inside the mind of a linux admin

Unity sucks: Install Gnome 3 on Ubuntu 11.04

As you’re probably aware, the latest Ubuntu version looks very different. This isn’t a coincidence, they’ve changed from Gnome to Unity. Since Ubuntu started to build their own shell Unity, they have ditched Gnome shell entirely. You won’t even find Gnome 3 on the official repos! Many people within my industry and within the Linux community have felt like the latest Ubuntu was a downgrade. This is largely in part to Unity. There are a lot of people who don’t like Unity. Many don’t like it because of how it works, the look and feel, or that stupid vertical launcher bar that always seems to get in the way.

Well, rest assured. I’m one of the many who attempted to embrace Unity, and gave it a fighting chance. I’m here to declare today, it sucks. Great concept, and certainly a huge amount of potential — but for me, it’s just not a viable solution.

Here’s how to install Gnome 3 on Ubuntu 11.04

CAUTION : The actions listed here may very well break your Unity system and make it unstable or unusable. Only proceed if you have at least a basic knowledge of how to fix things if/when they break. This worked flawlessly for me, but your configuration and hardware is different. As always, I take no responsibility for what you type into your command line and you do so at your own risk.

First, go to a Terminal (In the main menu, go to Applications > Accessories > Terminal) and enter the following command to add the Gnome 3 PPA repository to your system:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3

Now, you’ll need execute the following commands (in order) to update the sources and upgrade the system. Please be sure you’ve got the latest version of Ubuntu:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Next, enter the following command to install Gnome 3 :

sudo apt-get install gnome-shell

Finally, restart your machine and select “GNOME” from the login screen. After logged in, if you want to keep it (which if switching from Unity, I’d put money on the fact that you do) goto Activities -> Search “Login screen” and make GNOME the default.

Then, remove the junk:

sudo apt-get remove unity

Want a brand new pre-configured Linux Laptop running the latest version of Ubuntu and Gnome3 right out of the box?

You’re welcome.

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  • Jack on Friday, June 10, 2011

    Thanks a lot! Unity SUX!

  • Warky on Monday, June 13, 2011

    Well, I ain’t seeing a big difference between Unity and Gnome 3. They both look like they were designed as a replacement OS for an iPad. What’s with the huge icons?

  • Bah Gnome shell sucks too on Thursday, June 16, 2011

    I hate BOTH gnome shell and Unity, both are uncustomizable, unusuable and worst of all broken.
    KDE FTW!

  • puppy-linux-user on Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Thank you so much! Upgraded to Ubuntu 11.04 w/Unity (no warning about that being the default desktop client) and the only thing that I could find & use was FireFox. Even had trouble finding the terminal window. Other forums mentioned choosing Gnome at startup, but the drop-down menu didn’t appear.

    Found this post and was able to install Gnome. Hurray! Never knew how much I liked Gnome until it disappeared.

    I generally use Puppy Linux (love it!), but wanted to be familiar with a
    “grown-up” distro. Ubuntu 11.04 almost sent me back to the Windows OS.

  • Brian on Monday, June 20, 2011

    Thank you for this. Unity does suck. It looks like it was made for netbooks or pad type devices, not desktop workstations. This is a terrible change, and I hope they realize that soon.

  • Bart on Friday, June 24, 2011

    I use kde 4.6 but installed gnome 3, tried it for about a month. didn’t like it at all, needs a ton of work. did a ppa purge to get unity back, it needs a ton of work as well, just not as much as gnome 3 IMHO, at least I can theme it and change elements of it within compiz etc. neither one will make me leave kde as my main platform but Unity is better as far as I am concerned.

  • Paul on Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    Unity can also be simply bypassed for Gnome during login:

  • Doug on Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    It might have been a good idea to check out the article below before swapping over (though I’m still not impressed with unity and currently in the process of switching over to gnome3):

  • Richard Eby on Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    I tried Unity for a week.

    It sucks.

    THANK YOU a hundred times for showing us how to (re)install Gnome!!!!!

  • Bruno on Friday, July 1, 2011

    I also thought Unity was crap. But after giving it a shot i kinda like it now. The idea behind Unity is not to use your mouse at all. And it does work. You have to consider that it is still work in progress, and im sure people will make tweak tools for it, so that we can costumize it. Gnome 3 is also kinda the same, but at least in Unity we can change themes (the old way) and still use compiz. Its of course just toys, but i really like compiz. Im sure Gnome 3 will become awsome too.

    Its hard to accept change. Maybe this is the next step in computing?

    Give ubuntu a chance to prove themeslves, they have done a lot for the linux community. A lot of novices have moved from Windows to linux becouse of them. And that is just awsome.

    Cheers everyone!

  • grayhat on Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    Hi all,

    iv been using ubuntu since 2066 “dapper”, been very happy with all the applications on the repos and with the “all working ok” kinda thing which is not so usual in linux. today i gave 10.04 a go and for my complete shock, i wwasn’t even able to choose which packages to install, which desktop to install(been using gnome since forever, (KDE sux, lxde ok but not fan), and my jaw dropped when i saw myself in the most ridiculous desktop system iv ever seen!!! It’s kind of a mixture between “bad-coded-OSX-wannabe” with a “here-you-go-you-idiot-fuck-user-this-is-an-OSX-for-dumb-fucks-so-use-it-because-we-want-you-to-be-dumb-like-the-Micro$oft-users”.

    For me is very disappointing, im very much comfortable with ubuntu and it works juts fine, i just dont like the way they are taking ubuntu. It’s a road where you will have an horrible mixture of OSX+Microsoft stupidity interface where makes people click and forget about whats going on behind the screen! i dont like that, i like to have control over what i am doing and be able to install what i want the way i want – that is linux, not taking this kernel to a “stupidity” road map!

    been using OpenSuse for Desktop to, but its very “troubleshooter-non-friendly”, now im left with ubuntu 10.04 until its time run out and OpenSuse, Fedora, of course on servers is CentOS to so…i dont know, im kinda disapointed, and you know what fuck gnome 3 to!!!

  • grayhat on Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    damn…sorry for the typo, i meant “2006” and “today i gave 11.04 a go “

  • KyleW on Saturday, August 13, 2011

    This post is a GOD-send! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!

    When Ubuntu went to Unity, I ditched it in favour of XFCE, LXDE, even the bloated KDE derivatives, but Gnome always comes out tops

    And you’re right: Unity sucks piles….

    Did I forget to say “Thank you”?

  • Shelby DeNike on Wednesday, August 17, 2011


    Glad you wrote this up, I recently installed the newest Ubuntu on my desktop … and christ all mighty Unity sucks sooooooo bad. Thanks for the copy and paste to get me to gnome.


  • Jason on Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    If it is work in progress, then it should not be the default option. It does not even recognize my dual monitor system.

  • ActionParsnip on Friday, September 30, 2011

    gnome-session-fallback will give a classic style desktop, any of you Unity haters heard of this?……

  • suntips on Friday, October 14, 2011

    I used to like Ubuntu but the latest version sucks so much that I am going back to Windows or some other Linux. This latest version just ends the reign of Ubuntu as a popular Linux flavor soon

  • JoePete on Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Haven’t played with Unity enough to call it a disaster, but just the Launcher is enough to convince me that it is bad, bad, design. Customization fall somewhere between difficult and impossible. What a shame. I appreciate all the effort, but hard work in the wrong direction is worse than doing nothing.

  • rv on Sunday, October 23, 2011

    Hi, yes, Ubuntu?

    Fuck Unity!

    *sorry, but wtf kind of shell is that? (!?)

  • solotim on Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    But gnome3 is just as stupid as Unity. To be direct, one for all, switch to XFCE ASAP.

  • Xander Bilmonchuk on Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    Can I just suggest that the only rational explanation for how horrible Unity and Gnome 3 are is that Microsoft or other terrified proprietary competitors have planted moles on the dev team to destroy this once awesome interface and cause the slow death and abandonment of Ubuntu. Nothing less could explain this unspeakably horrible trainwreck of an “upgrade” to such a previously awesome system.

  • Jay Sherman on Friday, October 28, 2011

    It stinks!

  • Bachi on Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    Unity sux so much – let Canonical know! Sign this petition (futile or not, just let them know) – – and share it!

  • Jonathan on Friday, November 11, 2011

    Unity is not my thing. I mean, its just slow! Gnome is not much better now, i am downloading the KDE desktop now, and hope it works better, if not, goodbye Ubuntu. And I know for a fact that Unity should not be slow, I have a tri core processor with 4gb of ram!

  • C Mills on Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Perhaps if there are enough people that don’t like the Unity in Ubuntu, a separate development can be done and called “Gubuntu” that takes all the updates but keeps the gnome, ditching the unity portion… Just a thought?

  • anon on Saturday, January 7, 2012

    I tried gnome after unity annoyed me so much because it wouldn’t remember the window positions, but guess what, neither does gnome.

    On Gnome3, ATI fglrx… doesn’t work properly (you need to disable it) which makes gnome look shit and cause all kinds of whacky behavior.

    So, back to unity. I’d have persevered with gnome3 if it remembered window position. The attitude towards this *bug* has a bad smell. When a window position isn’t remembered it’s like someone messing up your desk, you move something from A to B and go to lunch and when you come back it’s back at A. You forget about, you think, “Maybe I’m mistaken”, so you move it back to position B. The next day you arrive at work it’s back at postion A, you think “What prick is moving my stuff.” and move it back to A. You go to lunch and when you come back it’s back at position A. Right, you think, stand up and ask aloud “Who is moving the stuff on my desk ?!?, some says “Maybe it was the cleaners”. Ok, you think, so you write a note and you tape it to you monitor, it reads “Please Do Not Move *anything* on my desk”. The next day you arrive at work and there it is again, back at position A, but not only that, the note you left sticking to you monitor is in position C.

    Have a nice day.

  • Asad on Monday, February 6, 2012

    Thank you for this Article. Unity SERIOUSLY SUCKS i had to switch to Debian…but why I LOVED ubuntu </3

  • Katie on Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Unity hurts my very soul. Even worse are all the Unity fanboys. I swear, they make Apple fanatics look reasonable.

    Sadly, I ended up ditching Ubuntu altogether and going to Mint 🙁 I just can’t stand by a group that, when you disagree with them, calls you stupid and short-sighted.

  • Hutchsky on Wednesday, July 11, 2012

    I have been using ubuntu since it first came out. It made a linux believer out of me. The release of the unity desktop makes a desktop much harder to accomplish daily tasks. Desktops won’t go away soon. future lookers may just as well get used to it. The added support that conical was getting from desktops is gone. These are older users with far more to give than future lookers. Conical turned it’s back on desktop users. Mouse driven desktops still have a niche in the marketplace that can’t be replaced. I sincerely hope that Ubuntu finds a way for alternate users without limited functionality.

  • EdwardC on Thursday, July 26, 2012

    Take a look at Zorin. Their Release 6 is based on Ubuntu 12.04 but one of the Desktop options makes it look like Ubuntu 10.04 (but with the later and better applications).

    It’s 17th on DistroWatch.

    My only objection is the failure, mimicking Ubuntu 120.04, to provide support for non-pae PCs.

  • Dimitri on Saturday, August 25, 2012

    Great help, thanks. How dumb they are putting Unity as a default environment in Ubuntu 11. Gnome much more user friendly. Why oh why, reinvent a wheel, Gnome worked perfectly for so many years.

    Unity most definitely Sucks.

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