Goodbye GNOME 2, Hello GNOME 2?


Many Linux users who have been GNOME fans for years find themselves in a sudden quandary. GNOME 3.0 has completely abandoned the desktop experience we've come to love during the years. That's not to say change is bad, it's just that many folks (even Linus Torvalds) don't really want to change.

As an Ubuntu user for several years, I'm accustomed to how well Canonical makes Linux on the desktop "just work". Unfortunately, Ubuntu's alternative to the GNOME 3 switch is Unity. I want to like Unity. I've forced myself to use it to see if it might grow on me after a while. It hasn't. And, to make matters worse, version 11.10 won't have a classic GNOME option, which means I either need to bite the bullet and get used to Unity or go with an alternative.

Thankfully, XFCE has all the features I love about GNOME. No, XFCE isn't exactly like GNOME, but it feels more like GNOME 2 than GNOME 3 does! If you are like me and desperately want to have the old GNOME interface you know and love, I recommend checking out Xubuntu (the version of Ubuntu that uses XFCE). With minimal tweaking, it can look and feel like GNOME 2. Plus, XFCE has the ability to start GNOME (or KDE) services on login, which means GNOME-native apps usually "just work".

The time may come when we're forced to adopt a new desktop model. For the time being, however, alternatives like XFCE or even LDXE offer familiar and highly functional desktop experiences. If you fear GNOME 3 and Unity, try XFCE. Download Xubuntu and check it out:


Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.


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Not best friends but...

HaylieD's picture

I wouldn't go so far to say that I like GNOME 3, I'd rather have the user experience of 2 if I could choose (which I can not). But 3 is not THAT bad, I worked with it fow a while and now that everything is familiar we do well together, will not become best friends though. Tierkäfig

Am I the only one who *likes* Gnome 3?

Cody's picture

I honestly really like Gnome 3..... LOL

The more productive user

Jin Micro's picture

The more productive user interfaces are on CentOS 5/6 and Ubuntu 1.04LTS gnome.. certainly absolutely true.
-Forex Brokers

Gnome 3

Barry Schinnerer's picture

I am staying with Ubuntu 10.04. It is the most stable and most usable Linux desktop out there for Windows drop outs or anybody else for that matter. Ubuntu 10.04 runs like lightning on my old Dell Inspiron 1501 with one single core CPU. Ubuntu 10.04 saved me from Gnome3 and Windows(I'd rather use a pen and pencil)! Thanks for the old Ubuntu! Barry

use GNOME2

Domain Checker Tool's picture

I like to use GNOME2, because it has a more complete application

I want an actual store that

Anonymous's picture

I want an actual store that sells laptops MEANT FOR gaming, that use Windows 7. Thanks, I couldnt find any myself. good gaming laptops

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Alan GeorgAlan Georg's picture

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Gnome3 is such a POS. No one

Anonymous's picture

Gnome3 is such a POS. No one I know will touch it. They and all my clients are staying on Gnome2 till there is a better solution. No thanx, don't want XFCE, Debian or KDE. The unsuccess of Gnome3 looks like that Hope And Change thing. Ha!

I recently went on a os trial spree

DiveBarPornStar 's picture

I recently went on a os trial spree I was frustrated with Ubuntu unity not allowing classic mode. so I went to Kubuntu on laptop and fedora on desktop. My original plan was to put mint 11 on laptop but it had a install issue that I could not fix and there is still a bug ticket on it. I recently went to mint 12 on laptop and I dike the dual desktop the gives me the things i did like about gnome and mate. I recently went to Xubuntu on desktop and I think i like it better so much in fact i am thing of putting it on my laptop. Its every thing i liked about the old Ubuntu. i just hope Ubuntu and gnome take notice to people leaving because unity and gnome3.The whole point of Linux is to tweek it and tweek it simply and not have a go to the ends of the earth to do that. I just hope Ubuntu does not try and put unity on their xfce Xubuntu. I will say this in closing I am not a total hater of unity and gnone3 they would be super on a tablet format and I am thinking that is what they are going for. but i still don't want it on my non touch screen device.

I think that this is really

Lizzie's picture

I think that this is really useful for many users of Linux and it will make their work easier in many ways.
Anvelope Iarna

gnome 3 is terrible and slow

Prabhath's picture

Gnome 3 is terrible. i am a linux user but..after using one day I uninstalled ubuntu (gnome3) from my pc and installed old version.gnome 3 is very slow goodbye gnome3..

I didn't knew this thing by

Anonymous's picture

I didn't knew this thing by now..I think I'll no longer use this version.. :D
thank's for the information Prabhath

It's slow, not deadly.

Anonymous's picture

It's OK if you like GNOME 2 better than 3 (I just hate GNOME 3's bugs), but try it out for yourself before uninstalling it. Consult multiple sources, just because it's slow for one user doesn't mean you need to act on the comment right away (it sounded like you were going to uninstall GNOME 3 just because of the comment you replied to!)


FEDUX's picture

I have been linux user since Fedora 6 (ZOD), initially I liked GNOME, and it was a good start, after gaining popularity GNOME started blotting up with all Google Applications for some reason over by the years, and all these applications are linked badly with basic GNOME-PANEL or GNOME-DESKTOP. Removing these applications also disturb GNOME-Desktop-Settings badly beyond easy recovery.

I prefer KDE, LXDE or XFCE over GNOME. But, KDE is not light weight requires lots of resources. While LXDE AND XFCE are really much better choices over GNOME.

2007 was the best year for

BAD's picture

2007 was the best year for Linux. After that there were to many bugs in the kernal. Too many changes one year hardware worked the next it didn't. '08 and'09 Linux distro's ware almost unusable. Now more changes KDE 4 and Unity. Unfortunatly Linux has turned into a test bed for new software and 64 bit development. 32 bit runs slow as a dog.

2007 best year?

Runaway1956's picture

I wanted to argue with you. Really, I did. If 2007 was the best year, then we must be going downhill. And, that sucks.

But, I guess I sorta agree with you. KDE was great, and Gnome was even better. Enlightenment was really, really new, and showed promise. While the alternatives were good too.

Today? Enlightenment is still in development, the other alternatives seem to be at a standstill, and both Gnome and KDE have become unsightly resource hogs.

If things continue as they are going, I may switch off to Windoze!

Gnome 3

Anonymous's picture

Fluxbox Forever.
Gnome3 is junk; just when Gnome 2 was getting to be almost usable of course it was scrapped. KDE4 is junk; the last really good KDE was version 2. Likely the XFCE people are working hard at turning THAT into junk too, and I don't like the mouse.

The Price of Progress...

Stephen Conklin's picture

You know, I've been using Linux since RHL 6.5. And, every version of Linux I've used since then (including Ubuntu), it's always been like, "Oh, look, it's the same, but wait, there's something new, too!". With the release of Natty, I was like, "Holy crap! What's this?" Now with Oneiric, it seems to be getting back into the groove. I've tried Plasma (KDE), XCFE, GNOME 3, and even tried to go back to GNOME 2. But, for some weird reason, I keep going back to Unity. I mean, yes, it's a good deal more difficult to configure than GNOME 2 was, but, then I kind of thinking that it's just the price of progress. I mean, I remember when GNOME 2 first came out. I found it (at first) to be more difficult to configure than X11, but, going back to the "groove" concept, X11 was what I was used to in the first place. So, as more and more updates and improvements happen in Unity, it'll be like making the move from X11 to GNOME 2. Just because it's new, don't go shunning it. Remember how you all felt when X11 was replaced by GNOME. It's the same situation, really.

Good points, but loss of user control is not progress...

finwake's picture

Good points, Stephen. Progress is good and is worth the extra work to become so acquainted.

My biggest issue with both Unity and Gnome 3 -- and these make them non-starters for me -- is their dictated (tyranical?) panel structure. I do not understand how forcing users to have panels in a certain place and of a certain size and looking a certain way is progress. It is not.

There is nothing wrong with a standard layout, but this should not be the 'only' layout!

This is true...

Stephen Conklin's picture

but, you have to realize that with it being a fairly new DE, it's going to be very basic at first, and hopefully, (gods willing lol) they'll add more customization into the interface itself. Though, I have to admit, I've found about all the customization I need (to blow my mind :p) through CCSM, Ubuntu Tweak, and dconf, though, I don't really think that you should HAVE to download peripheral apps just to get it to do what you want, and, like you, I, too am a bit peeved with the lack of customization where the panels are concerned. And, by the same token, (another gripe) the reveal mode editing is nearly, if not completely non-functional. I'd like to be able to put the Launcher across the bottom of my screen if I so see fit, and, unfortunately, not even Ubuntu Tweak can remedy that one. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, the ONLY way to change the position of the Unity Launcher is a "hack", as it were. Those things aside, (and this is only my opinion) I think Unity is a tolerable interface. Even more so once they put in more customizibility. (sp?) However, one serious gripe I have across the board is the removal of the Sound Themes like they had in Lucid (Yeah, Lucid was the last release I'd used until I heard Oneiric was released lol). I miss that. Anywho, that's the last of my five cents lmao. Thanks you guys, for letting me ramble :)

They're not forcing you into

Alecks's picture

They're not forcing you into anything. Don't like it? Don't use it.

That said, it's not the only layout. Try fallback mode.


finwake's picture

I can see that I need to be more open minded about this. Never thought of myself as stuck in my ways and resistant to change.. Illuminating.

I will try fallback again and I have seen Cinnamon suggested. And right, if I don't like it, I will use MATE or find another alternative. Indeed, this entire situation has opened me up once again to the creativity that is in Linux: so many fun things to try; I can see that I have been stuck in a rut of day-to-day use of Gnome 2 my way, just exactly as I have had it set -- no experimentation nor exploration.

Awesome! Thanks!!

Elementary OS and Pantheon

TomWilde's picture

I was an Ubuntu user until the first version of Unity shipped. I tried really hard to get used to it but failed to do so. I'm a developer and for me Unity sucks.

I've found a real good alternative, originally based off Ubuntu, called Elementary OS ( There's a stable release, originally based on Ubuntu Maverick (10.10) but updated just like any current Ubuntu release.

The team behind elementary are currently actively working on their own graphical environment called "Pantheon". Even though the current version of the distro (that runs on GNOME) is already pretty awesome, the soon to come next release will kick ass IMHO.

What about Windows users

wadester's picture

Users who are most familiar with Microsoft Windows and who are migrating to Linux today would need an interface that looks closer to what they are accustomed to, i.e, XP/Vista/W7. Windows is STILL the majority of desktop users out there.

Putting these users in front of Gnome3 (Fedora or Unity on Ubuntu) just does not work. I have had many customers and coworkers who are comfortable with Windows and Gnome2 try newer Ubuntu or Fedora installs, only to request that we go back to Gnome2.

At this point, the more productive user interfaces are on CentOS 5/6 and Ubuntu 1.04LTS (all gnome2).

I imagine Microsoft WILL have problems with Win8. They might learn from the missteps of Gnome3, but I doubt it.

i mentioned here earlier

Mauri's picture

i mentioned here earlier about Zorin OS and it is made easy for Windows users to change in to Linux. I was not happy with Unity so I went looking for other distros and found Zorin.

Making the desktop more like

Anonymous's picture

Making the desktop more like Windows is just not an appealing goal for me. We use devices daily that have "desktop" experiences absolutely unlike Windows. I like GNOME3!


wadester's picture

I too like different desktops (except maybe that CDE stuff from Sun way back when). However, right now a desktop that is radically different from the typical corporate Windows desktop is perceived as harder to use, difficult, etc.

On Fedora 15 I found LOTS of small things broken or hard to configure.
Fedora 16 is better and is on my main home computer. I am getting used to Gnome3 but after some tweaking which was well hidden.... Often it is the little things like no minimize button on windows and no simple way to turn it back on. Or very large icons and a user interface that seems to keep maximizing my screens, etc.

For those I work with who grew up on Windows, these are real pains.

Choice is good. A default that is hard to use, radically different out of the box, or broken (Fedora 15) is bad. I love Android but am not sure that Android with a mouse would be the most efficient desktop to use without a touchscreen....

Ease-of-use makes for better transition

epidenimus's picture

That's a big part of it. Linux and GNOME2 had it over any version of Windows because it was organized. You didn't have to know when in the course of your OS you installed a certain piece of software, if it would file under the long menu as the app name or manufacturer or something else. In GNOME2, KDE, Xfce---in Linux, if I want to work on a presentation... Office >> Presentation >> go! GNOME3 is regressive in this manner and makes it more difficult for Linux users and those potential migrants alike.

KDE4, which I use on my home machine, is now the best transition-from-Windows environment available, but you'd better have some solid hardware to dedicate to it. KDE4's kicker menu does faster in 1/8th of my screen what GNOME3 takes multiple screens to do with it's wannabe apps drawer thing. KDE has always had its issues (Akonadi), too, but it is become the better of the two in the last year.

Pretty, but Incompetent

epidenimus's picture

As a daily GNOME user, I am getting sick of the spin articles like this are putting on the situation. Between this one and giving GNOME3 the Desktop Environment of the Year award and Ubuntu Distro of the Year, today is the first day I have been just disgusted when reading LJ. Frankly, I'm insulted. It is not a manner of resistance to change, inability to adapt, or a stylistic preference that keeps many of us gritting our teeth at GNOME3. BTW, all of those things were cited as the reasons for the poor adoption of Vista, too. As far as I am concerned as a practical office user, GNOME3 is the new Vista of desktops: Bloated, resource hungry, unstable, junk that does not work well. This should not have even been released in 2011, let alone garnered any awards.

I really tried to love it, I did. It looks nice and come across as sleek and simplified at a glance or two. It does look good. But so do a lot of unqualified clerical applicants, and you should not hire anyone based on their looks when they can't perform basic functions that you might expect from them. Unless, of course, you think the sole job of a desktop environment is to look pretty and distract passersby when you get up for a coffee. Your desktop environment will never sleep with you anyway.

Here is a quick list of things that GNOME2 did just fine that GNOME3 can't do:
-Handle multiple monitors well
-Go for more than a day without a WSOD
-Organize/Categorize installed applications
-Run well on both newer an older hardware
-Come complete with sensible configuration menus (on some distros)
-Window management
-Application choosing by filetype
-Sound device selection on a laptop
-Umm, power off without having to find an easter egg

Here is a quick list of things GNOME3 is supposed to be able to do better, but doesn't:
-Be stable and not crash
-Integrated Empathy/IM (maybe marginally on Ubuntu, but what about others?)
-Integrated Google calendar

Here is a quick list of things that GNOME3 does that are completely unacceptable on a desktop:
-The unadjustable clunky Fisher-Price style apps drawer. Where the hell is my word processor?! Which bigass icon do I click to make it go Moooo....?!
-Make basic functions that everyone will need come in the form of additional software (gnome-tweaks = basic GNOME config)
-Incorporate Compiz into its framework for eyecandy, but gut it of features, not include a configuration menu or even a keyboard shortcut guide. Go ahead, try Super+xx)

So yeah, it looks better, but what value does it bring? How is it superior to porting Android Honeycomb to a desktop? Write that article please.

Up the ante

Runaway1956's picture

I'll +10 this post!

+1 I agree..

Anonymous's picture

+1 I agree..

If it ain't broke...

epretorious's picture


Give me back my old desktop!

Keep Gnome 2!

Steve Thompson's picture

Is it me? or why doesn't somebody do what they always do when there's a part of Linux they don't like? Cant someone fork Gnome2 into a variant that we can keep using and ignore Gnome3?

Linux Mint 12 with MATE..!

finwake's picture

As I noted in my post below, "Hello, GNOME 2? Why yes, GNOME 2 speaking...", we have a fork that is alive and well! It is called MATE and the Linux Mint distro is now featuring it.

I thought I would be stuck on Ubuntu 11.04 forever.. I am transitioning off 11.04 in my usual side-by-side then all the way manner. Having a few issues with Compiz, but I always am having a few issues with Compiz. Otherwise, the transition is (going smooth) like butter.

Hopefully, and I am confident, a community will grow around MATE and we will see GNOME 2 continue to grow and blossom for years to come.

When in rome...

epretorious's picture


I don't understand why all the distro's (except Mageia) have jumped on the GNOME 3 bandwagon but this is another reason that I'll be using Mageia for the time being.


Anonymous's picture

Can't get used to the new interface either. Thankfully, the Ubuntu 10.04LTS version still exists. This has the Gnome interface we all want, and is still supported up to a year and a half. Let's hope that Gnome3 has evolved to something useful by then, or that Gnome4 is launched. I doubt it though, it would not be nice if I was forced to switch to KDE in the end...

I agree mate

de.doughboy's picture

Users should have a choice. You know I still have Ubuntu 4.0 WARTY on my P1 simple because it wont run anything else!

Ubuntu 12.04

Anonymous's picture

Ubuntu 12.04 has improved a lot of gripes that were aggrevating are now smoother. But Gnome is the big problem buttons on the left is ludicrous even on touch screens for right handed users. I understand some countries read right to left which would make sense buttons being on the left.
Also the lack of control over bar placement an customization. I gave Zorin OS a try and it is quite comfortable.

I usually just use Kubuntu, I

ROMETY's picture

I usually just use Kubuntu, I did download some extra desktops to log into (Ubuntu, Gnome, Gnome classic). If Ubuntu was all I had, I would be tempted to download Cairo-Dock and remove the unity2 panel and Launcer. Or just download the Gnome desktop environment and just long into that.


Creative Loafer's picture

I too have tried to get used to Gnome3. I see what the
developers are doing. Trying to make the Desktop look
like the smartphone's etc.
Listen up!! We like these kind of interfaces on our mobile
equipment because they are SMALL.Not on the Desktop! OK!
To all developers in the open source community, you people
are AWSOME! Thanks for all you have done. With the small
exception of Gnome3.
Regaurdless of Gnome3, I installed Linux Mint 12, unchecked
Mate "bottom Gnome2 taskbar" and installed "Avant-Window-Manager"
to give it the OSX look. It's easy to set up, easy to use, and
very beautiful. I really saw looks of shock and awe from a friend
or two who use Apple and saw my rig:) It all most people need or
want for a GUI. Install Linux Mint, Open Software manager, not
the Synaptic one, the Click and run warehouse that's available
and Avant-window-navigator is in the Featured apps section. Enjoy.

Hello, GNOME 2? Why yes, GNOME 2 speaking...

finwake's picture

Good point -- "XFCE isn't exactly like GNOME, but it feels more like GNOME 2 than GNOME 3 does!"

Better point -- "MATE is exactly like GNOME, and it feels exactly like GNOME 2. Oh yeah, it is GNOME 2!"

The developers' heads have gotten big, too big: users can't even remove panels or stick 'em where they want. What is with these silly people? Thankfully we can stick a fork in it and pop, bye bye UNITY and GNOME 3!

I will attest that Linux Mint 12 with MATE is well meeting my needs. I have found no significant bugs as yet; seems mighty stable and oh-so GNOME 2 pretty.

Goodbye Ubuntu, Hello Mint!

i miss Gnome2

FabiettoAOL's picture

I really don't like both Gnome 3 and Unity. Maybe i'm old fashion, but i'm using Linux not because the DE must be user friendly or must have 3D effects or just for good appearance. I really don't put attention on this stuff, because i'm using Linux for other reasons, much more important! Before i was using Ubuntu, but when i installed the 11 release, and i saw that you can't switch to Gnome 2, and it's not installed by default Synaptic i was in shock and i installed Mint 11 (not the 12 release), that really satisfies me :)

Ubuntu/Unity out, Lubuntu/LXDE in

Richard BWE's picture

Unity - OK, some nice features but annoying things like no easy way to add launchers, menu appearances erratic (try multiple Gimp windows) and windows snapping to edges unexpectedly. I managed to screw it up twice using Compiz and have swapped to Lubuntu (which I have been happily using on an old laptop for a while anyway).

Lubuntu uses less real estate (one narrow bar across the bottom). I make changes such as replacing Abiword and Gnumeric with LibreOffice and adding Gimp, but no great problems there. Very stable and no performance issues.

(Home made desktop in old case with Atom D510 processor, 2GB RAM, 20" 1680x1050 monitor)

Hey! Use Cinnamon

Anonymous's picture

I have been toying with Cinnamon (an alpha fork of Gnome Shell made by Clément Lefebvre of Linux Mint Lisa fame) these last days. I am sold!! It's fast, stable and convenient. It retains most of the advantages of Gnome 2 plus some specific ones from Gnome 3.

I cannot see any need to leave Gnome now. I keep it and I do recommend it.

How many times have we been told: you dont' like it, make your own. It's exactly what he did, and the best is that he clearly succeeded in a nick of time. This is what happens when your ideas are crystal clear.

Love it

Anonymous's picture

I upgraded to GNOME 3 as soon as it was unmasked in the main tree in Portage on my Gentoo laptop. I absolutely love it. It's sleek, it's easy to use, it's made me more productive with keyboard shortcuts, and it's even fast (especially unexpected on my ATI Mobility Radeon with open source radeon drivers).

I love Gentoo + GNOME 3, and I always welcome change -- life (and linux) is too boring without it.

One other thing, don't bother

Anonymous's picture

One other thing, don't bother trying GNOME 3 without reading this:

Got used to GNOME3

Kostya B's picture

I like GNOME 3 ... It came with Fedora 15, so I gave it a run. Now I actually like it and feel OK about it.The cheatcodes link above helped me a lot, too.
-- I like VERY MUCH windows manipulation using keyboard and don't see why mouse should be used there at all: I do a lot of typing, so switching windows using keyboard comes in VERY handy. Mouse is useful for other tasks, but 100+ keys may also be put to some use, right? No?
-- I like clean desktop, no heap of icons there.
-- Nouveau driver works OK, and all those compiz effects and decorations... well they are fine, I'm sure; but I don't mean to spend all my life in my computer, so keeping it simple and modest is just fine.
-- Then there are those shell extensions in JS. I guess people haven't yet appreciated what it offers, and before they do, it is too early to make conclusions. BTW, there is one offering you the apps menu and bottom bar...
-- Never noticed its being especially resource hungry. Running Athlon 64 X2 system with 3G RAM, onboard nVidia video and all is fine. But then I never open too many windows...

And finally: I never liked GNOME for its being ugly and consuming as much of resources as did KDE, the latter being at least elegant. GNOME 3 is NOT ugly. Good!

And KDE has become a heap of junk, developers are trying to stuff all the kit and caboodle into it, and it is NOT the case when a more complex system offers some extended usability. The older ones were more robust, simple, configurable and workable.
Everything that's useful is delivered by separate applications, which DO improve with every new release; the KDE desktop itself is getting WORSE. Alas! That's the trend in the development, targeted at "new generation" who're raised to love junk.

-- OK, lack of configurability of color/theme/etc (in GNOME 3) is QUITE surprising for a "Linux desktop"; but the guys do the job free, so I don't complain.
-- I didn't like the lack of apps menu, but now got used to typing the app name into "search"...
-- NetworkManager I don't like, but many others do... Well, I found how to configure NM and how to disable it, so I'm still fine :).

In addition to all the above: I don't see, how the increased complexity of GNOME/KDE and replacement of things like SysV serves to improve the system's usability and robustness.
Looks like they're competing with one another in their efforts to consume whatever abundance of resources modern technologies offer from year to year.
Well, let's hope GNOME 3 WILL become more "linux user friendly" :).

Switched to Mint

campbell's picture

I am an Ubuntu fan but don't think Unity is good on a desktop. I accept that they are planning ahead for touchscreens etc. I switched to Linux Mint and moved with them to Mint 12 with Gnome 3. It didn't take long to get used to it and I don't use Mate now.

Gnome 3 rocks! Freedom is all about choice.

Rajan Vaswani's picture

After working with Gnome 3 from Fedora 15, got used to it. The kids love it, as it was their first GUI on a Linux box, and much more different than Windows.

As Linux users, there is no dearth of choice. That is what freedom is all about. Choice. XFCE, LXDE, KDE, Gnome and more. Not comfortable with one, try the other.

Fedora Xfce

mottam76's picture

After some weeks with gnome3 I've switched to Xfce (Fedora 15). I've installed my preferred gnome apps and configured some graphical options (like the fonts).
Xfce is very fast, fully configurable and with an higher productivity than gnome3.
I'm fully satisfied and not looking back.