How-To Geek

Bypass the Unity UI Altogether in Ubuntu 11.10 with the GNOME Shell Remix

Are you less than pleased with Unity but want to keep using Ubuntu without switching to KDE, XFCE, or LXDE? Then you may want to take a closer look at the GNOME Shell Remix of Ubuntu 11.10.

The switch to the new Unity UI this year has created quite a stir among Ubuntu enthusiasts…some love it and others hate it. If you fall into the latter category then this particular remix may be just what you are looking for.

The Remix is set up with GNOME Shell 3.2 and gets you right into the latest Ubuntu goodness without any of the Unity UI components to deal with. You have the option to use the new GNOME 3 style desktop (shown above) or can go with the Classic style desktop (shown below) if you prefer the more traditional look.

Note: Just press the Alt Key and Right Click on the upper and/or lower Taskbars to add items just like in GNOME 2.

Important Note: You will not be able to upgrade to a newer version of Ubuntu when using this remix. You will have to do a full install once the next Ubuntu release is available. This is due to the Remix being an unofficial release.

Download Ubuntu GNOME Shell Remix Note: 32 and 64 bit versions available (ISO files are 836.6 – 854.0 MB in size).

View the Release Notes Note: You should take a few moments to look over the Release Notes for the Remix.

Visit the Ubuntu GNOME Shell Remix Homepage

[via Softpedia]

Akemi Iwaya is a devoted Mozilla Firefox user who enjoys working with multiple browsers and occasionally dabbling with Linux. She also loves reading fantasy and sci-fi stories as well as playing "old school" role-playing games. You can visit her on Twitter and .

  • Published 10/26/11

Comments (26)

  1. KatsumeBlisk

    I think if you’re willing to learn how it’s different that Xfce is the better option. It’s pretty similar to GNOME 2 and still up to date. A lot of users have switched to Xubuntu because of its similar UI. GNOME 3’s fallback mode isn’t kind of lackluster from what I’ve seen compared to Xfce.

  2. jon_hill987

    I just switched to Mint when Ubuntu added the cloud/social rubbish and switched to Unity.

  3. nt0xik8ed

    i agree with jon.

  4. Cambo

    Another option is PinguyOS. The dev is talking about using Gnome Shell 3, or Gnome Classic again. Or both.

  5. Jack

    Or, just run sudo apt-get install gnome-shell from the terminal to install gnome 3, keep unity AND still get updates when the next release comes out.

  6. shinigamibob


    Thats what I did. It was real annoying when I found out that the newest update basically killed off gnome for all intents and purposes. Did a little digging and installed gnome-shell. Haven’t looked back. Unity is great an all, but its just not for me.

  7. McCoy Pauley

    Unity blows chunks. Bye-bye Ubuntu. Are you listening, MARK?

  8. Kevin James

    If you already have Ubuntu installed you can just use the gear next to where you login to switch your mode to gnome shell as a fall back mode.

  9. ange

    It’s the best distro now, I love it!
    Canonical boycotts Gnome Shell, DistroWatch deleted ALL comment about Gnome Shell Remix.
    Spread the word about real face of meritocracy!

  10. McStud

    Gnome shell is easily installed through Software Center, along with Synaptic Package Manager, Bleach Bit, etc. The so called Gnome Classic is a joke in my opinion. I have since returned to 11.04 just to get Gnome 2.32. My favorite Ubuntu is the LTS, but sadly it does not recognize ethernet and resolution is screwed up on my new Lenovo Ideacentre. I have never had 10.04 mess up this bad before, so I am assuming my desktop is to blame. You don’t get Gnome Shell in 11.04, but the 64bit version is very fast and stable. Most important, you get Classic Gnome. I simply love Macbuntu and the ability to customize the panels and everything else for that matter. If Gnome 2.32 were available in 11.10, along with Gnome shell, I would definitely be using it.

  11. Anonymous

    Ya. “Unofficial.” Doesn’t look like I’ll be trying it any time soon. Thanks Ubuntu. Thanks for nothing!

    What I’d like to know is why the “idiots” at Canoical ever decided to screw us up by switching to Unity UI in the first place? Wasn’t it bad enough just switching the boot loader from GRUB1 to GRUB2?! How about a little lead time to let us get caught up with that one (and letting the documentation catch up too)?

  12. Withanamelikedave

    Thanks to those mentioning just installing gnome shell. I was planning on going back to 11.04, but I will try that first. I like how Unity gets out of the way when I’m not using it, but then I almost dread moving my cursor back over to the left side to interact with it again.

  13. thorstenmz

    I’m using 11.04 with Unity right now, after working with Windows 7 for several months. Only got 11.04 to work recently! I need Linux for work right now and don’t have the time to install another distro. I don’t even dare upgrading to 11.10. We should have been told that 11.xx are merely betas. Someone’s dreaming of Ubuntu being a second MacOS, and is leaving behind the users…

  14. Crab

    I assume it’s using the official Ubuntu Gnome3 packages, Anon, but you can always install Gnome Shell on regular Ubuntu 11.10 if you’re worried.

    I agree with you about Unity, though personally I hate Gnome 3 only slightly less (both shell and classic), and KDE is slow on my downspec laptop so I’m running Xubuntu. Ideally I’d be running Mint (a much more sensible distro than what Ubuntu has become, but still uses Ubuntu packages) if worked properly with my wireless card like Oneiric does – maybe Mint 12 will work.

  15. Argyle_TX

    Even with the install of gnome, if you move both menu bars to the bottom of the screen, (sorry but that’s where 99% of ex-windows users prefer it), you still have a mac-ish “file, …. ” menu across the top of the screen. The only way to clean it up is to: “sudo apt-get remove appmenu-gtk3 appmenu-gtk appmenu-q”.

    That seemed to at least return it to (close), to 10.x functionality. You still have the “alt+rt-click” irritation to deal with.

  16. Dark Reality

    I’m a Windows 7 user who is auditioning Linux distros in VMWare Player. I really like Windows 7 and I don’t want to switch, but I don’t like how Windows 8 is shaping up and if they stop supporting 7 with updates in the future and haven’t replaced it with something I like, I’ll jump ship. I was about to jump ship after Vista. Point is, Unity is probably aimed at people like me (or people who, like me, are iffy about Windows, but are less technical). And I don’t like Unity. I was willing to give it a shot, but Ubuntu 11.04 said my machine wasn’t powerful enough (it is, but the VM isn’t). So it just gave me the old Gnome desktop. Maybe there’s a way you Linux guys could exploit that. Not sure about 11.10, but the Gnome you know and love IS in Ubuntu and you can get it if Ubuntu thinks your computer isn’t up to scratch. So maybe (I don’t know I’m just brainstorming) play hide and seek with your GPU driver, make Ubuntu ditch Unity, remove Unity’s files, then put the driver back? Or something?

    tl;dr: I’m Unity’s target audience and I don’t like it, and good ol’ Gnome exists in Ubuntu and you can use it if your computer isn’t good enough for Unity.

  17. Argyle_TX

    I was in the same boat and moved over after vista. I agree with your opinion of unity. I was (almost), ready to go back after the forced unity fiasco. I’m no where close to an expert but if you browse enough user groups or outlets like this you can prevail. I installed it on a second PC and it wasn’t nearly as painful. This was the order of things: After the first boot, post 11.10 install, open a terminal window and type: “sudo apt-get install gnome-session-fallback”, reboot and select the gnome interface as the one you want to use (the little arrow next to your login ID/password window), then type this in another terminal window:”sudo apt-get remove appmenu-gtk3 appmenu-gtk appmenu-q”, and you are good to go. I don’t know if that’s all without risk but it worked for me on some pretty meager hardware.

    There isn’t anything I needed to do I was not able to figure out with gnome on ubuntu. If 11.10 won’t load at all, (i.e.;refuses your hardware), that’s beyond my expertise and would bow to the real experts that peruse this site to resolve that for you. Maybe install an earlier release (10.x), and let it do the upgrade itself. (Mine were all upgrades from previous versions). Just a guess on my part with that, but sometimes you have to sneak up on OSs like that.

  18. piztu

    I use Windows 7 at work, and Ubuntu at home. With Unity Ubuntu became as disgusting as Vista and Windows 7 looks like Ubuntu before 11.04…. I will move to Debian but I have several doubts about my capacity to install it. So unless Canonical opens a gnome option my choice is going o be Mint.

  19. crab

    You don’t have to trick Ubuntu 11.10 to install gnome. Just install the gnome-shell package, and select gnome or gnome classic as your desktop manager at the login screen. Or you can install any other desktop manager you prefer – there are a bunch and it’s worth trying them out to see which one you like.

  20. adamf

    I installed gnome, but it still stinks just like every dot-zero release of kde and gnome.
    Tried fedora 15 w/ kde but it is a bit too much of a pig for my laptop which heats up when too much junk is running and is best when the dual core amd cpu only goes beyond 10% occasionally.

    Now running xfce, but power management works poorly; it’ll let the battery run to zero without taking appropriate action. “Critical” level is hard coded and too low.

    I hate gnome 3.x; hate unity even more; kde is too much a pig; xfce isn’t as nice as gnome 2.X.

    Looks like I’m going to put ubuntu 11.04 back on with gnome 2.x. I’ll play the distro-search game in a year or two when 11.04 stops getting updates.

  21. DameMak

    What a pathetic ambitions from Ubuntu guys to run for a competition with latest interfaces in Windows 7 and MacOS, leaving hundreds of thousands of their Gnome 2.x users without support. The result will be less Ubuntu users, and more Linux users that have their right UI that gives them optimal control and power over the machines that they use. I tried XFCE but is not that good as Gnome 2.x. I see some people are talking about Mint – probably I will try it too. But one is sure: I HATE UBUNTU DECISION TO leave my favorite Gnome 2.x. unsupported.

  22. dave

    I agree with jon, mint is a good choice as far as a similar feel to ubuntu but with the gnome2 UI.

    To be honest i hate unity ( to much like osx ) and being windows / linux my whole life, i need something that feels similar. However, to be perfectly honest i like gnome3 even less than unity. Since mint draws heavily on ubuntu, im worried what mint’s future will though.

    Back to the article, i installed the gnome shell from 11:10, but the “classic” mode feels a lot different than gnome2. bugged me so much i dusted off the ubuntu 11:04 disk and install that over 11:10.

  23. Darrell

    I was a KDE fan for years, then they made it into a pig and I switched to Gnome. Now Ubuntu goes crapola with Unity and Gnome is becoming a pig too. Stupid kids. It’s like watching a kid buy a car with a fancy paint job and a blown engine. Yeah, I’ve earned the right to call ’em stupid kids.

  24. WhatsInAName

    Tried Unity 11.10. Don’t have enough time to waste with this garbage. Tried installing Gnome-shell but even though I pick it in the login menu I am still stuck in unity. Sorry, bit it’s going to be Goodbye Ubuntu, the only problem is which OS to pick…

    Reinstalling 10.10 to until something better comes along.

  25. Dean

    I switched to Xubuntu too and it’s the dogs b*******. None of that gnome3 classic fakery for me.

  26. ashwin dexter winongo

    since ubuntu change to unity.. i move to other distro. and know. i just still hope ubuntu more better. in Long term support release..

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