Dmitry Shachnev | My projects: ReText, Unity Mail | My Launchpad profile

Guide for the classic Gnome session

Ubuntu 11.10 (and newer) ships with ‘classic’ Gnome session in its repositories. To install it, click here or use the following command:

sudo apt-get install gnome-session-fallback

To launch it, select ‘Gnome Classic’ in the greeter (login manager).

Here I will cover most common questions, problems and their solutions.


Note: some of the issues are now fixed in the Ubuntu 12.04 LTS release. This guide is intended at Ubuntu 11.10 users, but if you use Ubuntu 12.04, you may find these sections useful: ‘Customize panel’, ‘Enable Alt+F2 dialog’ and ‘Enable Metacity compositing effects’.

Customize panel

Now you should use Alt + right-mouse-button sequence to add/remove applets and configure panel properties. Note: This sequence doesn't work when Compiz is used (you need to use Super + Alt + right-mouse-button; see ‘Get Compiz working’ section below).

Use indicator applet instead of standard notifications area

Fixed in Ubuntu 12.04.

Used to Ubuntu's indicators? Get them back! Add Jason Conti's PPA and install them.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:jconti/gnome3
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install indicator-applet-complete

Then remove clock, notification area and user switch applet, and add ‘A unified applet containing all of the indicators’. Don't forget to install a mail notifier.

Change panel background to something better

Fixed in Ubuntu 12.04.

Open panel properties, go to Background tab, select ‘Background image’ and select /usr/share/themes/Ambiance/gtk-2.0/apps/img/panel.png file. Now, your panel should look like it used to in Natty.

You can also use a ‘solid color’ for background, maybe with some transparency added.

Launchpad bug: #828392.

Enable Alt + F2 dialog

Open system settings, navigate to Keyboard → Shortcuts → System, select ‘Show the run command promt’ and set Alt + F2 shortcut for it.

Now, this sequence should launch the run command dialog.

Launchpad bug: #856884.

Get Compiz working

Fixed in Ubuntu 12.04; however the shortcut is still not working.

Compiz is the world's best window manager. Due to an error in gnome-session package, it doesn't start automatically and Metacity is used. This is already fixed for Precise, but if you want to get this working on Natty, open /usr/share/gnome-session/sessions/gnome-classic.session file as root and change


line to


Now Compiz should start automatically when you log in. You can easily switch back to Metacity by selecting ‘Gnome Classic (No effects)’ in the greeter.

Note: Alt + right-mouse-button sequence doesn't work if you use Compiz. You should use Alt + Super + right-mouse-button instead (Super is usually the windows-logo key).

Launchpad bugs: #885939, #891622.

Enable Metacity compositing effects

If you don't want to use Compiz or consider it too unstable, you can stay on Metacity (the default window manager), but add some improvements to it.

These two commands will enable some effects for Metacity, like window previews in the switcher:

gconftool-2 --set --type=bool /apps/metacity/general/compositing_manager true
gconftool-2 --set --type=bool /apps/metacity/general/compositor_effects true

Use Ubuntu logo in Applications menu

If you want Ubuntu logo to be displayed in ‘Applications’ menu, open /usr/share/themes/Ambiance/gtk-3.0/apps/gnome-panel.css file and change this block of code:

PanelMenuBar.menubar.menuitem {
    background-image: -gtk-gradient (linear, left top, left bottom,
                                     from (shade (@dark_bg_color, 1.5)),
                                     to (shade (@dark_bg_color, 1.05)));

to this:

PanelMenuBar.menubar.menuitem {
    background-image: -gtk-gradient (linear, left top, left bottom,
                                     from (shade (@dark_bg_color, 1.5)),
                                     to (shade (@dark_bg_color, 1.05)));
    -PanelMenuBar-icon-visible: true;