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How to replace Ubuntu 11.10's Unity desktop with good ol' GNOME
Dec. 08, 2011

Ubuntu users who dislike the Unity desktop environment have other alternatives besides sticking with "Maverick Meerkat" or jumping ship to another distro. An illustrated DeviceGuru tutorial shows how to load the GNOME Fallback mode on Ubuntu 11.10 and configure it to provide a GNOME 2.x-like experience.

The last two Ubuntu releases -- 11.04 and 11.10 ("Oneiric Ocelot") have generated controversy among the Ubuntu faithful for pushing the Unity desktop environment and user interface in place of GNOME. Even more so than with the similarly controversial GNOME 3.x, the radically different Unity desktop is oriented toward smaller, touchscreen devices -- just one of several complaints from traditional desktop PC users.

Thanks to Unity, many Ubuntu users have yet to upgrade from earlier versions using GNOME 2.x, thereby missing out on the latest enhancements. Others, meanwhile, appear to be jumping ship to the Ubuntu-based Linux Mint 12, which lets users customize GNOME 3.2 to make it appear more like a GNOME 2.x desktop.

Customized GNOME desktop on Ubuntu 11.10
Source: DeviceGuru
(Click to enlarge)

Before they switch -- or fall farther behind the curve with Ubuntu 10.10 ("Maverick Meerkat") ) -- Unity-averse users should know that 11.10 can be fitted with the traditional GNOME desktop -- with a little effort.

Writing in his DeviceGuru blog, former LinuxDevices Editor in Chief Rick Lehrbaum has posted a step-by-step tutorial on how to install GNOME Fallback mode with some additional configuration tools, and then tweak various settings to arrive at a GNOME2.x experience on Oneiric Ocelot.

The configuration implements the traditional GNOME taskbar on the top of the screen, and places a pair of thin, horizontal panels at the bottom (see image above). This lower panel provides docking space for a main menu button, launchers for a few favorite apps, a status widget tray, and several system control buttons, writes Lehrbaum. Alternatively, he shows how to configure a more traditional Ubuntu configuration with a taskbar at the bottom and a menu/status panel at the top.

The article starts by running through an Ubuntu 11.10 installation, and then guiding the user through the configuration process in the Ubuntu Software Center. After installing GNOME Fallback mode, the user is instructed to find and install tools including Advanced Settings, Configuration Editor, dconf Editor, and "gnome-colors."

Tweaking Ubuntu 10.10 Configuration Editor
Source: DeviceGuru

Lehrbaum then shows how to create the dual lower-panel GNOME desktop, and then configure it with various buttons and widgets. Further configuration options are then explored, such as adding launchers and changing the desktop wallpaper. Lehrbaum then steps the user through customizing options in the Advanced Settings and Configuration Editor tools (see image above).

Finally, Lehrbaum shows how you can fairly easily switch back and forth between the customized GNOME environment and Unity. "Who knows -- in time we all may come to love Unity!" he adds.

The full "Ubuntu 11.10 without Unity shell shock" tutorial, including numerous screenshots, may be found at DeviceGuru.

Related Stories:
  • Final Ubuntu 11.10 spiffs up Unity, adds ARM server support
  • Linux Mint 12 ships as distro's popularity soars
  • OpenSUSE 12.1 ships with GNOME 3.2, SystemD, Snapper, Go tools
  • Ubuntu 11.04 out, awaits Unity verdict/a>
  • Ubuntu 10.10 final ready to roll

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