Switching the Unity Desktop to the Gnome Desktop

The new Ubuntu version 11.04, Natty Narwhal, that was released on April 28th, has a new Unity desktop.  The new desktop forces you to change the way you work from the previous Gnome desktop.  For some users this will give them additional capabilities, but others may prefer the old Gnome desktop.

Gratefully Canonical, the maker of the Ubuntu distro, left us the ability to switch the desktop back to the Gnome desktop, and back to Unity if you prefer.  I've done this a couple of times now, in testing out the new Unity desktop. I thought it would help to document how to switch desktops in pictures.

Here's the new Unity desktop:

The new Unity Desktop with Vertical Icons

From the Unity Desktop if you click on the icon all the way over on the upper right toolbar to the right of "dale" in the above image,  you get this:

System Dropdown Menu

Now if we click on the System Settings menu choice, we get this:

The Control Center

The Control Center has many icons, and you'll need to move down the Control Center screen with the scroll bar until you come to the "Login Screen".  If you click the Login Screen,  you get this:

Login Screen Settings

We need to Unlock this screen with our root password to change anything.  After we unlock the screen we will click on the "Select Ubuntu" drop down, but I'm getting ahead of myself.  Here's the Unlock password screen.

Authenticate Screen

And here's what happens after you authenticate your right to change the desktop, and then click the drop down menu of the "Select" box at the bottom of the Login Screen.  Here's what the Drop down looks like:

The Select Dropdown Menu

Ok, here's where you make the switch.  If you click "Ubuntu Classic" you'll get the Gnome Desktop, if later you want to go back to Unity, you'll repeat this procedure and then click "Ubuntu".

We have one more thing to do after Closing the menu.  We need to restart our system, by clicking the upper right icon that we used when we started this process, like so:

Restart the System

And presto the Gnome Desktop appears when the system boots up.  Here's the Gnome desktop:

The Gnome Desktop

Some words of wisdom, Canonical has stated that they may not give you the option to switch desktops in future releases.  They would standardize on Unity.

Because of that, I think you owe it to yourself to give Unity a fair shake before returning to Gnome, so you have a good opinion on what desktop you'd like to use, and why.   If that desktop turns out to be Gnome, and Canonical does not allow you to switch desktops in future releases, there are other Linux distros available, like Mint, that would provide similar drivers and functionality to Ubuntu, and use the Gnome Desktop as their standard.


Switching the Unity Desktop to the Gnome Desktop — 7 Comments

  1. A better reason for running Debian or Mint cannot be made over “Canonical may not give you the option to switch desktops in future releases.” It is fricking linux. If people want to change desktops, they will find a way.

  2. I do not have the Login screen 🙁 in my System settings window; only a “screen” which allow me only to decide the “Turn off after” times…

  3. or, at the login screen click on your name, then in the bottom bar choose your preferred desktop environment before putting in your password. It will just remember it. Classic panel interface is deprecated upstream so at some point other distros are going to move to something else. As 10.04 is an LTS Ubuntu will have a supported release with classic 2 panel gnome until 13.04, possibly longer than any other distro.

  4. Thanks. Unity has been driving me crazy. Wouldn’t be so bad if you could move the icon bar to the top, bottom or right but every time I go to hit the back button on my browser, out pops the icon bar. Very frustrating, not to mention it doesn’t always close completely.