5 May 2011

4 Terribly Easy Steps To Move Away From Unity In Ubuntu 11.04

Unity is default desktop environment in recently released Linux system Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal. It is newly developed product from Canonical.
Unity is very controversial product. There are as much people who love it as people who hate it. Nobody stays aside. You love it or hate it (Marmite).
Unity desktop
Lots of people are determined to abandon Ubuntu 11.04 in favour of other operating systems only because they hate Unity.
But do you know that Ubuntu 11.04 comes with 2 (two!) desktop environments? It also includes GNOME. To be precise, GNOME 2.32.1.
Let me show you how to easy switch from Unity to GNOME.

There are 3 easy steps to follow in order to move away from Unity in Ubuntu 11.04.

1. Call up application "Login screen". You need to unlock it for editing purposes and then ensure that radio button is switched to "Show the screen for choosing who will log in" position.

You may wish to switch to "Ubuntu Classic" on same screen, but from my experience this does not help.

2. Call up application "Users and Groups". Select your username and ensure that Password is set to "Asked on login". If not, you need to click on "Change" button and then untick checkbox "Don't ask for password on login".

In other words, steps 1 and 2 ensure that you get password entry screen during the boot of Ubuntu 11.04.

3. Reboot. When you are asked for password, look at the bottom of your screen. There is a panel with drop-down options. Select "Ubuntu Classic" there. Then enter your password and hit "Enter".

4. Enjoy! You are now in Ubuntu 11.04 with GNOME desktop!
GNOME desktop

Easy? Uuuuuuhhhh!!!!

Your choice of desktop environment for Ubuntu 11.04 is now remembered. If you wish, you can switch on auto-login options which we disabled in steps 1 and 2.

Unfortunately, this trick is only available in Ubuntu 11.04. Next version Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot will only be shipped with Unity desktop.

Do you want to try Ubuntu 11.04 yourself, but cannot download image and burn it to CD yourself? You can check the page Buy Linux CDs and make an order there.


  1. I keep reading this, but I neither love nor hate Unity. What does that make me? I think it's a good start that needs to mature a little longer. There's more than black/white extremes to this world, and something like a DE is not worth such strong words.


  2. If you neither love nor hate Unity, you can keep it or switch to GNOME. I give you a choice.

  3. I choose the redpill.

  4. I'm actually looking forward to using Unity, but only on my tablet, when it arrives.

    On my main desktop, it makes no sense at all, which is why I've already switched to Linux Mint, but it's nice to know that one can switch back to the classic GNOME desktop on Ubuntu, at least for now.

  5. Despite the article I published in LXer, I don't really HATE Unity, I just think it is a mistake to take up so much screen real estate with icons. Icons are good for tiny screens that would make words for apps too small to read. On a big screen, spreading out the icons with words beneath them is doubly wasteful of space and makes it a chore to scroll through them all.

  6. In one way, this is just like things have always been. Want to run Enlightenment? Well, either run a distro that uses Enlightenment as their default desktop environment OR use a different distro and install Enlightenment and run it that way.

    The only difference here is that Ubuntu has always had that great Gnome 2 desktop like mom used to make. And in November, that will be gone. The built in choices are Unity-2d or Unity-3d. Gnome 2 is going the way of KDE 3. People who want to stick with Gnome 2 are feeling some level of anxiety. Unless there is a totally rocking Gnome 2 PPA, they know they will have to move on. Either to KDE, XFCE, LXDE, etc. Or to some distro that will keep patching Gnome 2 to keep it still running for a few more years.

  7. Screen real estate went *up* using unity, as far as I'm concerned:
    1. Maximized windows have their window bar merged with the panel
    2. The icony doc (launcher or whatever it's called) *autohides* by default... I only ever see it when I have nothing open on this part of the screen or when I invoke it on purpose.

    I also think it makes me gain a lot of time generally (Meta + type the app's name + enter), and you can still have a full blow menu when you want to (right-click "applications"...)

    While I can understand that most people feel disoriented for a few days, it certainly is not the UI disaster everybody seems to think it is.

    Like this fine article points out, you can very simply switch back without having to reinstall anything anyway...

    What's the big deal?

  8. Crappines of Unity was an excuse for me to finally try Kubuntu and KDE. And I discovered that I like KDE a lot. Even more than I did the classical GNOME. So if all goes so well I will just stay with Kubuntu for the foreseeable future, until something better comes along.

  9. I hated Unity at first but I decided to give it a few days. And you know what - I've grown to like it. I imagine when I get a bit more used to shortcuts I'm going to love it.

  10. I have always been an avid user of ubuntu, and recently refurbished a laptop for work purposes and instantly installed 11.04.

    Having used it for a while, it is slowing down my work somewhat because the interface was new. I neither love it or hate it.

    Saying that, ALL of you have gone through this experience before. Going from Windows GUI to either Gnome, KDE or the other less know Desktop Enviroments.

    We are all down the the same scenario, a new User Interface. But let me remind you the fact that Gnome is going to be replaced with Gnome Shell, which is the same concept, so get used to the GUI or face seeing your computer age with an aging GUI.

    Dont think I am just upping unity though, I do prefer the standard gnome, infact I love it. But times change and so do desktop enviroments. Unless its forked, I think alot of the gnome based distro's will end up going with gnome shell anyway.

  11. @Emery:
    I still think that docky on the side makes more sense than classical taskbar at the bottom. Due to the fact that most of modern screens are widescreen, especially at laptops.

  12. @Elder Geek:
    Agree that "how things used to be" won't return to Ubuntu. But still Linux allows you to get any software on top of kernel. It's like Trinity Kubuntu. There for sure will be GNOME2 systems on top of future *buntus.

  13. @Tribaal:
    Good spot. Unity is "just different". People did not get used to it. In some time Unity will have similar set of fans as GNOME, KDE, LXDE &Co have. Not now.
    But sure, Unity needs some improvements too.

  14. @Anonymous:
    That's how things should be. Get used to it, and everything will settle. If now, switch to GNOME for some time and try again later.

  15. @Anonymous:
    I think both will happen: forked distros and same distros with GNOME Shell.

    Let me compare Unity interface change with MS Office 2007 interface change. Radically different. Many complaints at the beginning. But people get used to it and find their way to use software.

  16. Yes, I agree with you DarkDuck.. Forks with GNOME2, GNOME3 or any other variant might pop up. I loved the old desktop and tried Unity and XFCE. I got XFCE looking very close to my old desktop... After fiddling with it for a few days, tried GNOME3 last night. GNOME3 is where it's at! It takes about 15 minutes to get accustomed to the shortcuts and learn how to navigate, but I'm never going back and not worrying about all this Unity love/hate silliness. One good thing about this is I keep Ubuntu and get the benefits of the GNOME3 GUI. Life is good!

  17. @Philio Dilio:
    I have not seen GNOME3 anywhere yet. Will wait for release of first official OS with it. I think this will be Fedora somewhere later this month.

  18. Natty Classic mode is not the same as 10.10. It's got that crappy auto-maximize thing going on that you can't turn off. Until you can turn that off, I've turned off Natty in favor of Mint.

    In case you don't know what I'm talking about, grab a window and move it. If while doing that you happen to brush against the top panel, then when you release the mouse the window goes maximized. Every time and it sucks. I have a huge monitor and NEVER use maximized windows. Why do they assume I want this and don't let me turn it off?

  19. @Scott:
    Unfortunately I am not Ubuntu developer and cannot help you with this. Have you tried to report this at Launchpad?

  20. QUOTE:: Tribaal said... Screen real estate went *up* using unity, as far as I'm concerned:

    I've always had more desktop realestate than Unity now makes availale. I always set the panels (panel singular now that I use Linux Mint) to auto hide.

    The fact that you can't hide the top panel on Unity, is one of the reasons why it makes no sense on my main desktop, quite apart fron the fact that it actually reduces desktop real estate on my main desktop, as well.

  21. 10.04 LTS. Nuff said.

  22. In case anyone is looking to turn off the auto-maximize feature, I finally figured it out. You have to install compizconfig-settings-manager then disable the plugin called Grid.

    One other comment. I'm glad the Ubuntu guys are trying to advance the product, but we really need to have the option to stick with a stable classic style desktop if we want. I work with RedHat servers, windows boxes of various vintages, my laptop running 10.10, an old laptop running lubuntu and the box with Mint/Natty dual boot. I like to keep the desktops look and feel as close as possible to each other, otherwise I find my productivity goes down the drain. So, for me, and I'm sure many others, all we ask is that there be some classic style of desktop available should we choose to use it.

    Isn't that what linux is supposed to be all about?

  23. FFS! It's not 'Unity' vs 'GNOME'! It's GNOME Panel. You switch back to GNOME Panel. Learn to say 'GNOME Panel'.

    Both run on GNOME, which is the foundation of Ubuntu.

  24. I didn't like the look of Ubuntu 11.04 with Unity at all. It took a lot of CPU power from my four year old laptop. In these days it's not much to have a Dual Core 2x1.86 Ghz. So I switched to Lubuntu with LXDE environment, and suddenly I went back to the old days when a linux distribution was fast. But Lubuntu takes time to tweak tough.

    I have installed Xubuntu on an older laptop, and it works like a charm. I connected my Xubuntu laptop to my flatscreen TV, where I watch Youtube clips and trotting races from Sweden and Norway.

    I think it's sad that Canonical chooses Unity in favour of Gnome. All the glitter will maybe turn up to be an empty show. One day Ubuntu will fall from the first place on Distrowatch.

  25. I find Unity just takes up more real estate of the screen and I want to be able to have as much of the screen as possible to view what I'm looking at or working on.
    I'm not interested in Unity and I would like to find a distro that does not use any mono's .net stuff at all because if I wanted to run windows on linux I would run windows only. So I want to just run linux and no windows on linux by running mono on it at all.
    So I'm looking around for a distro that doesn't use mono.

  26. Linux Desktop is no long what it used to be. In fact, they make less sense. For Years, Linux is trying to be the "Desktop". Which to my option, something it is not meant to be. Linux/GUN and the Opensource idea is just that We can create good quality software, and let everyone use it. However, as time goes, things turn into more or less commercialized. It is not long about the quality and the efficiency of the software itself, but who have a bigger User Land.

    GNOME 3 is a great example for that. It looks very pretty, but it really slow down the work flow, and things are over animated. It would be cool for demo but not so cool for everyday "Desktop". To me. The perfect Desktop is a Desktop that you can forget about. And give me building blocks to create my work environment. and Of course it would be best if all the software is integrated but functionally and graphically . So far... no DE did a great job for that. GNOME 2.x is getting close, but it is lacking new concept that have been proven works. KDE 4... finally got stable... but still have a lot of tools that not totally doing what it should be doing...

    whether you like it or not. Linux user, would use Both GTK and Qt app... and possibly something else too in the future. If A DE is not able to accept the difference. Desktop will always looks Ugly. Self Centric design mind set really wouldn't work under Linux. Like GNOME 3... No other WM can work under it... Serious... If you want be "beat" everyone so be it. But what about the User?

    Again.. in Unity... we are facing the same problems, Work flow really goes down, and yet people is not able to config their own work environment. There is no one answer to everything. DE designer no longer remember that. a tablet works totally difference than multi-Display setup. I wouldn't reject that fact, that they might be one solution solve all, but We haven't find this solution yet. The best solution for now is allow the user custom their Own DE, yet, Give them a good Default, so people who don't need or wrong, to twist thing around still have something good to work with.

  27. 10.04 LTS, 2013 or bust!

    Remember (or note) that Edubuntu and Ubuntu Studio are sticking with Gnome 2.x... I don't think anyone mentioned that. If they offer that in 11.11 that could also get you to 2013.04 without ditching Ubuntu+Gnome2.

    The third option for me would be Xubuntu, Lubuntu, or Kubuntu, but if you are getting sick of getting jerked around by Canonical, it may be time to jump ship for Mint (probably the least disruptiv posibility) or another Linux.

  28. Its in the name really.... UNITY. An interface suitable for all three modern devices, PC/tablet/phone. Worth learning for that reason I guess, but DAMN, this version of Ubuntu is so slow to load things. Now where is my uPad!

  29. In a nutshell one half of linux in general has taken a pretty bad bullet shot to the neck and is loosing blood fast! The alternative desktops are fine but the gnome based and ubuntu based editions took a pretty bad shot and there user base are feeling it. Oh how i have given unity and gnome 3 a honest shot but unity over 1 week has slown down my pc with catastrophic effects! bugs crashes and not to mention work load, just takes way to long to do anything. unity is not a desktop app. Period! small hand held stuff YES! same with gnome 3! Not a desktop app! I have been with ubuntu since 6 was released faithful and true! I have since left ubuntu and went with linuxmint debian xfce edition. Great os and is FAST! Canonical will fast learn this was a terrible doing and now will suffer the consequence. Everywhere you look and people you talk to all say the same thing! Unity sucks, German, Greek, Hispanic and not just one race. This is a first of its kind when you consider this is Ubuntu there talking about. You cannot kid the ubuntu users by saying boot into classic just so they will still use it and then clearly see at the end of the tunnel and by your own comments and mark himself: classic will be stripped in the next release. Stop trying to sugar coat this its not fare to you or what was the ubuntu users. There is no shame for your support as you see it now with ubuntu, but please, please don't try to justify the wrong...............

  30. From my point of view, Unity is the only innovative, useful and actually working interface that the FOSS world has produced since GNUstep. And is EASY to use, also by non-skilled users. If you like to stick with the obsolete desktop/folder/file paradigm, well, the world is full of "conservative" distros and DE.
    I can appreciate and use a command line interface, but I think that the default graphical interface should be easiest as possible for the user (but also customizable, and this is the biggest defect of Unity...).

  31. Like lots of old Ubuntu users I cannot stand Unity - for starters it looks like an attempt to be Applesque and that in itself is a complete turn off. Fortunately UbuntuStudio decided to keep GNome and so if I upgrade to Natty - and I see no reason to because performance-wise from all I see Meerkat is better than Natty (boot-times and all that) then I will upgrade and then use the UbuntuStudio desktop which has all the goodness I have grown to love

  32. unity would almost be acceptable if the user was given a chance to customize withing unity, not talking about classic mode. it doesn't exist any longer. lets not go there. but there pride and joy release is nothing but crashing on my high end pc, seems, no the longer it runs while i'm using it the os gets slower and slower then crashes. bugs GALORE for a final release out of beta. Far as i'm concerned its still is beta, the release was force to keep the image of the 6 month release cycles. it takes a very long time to do anything, honest wind 7 you can get things done faster. for the first time and this is no joke: been using ubuntu since 7.04 things got so bad with unity i went back home to my moms house and touched a windows 7 machine for the first time. I needed to get work done! this release i feel boxed in with no place to go other than were you are once you get there. Also unity has not been playing nice with updated standard ubuntu software, BIG BIG problem. This is the first release that i have ever seen since its inception that ubuntu has not been reliable out of the box. This is a very, very frightening feeling with a heart piercing question that this just may be the straw that brakes the giant camels back. But the most terrifying thing is with all the news related articles about unity, all the videos online press releases and the list goes on and on with dissatisfied users mark himself has not stepped in about this to give us some sort of comfort. its been all dictatorship from mark and canonical. I think at this stage of the game i just might return to windows, i analogize, i never thought i would say that.

  33. He people I think this kind of argument is not good for the Linux in generally for open source. The Beauty of Linux is everyone has their own choice the select their own GUI. Unity is a another option a new idea. Still it is too early to say its destiny. All the critics, condemned was their when Gnome started, when Linux started. But after many years now we praise them. So as a open source lover we must wish success for Unity. It might be game changer for Linux who knows. Lets hope best :)

  34. @Scott:
    >we really need to have the option to stick with a stable classic style desktop if we want

    From one side, I agree with you. You need to have flexibility. From another, try to walk in Canonical's shoes. Do you really want them to support all previous versions of all DEs? Like KDE3, KDE4, GNOME2, GNOME3, plus new Unity? That would be horrendous task!

  35. @OpenSource:
    >One day Ubuntu will fall from the first place on Distrowatch.

    I don't agree. They can get nice portion of market with this new Unity. Those users who can migrate from Windows or Mac. But question is whether they really want these users... and whether community is ready to support them?

  36. @Anonymous:
    >we are facing the same problems, Work flow really goes down, and yet people is not able to config their own work environment.
    Isn't it just learning curve? For both Unity and uses?

  37. @Blues Tea-Cha:
    >if you are getting sick of getting jerked around by Canonical, it may be time to jump ship for Mint

    Taking in fact that some of Mint distros are based on Ubuntu, I would be cautious about this option in general.
    Probably move up to Debian or Debian-based Mints?

  38. @aYo ii:
    Why not switch from GNOME to something different? I like Kubuntu. And XFCE is not bad at all, even close to GNOME in some aspects.

  39. @Mohomad:
    You're right about Linux and choices. Though, Canonical withdraws the choice when it takes GNOME away in 11.10. As for now, you have a choice, but that won't continue for long.

  40. @Anonymous and everyone else:
    Sorry I cannot answer all your comments in this post. I appreciate and thank you for your input. Hopefully, you'll continue reading this blog. Feel free to subscribe!

  41. Basic Q is ... Ubuntu needs to focus on being a best distribution & development related to make it better.

    It should not get themselves involved in developing just a flashy new GUI, which distorts their mission of focusing on "Distro" (If they really want develop something .. develop good Office Software ... OOo / LibreOffice still sucks)

    Alternatively if UNITY is being developed something for good, It doesnot mean UNITY has to be forced on users & Ubuntu MUST MUST MUST provide support & easy option to go back to Gnome 2 which is definitely more user friendly & more importantly .. STABLE.

    Forcing UNITY on users just because you have developed it seems like Cannonical is coping Microsoft which does the same with their proprietary s/w without giving users the freedom of selection !!!

    More than UNITY, I hate this attitude of UBUNTU & Cannonical

    ---> Ankur Joshi

  42. @Anonymous (Ankur Joshi):
    Agree. This behaviour of Canonical is similar to behaviour of Microsoft or Apple.

  43. I just upgraded so I don't have a strong opinion yet. I think it's a nice addition to the DE/WM's out there. I used to run Gentoo/Fluxbox. There's complete control over configuration! If Unity begins to slow me down I'll just put Flux on here and get back to business. Stop bitching and put some effort into your day to day OS. Linux based OS's are limitless!

  44. @Boston Sean:
    Holy wars are permanent between computer geeks. Windows vs Linux vs Mac. KDE vs GNOME. And so on.
    Now we have another holy war: Unity vs other DEs.
    Let it go, just stay away from the fire line.

  45. Why don't they create a Gubuntu edition?

  46. @Roger Heberle
    I know 2 variants for Gubuntu: either Gaming Ubuntu or Google Ubuntu. In either case it has nothing to do with Canonical, except for taking source code for further tweaks.

  47. If Ubuntu 11.10 only ships with Unity, that is the end of Ubuntu for me. I will switch to Fedora.
    I regard Unity as a major backward step.
    A lot of extra clicking to get apps launched and the placement of the application toolbar on the top of the screen is one of the worst GUI "feature" of the MAC OS.

    Fortunately I found an easy and straight forward way to uninstall Ubuntu from my dual boot machine.


  48. @Mr Z.
    Thanks for sharing a link.
    If you want to switch from Ubuntu, you can also consider Debian or Mageia. First is very close in ideology to Ubuntu (Ubuntu is based ib Debian). Second is just new fork on Mandriva roots.

  49. If you hate Unity but love the desktop effect, I suggest Downgrading Compiz to ver 0.8.6 which will uninstall Unity in the process and Install AWN as main Panel (http://shiliarr95z.weebly.com/2/post/2011/07/how-to-downgrade-compiz.html). If you prefer less resources, I suggest you turn your attention to Openbox and you can shape it all you like.

  50. @shiliarr95:
    Thanks for sharing the link. Very interesting and promising.

  51. Unity is excellent ... for netbooks.

    If you find computers generally bothersome and want to just browse the internet in peace on your ... network appliance ... then unity is definitely for you. However if you would prefer something more like an actual computer then it may not be your cup of tea.

    I'm using 11.04 with the classic desktop because unity makes me want to hurl my laptop through the window. Unfortunately the outlook isn't good. 11.10 is worse, with no escape provided this time via a classic desktop option. I won't be installing it.

    Yes I know 11.10 was all about switching to Gnome 3 under the hood with no time to tweak the user interface. But I AM disappointed that there is absolutely no sign that criticisms of unity have been listened to and taken on board.

    It is like they are going to MAKE us eat this stuff we don't like. I have visions of a bad parent ramming their two year olds face repeatedly into their plate in an effort to make them eat their peas. You. Must. Like. Peas! Peas are. YUMMY! Eat your peas you little shit!

    It isn't so much that the design of unity completely sucks. Only parts of it completely suck. Other parts are quite good. And if I could choose to use only those parts and turn off or reconfigure the bits that annoy me I'd be very happy. The problem is that unity won't let you do that in the name of having a "consistent desktop experience".

    I HATE macintosh style unified menus - they might work - maybe - on a cellphone or possibly a kiddies toy, but they make no sense at all on a large multiscreen desktop. But ... "Eat your Peas!" ... there is no way to disable them.

    Unity is an equal opportunity annoyer. It has something to annoy everyone. And since there is no way to change anything the most consistent part of the "consistent desktop experience" is that people are consistently annoyed.

    If ubuntu won't recognise and start to fix the problem by 12.04, then that's it. Sad. I've been a user since Hardy. But if they keep driving full speed down this road, well they are obviously heading somewhere I don't want to go so there will have to be a parting of ways.

  52. Seeing Unity as hardly avoidable in 11.10, I decided that the time has come and left Ubuntu for Debian. Having separate home partition, and plus few tricks to keep custom configs, it is done in a flash - you can even keep your wallpaper (not to mention hundreds of diffrent settings) if you use one.
    As for DE, I use ion3/notion, and while GNOME is quite tolerable (I like to use it from time to time when I have some light stuff to do), UNITY is a sorry excuse.
    And to make this worse, I hear they also want to remove Synaptic in 11.10, replacing it by their shitty software-center, as to make the noobs unable to remove Unity completely.
    Not to mention other piles of crap that's been bugging me for years (I've been on Ubuntu since 2006), like pulseaudio, Ubuntu One, Evolution, silly notifications...etc, etc. Well, I guess if you've learned your lesson using Ubuntu, so you know your way around the config files, packaging system and so on, then Debian is a rational continuation. Down with Canonical treating people like M$ does.

  53. @Anonymous:
    Thanks for the long comment.
    My Ubuntu is now gone. But not because of Unity. There are some other reasons... 8-)
    Linux is famous for its choice. If you don't like Unity, don't use it. If you still like Ubuntu, switch to Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu or any other *buntu. That's it.

  54. @Anonymous:
    Debian is classic. It's less "user-friendly" than Ubuntu. And it's less dynamic. But once you learnt basics with Ubuntu, you can easily switch to Debian... back to parents... ;)

  55. I must be a total newb, but I can't figure out how to "Call up application "Login screen"" in ubuntu 11. How exactly do I open that up?

    I'm also not sure where users and groups is...

  56. @Daniel Watrous:
    This tutorial is valid for Ubuntu 11.04. If you're using 11.10, there are 2 points to mention: a) GNOME2 is not available for 11.10, and b) menu items have changed in 11.10.
    So, please don't look for something that does not exist.

  57. since 11.10 unity and gnome3 just look alike and have same complicated features compared to previous ubuntu distros. I too dont hate unity but i think they should listen to what users demand and complaint.

  58. @Baban Gaigole:
    11.10 is very different story...