How to Install GNOME on Ubuntu [8 Easy Steps]

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Last updated: May 14, 2024

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TL;DR

To install GNOME on Ubuntu, you follow these steps:

  1. Update Ubuntu System: Run sudo apt update in the Terminal.
  2. Upgrade Installed Packages: Execute sudo apt upgrade and confirm with Y.
  3. Install GNOME: Install it with sudo apt-get install ubuntu-gnome-desktop.

If you are an Ubuntu user looking to improve your desktop experience and enhance productivity, installing GNOME, a popular and highly customizable desktop environment, is the way to go. GNOME offers a sleek and user-friendly interface, numerous features, and a wide range of customization options to tailor your desktop to your preferences. In this comprehensive guide, I will take you through the step-by-step process to install GNOME on Ubuntu and how to configure GENOME. I will also share the methods to install GNOME Vanilla and GNOME Minimal.

How to Install GNOME on Ubuntu

To install the GNOME desktop on Ubuntu, begin by updating your system’s packages with the command sudo apt update. Once updated, proceed to upgrade your system by typing sudo apt upgrade, and confirming the upgrade when prompted. Finally, install Gnome desktop Ubuntu by entering sudo apt-get install ubuntu-gnome-desktop. This set of commands ensures your system is up-to-date and installs the GNOME desktop environment, enhancing your Ubuntu interface.

Here is the detailed step-by-step guide on installing GNOME on Ubuntu:

  1. Open a Terminal window by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T.
opening terminal 30
  1. Type following command in the Terminal window to update system packages:
sudo apt update
  1. The system will now update the package lists, ensuring you have the latest information about available software and updates.
updating system package list 13
  1. Now run the following command for upgrading the system:
sudo apt upgrade
  1. The system will now check for available updates for installed packages and prompt you to proceed with the upgrade. 
  2. Type Y and press Enter to confirm the upgrade. The system will begin updating the installed packages to their latest versions.
upgrading system packages to the latest version 5
  1. Run the following command to install GNOME:
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-gnome-desktop
  1. The command will install GNOME desktop on your system.
installing gnome desktop on ubuntu

How to Configure and Customize GNOME

After successfully installing GNOME, it’s time to unlock its true potential by configuring and customizing it to suit your preferences. The proper configuration enables you to create a personalized and efficient computing experience tailored to your needs and style.

1. Navigating GNOME User Interface

  • After installation of the GNOME desktop log out from your current account. Then click on the gear icon in the login window and choose GNOME desktop by clicking on it.
logging in to gnome desktop
  • Familiarize yourself with GNOME’s Activities Overview, which can be accessed by clicking the Activities button in the top-left corner or pressing the Super (Windows) key.
viewing gnome interface
  • Use the Activities Overview to switch between applications, access workspaces, and search for files and settings.
gnome interface

2. Customizing GNOME Shell and Themes

  • GNOME offers a range of themes and shell extensions to personalize your desktop. You can access the settings using the GNOME Tweaks tool, which can be installed from the Software Center or via the Terminal. After the installation, you can access it by searching it in the application menu.
launching gnome tweaks

4. Enhancing Productivity with GNOME Tweaks

  • GNOME Tweaks allows you to fine-tune various aspects of your desktop environment, such as the workspaces and keyboard shortcuts.
customizing gnome shell using tweaks
  • You can also add more title bar options in GNOME using Tweaks.
adding more options to title bar
  • Tweaks also allow you to display a detailed view of date and time in the top bar.
enhancing date interface

How to Install GNOME Minimal on Ubuntu?

To install a minimal GNOME desktop environment on Ubuntu, you essentially opt for a more stripped-down version of the GNOME desktop. This is suitable for those who prefer a lighter, cleaner desktop or are working with limited system resources. Here’s how you can install a minimal GNOME environment on Ubuntu:

  1. Open Terminal and update your package lists to fetch the latest information on package versions and dependencies.
sudo apt update

This command updates the list of available packages and their versions, but it does not install or upgrade any packages.

updating system package list 1
  1. Upgrade all your system’s packages to the latest versions.
sudo apt upgrade

This command will upgrade all the packages on your system to the newest available versions.

upgrading system packages to the latest version
  1. Install Tasksel if it’s not already installed by running the following command:
sudo apt install tasksel

This command installs the tasksel utility, a tool that groups software packages into tasks and offers a simple interface to install them.

installing tasksel on ubuntu
  1. Run tasksel by executing following command in Terminal:
sudo tasksel

This command launches the tasksel interface, where you can select and install complete software stacks. Use the arrow keys to navigate and spacebar to select.

launching tasksel
  1. Choose the desired GNOME environment from the options.
using tasksel to install gnome minimal
  1. Alternatively, you can directly install a minimal GNOME environment using the following command:
  2. Install the core components of GNOME without additional software:
sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends gnome-core

This installs the essential packages of the GNOME desktop environment, avoiding extra packages that are not strictly necessary for a basic setup.

installing gnome minimal using a single command
  1. The default display manager for GNOME is GDM3 (GNOME Display Manager). If it’s not installed as part of the minimal installation, you can install it manually:
sudo apt install gdm3

This command installs GDM3, which manages user sessions and handles user authentication.

installing gdm3
  1. If another display manager is installed and you prefer to use GDM3, configure it:
sudo dpkg-reconfigure gdm3

This command starts a configuration script that allows you to select GDM3 as your default display manager.

selecting gdm3 as default display manager
  1. After the installation and configuration, reboot your system to start using your new minimal GNOME desktop:
sudo reboot

This command will restart your system, loading all new configurations and the minimal GNOME desktop environment.

rebooting system to apply changes

How to Install GNOME Vanilla on Ubuntu?

Installing GNOME Vanilla on Ubuntu allows you to experience GNOME in its most unmodified form, much like it’s offered in other distributions such as Fedora. This setup is often preferred by users who want a cleaner, more stock GNOME experience, without the modifications and additions that Ubuntu includes in its default GNOME session.

  1. Before you start, it’s a good to update your package list and upgrade all your installed packages to their latest versions. This ensures compatibility and stability.
  2. Ubuntu comes with a modified GNOME desktop, which is slightly different from the stock GNOME. To install the vanilla GNOME session, which is more aligned with the original GNOME layout and settings, use the following command:
sudo apt install gnome-session

This command installs the gnome-session package, which provides the necessary files and configurations to run the vanilla GNOME environment.

installing gnome session package
  1. After installing the GNOME session, you need to log out of your current session.
logout from system
  1. At the login screen, perform the following:
  2. Click on your username.
clicking on username
  1. Before entering your password, click the gear icon next to the Sign In button. Select GNOME or GNOME on Xorg from the menu to use the stock GNOME instead of Ubuntu’s customized version.
selecting gnome to use stock gnome

    How to Switch to GNOME in Ubuntu?

    Switching to GNOME on Ubuntu, especially if you have multiple desktop environments installed, is a straightforward process. Here’s how you can switch to the GNOME desktop environment from whatever you currently have set as default:

    1. Once GNOME is installed, you can switch to it from your current desktop environment. Go to the system menu and select the logout or switch user option.
    logout from system 1
    1. Before you enter your password, click on the gear icon (⚙️) next to the sign-in button. You will see options like GNOME, GNOME Classic, and Ubuntu. Select GNOME for a pure GNOME experience or Ubuntu to use Ubuntu’s customized GNOME environment.
    choosing desktop environment
    1. After selecting your preferred option, enter your password and log in. The system will start the GNOME desktop environment.
    entering password for user to login

    5 Key Benefits of Installing GNOME on Ubuntu

    Discover the power of personalization and increased productivity with GNOME, the popular desktop environment for Ubuntu. Whether you’re a tech enthusiast, a developer, or a casual user, GNOME offers a range of benefits that elevate your Ubuntu experience to a whole new level. Here are five benefits of installing GNOME:

    • 🚀 Enhanced User Experience: With its intuitive and modern user interface, GNOME provides a delightful experience for users of all skill levels. The Activities Overview allows easy management of applications and workspaces, while integrated search ensures swift access to files and settings. GNOME’s visually appealing design and smooth animations create an immersive and pleasant desktop environment.
    • 💡 Endless Customization Options: GNOME empowers users to personalize their desktops with a vast array of themes, icons, and extensions. Whether you prefer a minimalistic look or a feature-rich setup, GNOME’s extension system allows you to tailor your desktop to suit your style and workflow. This level of customization ensures that your Ubuntu system feels truly yours.
    • ⚙️ Seamless Integration and Accessibility: With its built-in applications and seamless integration with popular software suites, GNOME offers a cohesive user experience. Additionally, GNOME emphasizes accessibility with features like high-contrast themes and screen reader support, making it user-friendly for individuals with diverse needs.
    • ⏱️ Efficient Multitasking: GNOME’s window tiling and snapping capabilities make multitasking a breeze. Organize your open windows and applications across multiple workspaces to stay focused and productive. GNOME’s smooth performance ensures that you can switch between tasks effortlessly.
    • 📈 Continuous Development and Community Support: As one of the leading desktop environments in the Linux world, GNOME benefits from continuous development and robust community support. Regular updates and bug fixes ensure a stable and secure desktop experience. Moreover, the passionate GNOME community contributes to an ever-growing ecosystem of extensions and enhancements.

    5 Tips to Optimize GNOME Performance

    Unlock the full potential of your GNOME desktop environment on Ubuntu with these five essential optimization tips. Enhance your user experience and ensure a smooth and efficient performance, whether you’re a power user, developer, or casual user. Here are five performance optimization tips:

    • ⚙️ Manage Startup Applications: Limit the number of startup applications to reduce resource consumption during bootup. Use the Startup Applications tool to control which applications launch automatically, ensuring a faster and more responsive GNOME experience.
    • 💡 Keep Your System Updated: Regularly update your Ubuntu system and GNOME desktop to access the latest bug fixes, security patches, and performance improvements. Staying up-to-date ensures you get the best possible experience with your desktop environment.
    • 🧹 Disable Unnecessary Services: Review the background services running on your system and disable any that you don’t require regularly. This step helps free up system resources and allows GNOME to run more efficiently.
    • 🚀 Optimize GNOME Extensions: While GNOME extensions enhance functionality, installing too many can impact performance. Limit the number of active extensions and regularly check for updates to ensure compatibility with the latest GNOME version.
    • 🔍 Monitor Resource Usage: Keep an eye on system resource usage using GNOME’s System Monitor or other system monitoring tools. Identify resource-hungry applications or processes and optimize or replace them for a smoother GNOME experience.

    Ubuntu Install GNOME: Closing Thoughts

    I hope this guide has provided you with valuable insights to install GNOME Ubuntu and configuring it to suit your preferences. By optimizing GNOME’s performance with useful tips like managing startup applications, updating your system, disabling unnecessary services, and optimizing extensions, you can ensure a smooth and efficient desktop experience.

    As you continue your journey in the Linux ecosystem, you might want to explore articles on optimizing Linux system performance, mastering command-line tricks, and discovering productivity-boosting applications. Remember, the beauty of Linux lies in its versatility, and each desktop environment offers a unique experience. Keep experimenting, customizing, and exploring the vast range of applications and tools available in the Linux world to create your perfect computing environment.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How do I switch back to the default Ubuntu desktop if I don’t like GNOME?

    If you find that GNOME doesn’t suit your preferences, you can easily switch back to the default Ubuntu desktop. To do this, open your package manager and search for the ubuntu-desktop package. Install it, and then log out of your current session. On the login screen, you’ll see an option to choose between different desktop environments. Select Ubuntu from the list, and upon logging back in, you’ll be back to the familiar Ubuntu desktop you know and love.

    Can I use GNOME extensions with any version of GNOME?

    While GNOME extensions enhance functionality, not all extensions are compatible with every version of GNOME. Compatibility can vary depending on the extension’s code and the GNOME version’s underlying changes. Before installing any extension, it’s essential to check the compatibility information provided by the extension developer. Visit the GNOME Extensions website (extensions.gnome.org) to find detailed information about each extension’s compatibility and the versions it supports, ensuring you have a seamless experience with your chosen GNOME version.

    Will installing GNOME affect my existing data and applications?

    Rest assured, installing GNOME should not affect your existing data or applications. The installation process primarily focuses on setting up the desktop environment and its necessary components while leaving your personal files and applications untouched. However, it’s always a best practice to back up your important files before making any major system changes, including installing a new desktop environment. This precautionary step ensures that your valuable data remains safe, regardless of any unforeseen circumstances during the installation process.

    Ojash

    Author

    Ojash is a skilled Linux expert and tech writer with over a decade of experience. He has extensive knowledge of Linux's file system, command-line interface, and software installations. Ojash is also an expert in shell scripting and automation, with experience in Bash, Python, and Perl. He has published numerous articles on Linux in various online publications, making him a valuable resource for both seasoned Linux users and beginners. Ojash is also an active member of the Linux community and participates in Linux forums.

    Akshat

    Reviewer

    Akshat is a software engineer, product designer and the co-founder of Scrutify. He's an experienced Linux professional and the senior editor of this blog. He is also an open-source contributor to many projects on Github and has written several technical guides on Linux. Apart from that, he’s also actively sharing his ideas and tutorials on Medium and Attirer. As the editor of this blog, Akshat brings his wealth of knowledge and experience to provide readers with valuable insights and advice on a wide range of Linux-related topics.

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