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How to Install the MATE Desktop & Go Back to GNOME 2 on Ubuntu

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If you long for the days of GNOME 2 and just can’t get along with Unity or GNOME 3, MATE is here to save you. It’s an actively developed fork of GNOME 2, and it’s easily installable on Ubuntu.

MATE isn’t available in Ubuntu’s repositories, but the MATE developers offer an official repository for Ubuntu. Unlike some methods that recommend you use Linux Mint’s repository on Ubuntu, this won’t mess up your system.

Installation

Launch a terminal window from the Dash and run the following command to add the MATE repository to your system:

sudo add-apt-repository “deb http://packages.mate-desktop.org/repo/ubuntu oneiric main”

This command works for Ubuntu 11.10, Oneiric Ocelot. If you’re using a different version, replace “oneiric” with the appropriate word – for example, “precise” for Ubuntu 12.04, Precise Pangolin.

Screenshot at 2012-03-29 22_07_09

Next, run the following command to download a list of the available packages:

sudo apt-get update

Screenshot at 2012-03-29 22_09_49

Use this command to install the MATE archive’s key. The archive uses this key to digitally sign its packages:

sudo apt-get install mate-archive-keyring

Finally, run the following command to install the MATE desktop:

sudo apt-get install mate-core

Type Y and press Enter when prompted.

Screenshot at 2012-03-29 22_10_43

You may also want to install the mate-utils package, which contains the screenshot tool and other small utilities. (That’s “sudo apt-get install mate-utils”.)

Launching MATE

Log out from the menu at the top right corner of the panel after installing MATE.

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Select the MATE desktop from the list on the login screen before supplying your password.

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Using MATE

If you’ve been using Linux for a while, MATE will feel extremely familiar. It’s the GNOME 2 desktop – last seen in Ubuntu in version 10.10.

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If you don’t look too closely, you may think you’re using GNOME 2 again. However, MATE has a different logo and name. The About window betrays its lineage, though.

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To differentiate the included applications from the GNOME 3 versions, they’ve also been . The Nautilus file manager is now Caja, the Eye of GNOME image viewer is now Eye of MATE, and GNOME Terminal is now MATE Terminal.

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There’s a top bar with an applications menu and a bottom bar with a window list – the kind of thing being thrown out by new desktop environments.

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The number of bars, their position, and the applets on them are still customizable, of course. Right-click a panel to add applets, customize it, delete the panel, or add a new one.

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For a more Ubuntu-esque look, you can use the Appearance preferences panel (located under System -> Preferences) and select the Ambiance theme.

Screenshot-Appearance Preferences

What more is there to say about MATE? It’s GNOME 2 – and lots of users are looking for that, if you believe the comments you see all over the Web. If you’re one of them, you don’t have to beg Ubuntu and the GNOME project to change course – just install and support MATE. MATE and Linux Mint are listening to a vocal contingent of users, so it’s no wonder Mint is becoming so popular.

We’ve also covered installing the Cinnamon desktop on Ubuntu – it’s a more forward-looking desktop that’s also associated with Linux Mint.


What do you think of MATE? Do you prefer the old GNOME 2 environment to Unity, GNOME 3, and other newer desktop environments? Or have you fallen in love with the newer desktop environments? Leave a comment and let us know.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 03/30/12

Comments (17)

  1. computergeeks1

    Really helpful

  2. MJ

    Keep all this useful tips about Ubuntu and Linux in general! Great job. I’m sure a lot of users miss the old desktop.

    I must say that I started using Gnome Shell 3.2 yesterday and I am really happy. Ive been using Unity for about 6 months but I did not like nor dislike it, I have a neutral feeling about it, however Gnome 3 seems really fresh and I’m enjoying working with it so far.

  3. cam2644

    It’s good that this alternative exists.Many will prefer it. On Linux Mint there is Cinnamon that serves a similar purpose. Variety is the spice of life!

  4. boysha

    I had a slightly more dramatic feeling about loosing Gnome 2 and was angry at the World… until Mate and Cinnamon came to be. For me it’s a life saver. I was and am not liking Unity and Gnome 3 and more then that, I hate the fact that Gnome 2 was just left there to die… In any case, all the best to everyone who made many of us happy by making Mate and Cinnamon. Cheers!

  5. Dave Frandin

    Since I detest Unity/Gnome3, the only way I’m going to stay with Ubuntu (been here since 6.06), is with MATE. Sure glad *somebody* is maintaining a bit of sanity in the Ubuntu arena….

  6. Gary

    Really glad to see this. I’ve been trying to accept Unity as the desktop of the future, but really prefer the Gnome 2 desktop. Very happy to see it will be continued!

  7. Mike

    I really don’t like the new GUI. Computers and tablets are going to require their own desktops etc. get over it. It seems like every OS builder is trying to invent the one size fits all GUI, NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! Stop pissing off the users, leave the GUI alone! The good thing is, I can rip it out, I feel sorry for the Windows 8 users they are stuck with that garbage GUI.

  8. Bill

    I’m going to download Mate and try it right away.
    Unity, Gnome 3 and the Mac style window buttons have really turned me off
    even though I have been an Ubuntu user since Breezy.
    Mint doesn’t float my boat, so I hope that Mate will
    give me the full Gnome 2 that I want.

  9. jasray

    It’s okay to try new positions; regressive behavior signifies an underlying psychological issue stemming from pre-birth trauma. Nero and Vespasian are historically known personages diagnosed with the issue.

    Some folks still don’t like the MS Ribbon.

    Embrace the unknown and life becomes blissfully full of enchantment.

  10. spiny norman

    @jasray: when you grow up and gain some worldly experience, you’ll realize that change isn’t the same thing as progress.

  11. jeorgekabbi

    just don’t install Ubuntu. period.

  12. andriajohn

    Thanks for giving the more information about the How to Install the MATE Desktop & Go Back to GNOME 2 on Ubuntu

  13. Hadi

    Since Gnome 3 seems to be a mimic of mac desktop and lt is less customisable in comparison with gnome 2 l do prefer mate as my new desktop. I really missed all those gnome 2 applets.Going to install MATE.

  14. Merlin Emrys

    sudo add-apt-repository “deb http://packages.mate-desktop.org/repo/ubuntu precise main”

    The command gives this: Error: need a repository as argument

    What should I do?

  15. Chris Hoffman

    @Merlin Emrys

    Maybe they hadn’t created the repository when you tried this. According to the official documentation at http://mate-desktop.org/install/ , that command should work.

  16. Christian

    is there a way i can make the window buttons go to the left instead of the right? :) can i use the regular gnome 2x tweaks and applets ? thanks :)

  17. Chris Hoffman

    @Christian

    Assuming MATE still uses gconf-editor, you can change the value of the button_layout key. It should be similar to doing this:
    http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/13535/move-window-buttons-back-to-the-right-in-ubuntu-10.04/

    And I think MATE should still work with GNOME 2 applets — it is basically GNOME 2, after all.

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