How to: Fallback to Gnome Panels on Ubuntu 11.10

I'm still not getting on with Unity desktop in everyday use. Xfce has a few quirks and disadvantages. Kubuntu is a culture shift too far.

Sooo... let's drop back to the look and feel of Gnome 2! Panels and menus are fast and lightweight and do just what I need to do. They are also easy to achieve thanks to a couple of small package installs, which gives me the desktop shown.

Firstly, install the package ‘gnome-fallback-session’ from the Ubuntu Software Centre. This one package does the hard work.

Log out of your desktop back to the LightDM login manager and choose ‘GNOME Classic (No Effects)’ session from session drop-list - hit the cogwheel next to your user name to choose it before you log in.

This open a desktop with a classic 2-panel desktop, in a Gnome-2 'stylee'.

You can change the Panel backgrounds (or not) to suit yourself.

The critical change in operation is the ALT and right-click combination for making changes to panels. It's an accessibility-busting key plus mouse combination but thats what fallback has to work with. So:
  • Alt+Right click on the top panel,
  • choose ‘Properties’
  • select the ‘background’ tab
  • select background image and click the button
  • navigate to your ‘usr/share/themes/ folder and see what you've got that contains panel and .png;
    for example: Ambiance/gtk-2.0/apps/img/panel.png’
Add Ubuntu indicators
There's a ppa by developer Jason Conti containing a compatible indicators applet; add it using the line ‘ppa:jconti/gnome3‘ under your Software Sources.

You may want to get the public key for this ppa now if you want Software Centre to install future updates for the packages from Jason's PPA. The best way is via the terminal. We'll cover this another time.

Update Software centre, then install ‘Indicator-applet-complete’.

Via the terminal you can alternatively install using:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:jconti/gnome3
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install indicator-applet indicator-applet-complete indicator-applet-session

(Note this pulls in dependent packages)

  • Alt+right-click on the top panel
  • Choose ‘Add Applets’
  • Add ‘Indicator Applet Complete’

To add, remove and move panel items is very easy, Gnome-2 style:
ALT+Right click on a panel or item to add, move or edit it

Fix for Compiz Compositing
By default, the GNOME Classic Session grates with Compiz compositing in Ubuntu 11.10, so the fix is to edit the gnome-classic.session configuration file. The fastest way is via the terminal:
gksu gedit /usr/share/gnome-session/sessions/gnome-classic.session

Amend the line:


by removing notifications; from the end of the line:


Save the file, log out and you can log back into Gnome Fallback using the ‘GNOME Classic’ option instead of  ‘GNOME Classic (No effects)’. RC