hat version 6 in 1999. I would love to be able to love it, but ... Any ideas ??? Thanks, Mike.

mike.walsh
mike.walsh

el.baby, thanks for your reply. I'll try it. I'm not worried by the command line (or the CLI, Command Line Interpreter as MS called it). The first OS I learnt was RT-11 on a PDP11/10 in 1973. After that I became very proficient with the MS-DOS CLI from DOS ver 3.2 onwards. My colleagues were envious that I knew all the MSDOS commands, and their switches, and I knew what they did. I still use the CLI occasionally, and write batch files. But as my brain is aging I find it more difficult to learn the syntax of the Linux CLI commands, and to "unlearn" the DOS that is embedded in my memory.

el.baby
el.baby

Even when I am a heavy command line user (I come from old Unix and have used MS-DOS also), I think that you can do everything you explain without using the command line (however, i think it is harder to explain). I've never used it, but this page explains how to add a PPA within the Software Center: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Repositories/Ubuntu#Adding_PPAs

mike.walsh
mike.walsh

Will Gnome 3.8 work with earlier versions of Ubuntu, specifically 12.04 LTS?? If so, I'll give it a try.

Brainstorms
Brainstorms

I'm almost to your age, and it's only the accumulation of the last 5 years of using Ubuntu that I have the know-how I do. And I still regularly refer to web sites to "fill in the cracks" and learn new things & new techniques. (Nice thing about Linux: You can approach it bit-by-bit and still be successful along the way. You don't have to be a guru from the get-go.) The situation you described is why I recommend Linux Mint to new users; it not only has menus (Mate desktop), but also comes with more "essentials" pre-installed (such as video & audio codecs) that Ubuntu is prevented from including by default due to redistribution rights issues. Ubuntu does a poor job of telling you about this situation, and what you can/need to do. Websites *do* help. (Google phrases such as "things to do to Ubuntu after installation" to find them.) Xubuntu (Ubuntu with the Xfce desktop) will also give you "Ubuntu with menus", but has the same codecs, etc. issues as Unity-based Ubuntu. Zorin might overcome this, like Mint, but I've not used it. The idea of keeping a separate 'home' partition is the general answer to your problem of having to backup & restore your data (home accounts) when rebuilding Linux. (It also allows you to boot to different Linux installations on the same machine; I keep two distros installed myself.) But, as you note, it requires set up by the user, because the major distros (including Ubuntu) don't set your disk up this way by default. Maybe they should. This situation is unfortunate; a little more work on their part would save users a lot of frustrations; as you say, it's not fair to ask the new user to know how to do this.

Brainstorms
Brainstorms

is unachievable not because Canonical "abandoned it" for Unity; it's because the Gnome Team abandoned it and basically told the Linux world, "Move on to Gnome 3 or write your own" -- which Canonical did. It's co-incidental that when the Gnome Team decided that Classic Gnome needed to be retired that the tablet/smartphone world began ramping up to a platform demanding attention. That unfortunately made it look like Canonical turned its nose up at Gnome 2 and stranded its user base, but that's not the case. And unfortunately there's no "going back" as there's nothing to go back to. Canonical is an "OEM customer" of the Gnome Team, not its owner, and they're not in the position to adopt its codebase to keep it alive. (It's not worth it, since its technology can't support modern hardware & platforms; that's why the Gnome Team abandoned it.) Canonical had their reasons for rolling their own instead of adopting Gnome 3 (which was as buggy & problematic early-on as Unity was -- there was no clear alternative, and rolling you own was viable). I myself prefer Gnome Shell over Unity, but I have no complaints about Unity. I'm sure it will do fine on both desktops & tablets, which is the goal. (It does improve noticeably with each release.) However, Gnome 2 fans rejoice! There was enough hew & cry for Gnome 2 that a group did get together, forked it, and is keeping it alive under the name 'Mate'. It's an installation option for Linux Mint, which is itself a repackaged Ubuntu. So there's another reason for Canonical to keep working towards the future of computing platforms with Unity rather than trying to keep a Model T running: Someone else is already doing it. Download a copy of Mint, or continue with Xubuntu. The great thing about Linux is its "cafeteria plan". Remember, "It's not to my taste" does not conflate with "It's not good". To each their own, live & let live, lest the Linux world become like Microsoft!

Brainstorms
Brainstorms

Your description indicates that Gnome Shell did start up, but after a couple of seconds it crashed. You could look in the log files in '/var/log' for a clue as to what happened... (You could also upgrade and try installing it in 13.04.)

bobc4012
bobc4012

My earlier trials with Mint did not leave me all that impressed. However, since Mint 12 and later, it has come a long way IMO. I am primarily using Mint12 with MATE. I also use it with XFCE at times. I did use Zorin for a while, but ran into an occasional "gotcha" - same with Solus and Zeven. I have VirtualBox set up on my desktop and try the different distros. I have an old "hand-me-down" Acer laptop which had XP until the HD went south. I put Mint 13 and Zorin each on its own 16GB USB stick (less than $10 each and just bought a 32GB for $17). I wanted to put Mint 15 on the 32GB, but the laptop does set the PAE flag (Celeron M - Intel M CPUs, from what I read, actually have PAE implemented, but don't set the flag - CPUINFO). I have read a work-around, but have not successfully implemented it yet. Maybe by then, my younger son will buy a new laptop and give me his old one (a Dell this time) as the screen is starting to go (two more vertical pixel lines popped up the other day) plus the ethernet was broke from day one (cold solder joint?). He used wireless from the beginning and never checked the ethernet connection until after the warranty expired!

mike.walsh
mike.walsh

In an attempt to get the Gnome 3.8 desktop working I upgraded to Ubuntu 13.04 from 12.10 (bad decision, but more on that later). After upgrading to 13.04, still no login manager comes up, I just get the background of the blue/green-shaded vertical stripes for a few seconds, then the regular Unity login line appears, but no Gnome 3.8. I then tried re-installing Gnome 3.8 according to Jack's instructions above. I thought about installing the GDM login manager, but I was saved from having to make that decision, because Point 6 described above didn't happen during the re-install! The install process came to an end without asking me which login manager I wanted. So, no luck there, and still no Gnome 3.8 desktop. And not only that, but now Ubuntu 13.04 is screwed up too, because Firefox doesn't work. When I open a Firefox browser, it lets me get to a few websites, but after about a minute the Firefox window goes dark with a greyish overlay, and freezes. So not only has Gnome 3.8 failed to install and work, but now the web-browsing is cocked up too. As I said above, I would love to be able to love this Ubuntu/Linux system, but I just don't have time to mess around with it. I have work to do and I need a system that will upgrade reliably, and work reliably. Is there a way to downgrade from 13.04 to 12.04 LTS whilst keeping my data, or am I stuck with this broken system until 14.04 comes out. Or do I have to backup everything and re-install Ubuntu 12.04 LTS from scratch. What a pain in the --- !!

Brainstorms
Brainstorms

The Ubuntu team (Canonical) decided that after 12.04 (Precise), they would no longer support the non-PAE kernel. Not only are 32-bit processors becoming uncommon, 32-bit processors that don't support PAE are VERY scarce indeed. The last Mint version that would support non-PAE installations, then, is Mint 13 -- as you seem to have discovered. But Mint 13 is based on the Ubuntu LTS version 12.04, so it will be supported for the next 5 years. Almost certainly by then all the very old non-PAE 32-bit CPUs will have been retired... PAE is supported by Intel Pentium Pro and later Pentium-series processors (i.e., Pentium 2, 3, 4, and Core series) -- except most 400 MHz-bus versions of the Pentium M, which is what you have in your laptop. I've heard about "Fake PAE" as a workaround, but why bother? I would simply retire the laptop. Your time is better spent making faster, newer hardware work, and you'll love the performance improvement. If you want to keep your old laptop (I have a Thinkpad with a Mendocino (P2) Celeron 433 CPU from 1999), then try a Linux distro that's made for older, limited PCs. I can recommend Slitaz as a first choice -- an impressive Linux distro created by a team in Switzerland. You can also try Puppy Linux (probably the "Wary" version, which is for older hardware). I've gotten both to run on my oldest hardware: A 1997 laptop with a 120 MHz Pentium 1 CPU, 48MB of RAM, and a 1.3 GB hard drive.

Brainstorms
Brainstorms

So at this point you appear to have Gnome removed, leaving Unity. Now repeat the installation procedure that Jack provided in the article. I actually use these commands: sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3 sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install -y gnome-shell ubuntu-gnome-desktop sudo apt-get install -y gnome-session-fallback ...then reboot & change your login type to Gnome and log in.

mike.walsh
mike.walsh

Correction from me. I have a typo. I did enter the command sudo apt-get autoremove ... where I described it.

mike.walsh
mike.walsh

Brainstorms thanks for your help but ... Well ... this is driving me crazy. I started Ubuntu (13.04) and issued Ctl-Alt-F1 to get a command line. The prompt asked me to log in, so I lgged in with my username and password. I issued the command sudo apt-get remove ubuntu-desktop I was asked to confirm, (Y/n), and I entered Y. I then rebooted by issuing sudo reboot The systemn rebooted. GRUB came up as normal, so I chose Ubuntu, expecting a command line interface to come up, but it didn't. Instead I got the normal Unity GUI asking me for my log-in password. I entered my password and Unity fired up as it normally did. What the ... ? I thought I had removed the Ubuntu/Unity desktop. Maybe I was going crazy. So I opened a terminal again and re-issued: sudo apt-get remove ubuntu-desktop I then got a reply asking me to use the command autoremove I re-issued the command but used autoremove instead of remove, sudo apt-get remove ubuntu-desktop This time a lot more packages were listed as being removed. I issued sudo reboot The system restarted, GRUB came up, I selected UBUNTU, and the Unity password window came up again (not the command line), I entered my password, and Unity fired up as normal. Again I thought What the ... I thought I'd removed this thing. I opened a terminal window again and re-issued the command to remove ubuntu desktop, and received a few lines of description, amongst which was a line saying Package ubuntu-desktop is not installed, so not removed. Then I thought agin, am I crazy? "Maybe this is Gnome running and I just don't know it.""Maybe Gnome looks exactly the same as Unity and I don't know what to look for to see the difference?" So I thought I'd better make sure I remove Gnome too, just in case that is what I'm looking at though I really didn't think so. But I didn't know how to find out which desktop was really running, so I thought I'd better be sure that it was removed anyway. So I opened up a terminal window again and issued the command sudo apt-get remove gnome-shell ubuntu-gnome-desktop The system replied that Package gnome-shell is not installed, so not removed. (And) Package ubuntu-gnome-desktop is not installed, so not removed. So ... If ubuntu-destop is not installed and gnome is not installed, why does the system GUI fire up as it normally does with the Unity GUI. It looks like Unity. It has the launcher at the top left, and all the icons below it on the left side of the screen. It looks just like the day I installe 12.04 a month ago.It operates normally. I can click on the launcher, and type something like "system" and it responds with half a dozen icons and their names, ready to start those applications for me. And those applications start when I click them. I don't get it. If I have removed the ubuntu-desktop, and the system tells me the package is not installed, why does Unity start up? If I click on the system setting icon (the cog-wheel with the wrench overlaying it) and then click on Details on the bottom line, it tells me that Ubuntu 13.04 is running, as per normal. It looks just like Unity is running even though the system tells me it is not installed. I don't get it at all !! (By the way, don't worry about the data in /home. I have it backed up to a Blackarmor server, and there is nothing very important in it. I have copies of it elsewhere). And I can modify partitions with Gparted if necessary.

Brainstorms
Brainstorms

Press Ctrl + Alt + F1, then log in to get a command line ...

Brainstorms
Brainstorms

There's no (easy) downgrade path, unfortunately. You could try uninstalling, then re-installing your desktop manager first: , then log in to get a command line, then sudo apt-get remove ubuntu-desktop then reboot (to the command line; you won't have a desktop yet) and enter sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop then reboot and you should have a working desktop again. If you want to re-install from scratch, and you have your '/home' directory in a separate partition, that would help (but isn't necessary). If not, and you have (or can make available) 10 or 12 GB of space on your hard drive, I would install 12.04 or 13.04 in that space, then delete all but your '/home' in the partition with the corrupted display manager, then edit '/etc/fstab' to mount your home partition to '/home'. Otherwise, you could boot the desktop CD, remove all but your '/home' partition (to preserve your data), rename '/home' (to prevent overwriting), then install -- being sure to NOT format the hard drive! Then you can swap home directories to restore your original account directories.

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