Fixing the Ubuntu Unity and Gnome 3 GUI

Hate the Unity interface and its mandatory, inflexible, and downright kludgy toolbar? So do I.

First, I’ll discuss how to bring back the familiar Gnome interface and restore the core functionality of right-clicking the desktop to add a launcher.  Then, since the Gnome dev community clearly has a persistent attitude problem and might disable the fallback-to-classic approach, I’ll show how to switch to two alternatives, KDE and the lightweight XFCE.  There’s very little cost to adding alternative GUIs to your Linux box except a relatively trivial amount of disk space and it’s also trivial to switch between them.

Classic GNOME

First, open a terminal window and enter:

sudo apt-get install gnome-session-fallback

After installing completes, log out, and on the login screen click the Ubuntu log, choose ‘Gnome Classic’ and log in.

To work around the removal of the create launcher context menu, create a file named, say, ‘launcher’  in ~/.gnome2/nautilus-scripts/  containing:

#!/bin/bash
gnome-desktop-item-edit --create-new ~/Desktop

Make it executable with:

chmod a+x ~/Desktop/launcher

Then to create a launcher icon right-click on the desktop background and select Scripts->launcher to bring up the familiar dialog.

KDE

Though KDE has lost market share due to Gnome being the preferred GUI for major vendors like Redhat and Canonical, it has the major advantage that its layout and functionality is much more Windows-like.  That includes a Windows Start-like button in the lower left, labeled “K”.

  1. Open a terminal window.
  2. Issue the command sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop.
  3. Type your sudo password and hit Enter.
  4. Log out and log in, choosing your new KDE desktop.

The GUI does default to lots of fancy effects which might be slow on older hardware. To modify, click on the “K” button at lower screen left, follow System Settings->Desktop Effects and start unchecking boxes.

XFCE

XFCE is a lean desktop that’s ideal for older, slower hardware.

  1. Open a terminal window.
  2. Issue the command sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop.
  3. Type your sudo password and hit Enter.
  4. Log out and log in, choosing the  XFCE desktop from the login window.