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I would like to avoid installing Gnome dependencies, if possible. I figured this is possible as Unity 2D is written in Qt. Thanks for your input!

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Use the following to install a package with only the required dependencies, not the recommended ones (which are usually installed by default):

sudo apt-get -o APT::Install-Recommends=0 install package1 package2 package3

While Unity 2D may work without some of the required dependencies, it's a very dangerous zone to be meddling in. You can use dpkg with forced removal to remove the ones you think don't matter, after installation with the above.

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