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For a while I departed from Ubuntu to use Linux Mint because I really don't like Unity, or Gnome 3's most recent interface.

I was fine with what was called "Gnome Classic", but I feared it was being neglected because there were some significant bugs that lingered without improvement for a while.

Unfortunately, while I like the MATE interface in Linux Mint, Mint itself lacks the level of community support that Ubuntu has. Mint has development and support issues. Not to disparage their efforts, I think they've done great work, but it's tough making a UI, and unfortunately it's just not working for me.

I'm thinking of returning to Ubuntu with the 14.04 release, but not if it means using Unity. I have looked into the current situation, and I'm a little confused about the terms being thrown around. I have seen referens to "fallback", "flashback", and "classic", without any clear idea of which is available and what they offer.

Is there still an option to get an interface that resembles the way Gnome used to look?

Can I get an interface that looks like what I have with Mint, but with the support and features of Ubuntu? Can I get something close to that?

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It's still available in the final beta version so I would be very surprised if it gets removed in the final release. –  Warren Hill Mar 31 at 7:57

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

MATE is a lightweight desktop environment that uses the traditional panel desktop layout used in pre-Unity Ubuntu. The MATE desktop environment can be configured to have either one or two panels.

For more information about the MATE desktop environment take the Coding Studio's Linux Mint 16 MATE Screenshot Tour (one panel MATE desktop) or visit the Ubuntu MATE screenshot tour (two panel MATE desktop).

How to install MATE in Ubuntu 14.04

Add the following repository to /etc/apt/sources.list via the following command:

sudo add-apt-repository "deb http://repo.mate-desktop.org/archive/1.8/ubuntu trusty main"

Run sudo apt-get update and select one of the three following commands:

sudo apt-get update
# Now to install MATE choose 1 of the 3 apt-get lines below.
#1 This will install the base packages required for a minimal MATE desktop
sudo apt-get install mate-core
#2 This will install the complete MATE desktop
sudo apt-get install mate-desktop-environment
#3 This will install the complete MATE desktop including a few extras
sudo apt-get install mate-desktop-environment-extra 

Instead of lightdm use lightdm-gtk-greeter for the login display manager as recommended by the MATE team:

sudo apt-get install lightdm-gtk-greeter  
sudo shutdown -r now  # reboot  

How to install MATE in Ubuntu 14.10

sudo apt-get install mate-desktop-environment-extras  
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Wait... I can use Ubuntu and keep MATE? Seems almost too good to be true... :) –  Questioner Mar 31 at 8:56
@DaveMG You always could, askubuntu.com/questions/87040/how-to-install-mate ;) –  Seth Mar 31 at 17:10
@Seth, had I known that... oh well. Live and learn. :) –  Questioner Apr 1 at 2:50
I've installed 14.04, and I've installed MATE from the software centre... but when I log out and try to select a new session, there is no option to select MATE. How do I enable it? –  Questioner Apr 18 at 4:53
lightdm-gtk-greeter (simple login display manager) is recommended for the login display manager by the MATE team. To install lightdm-gtk-greeter from the terminal run sudo apt-get install lightdm-gtk-greeter && sudo shutdown -r now. –  karel Apr 18 at 5:06

Well, in these cases I always recommend Xfce. Many users don't realize that Xfce is flexible enough to allow them to easily emulate the "Gnome Classic" look&feel of the desktop interface (unlike LXDE, for example), by setting up the panels as in the old days. And they can also run all individual Gnome programs (like Nautilus, Evince, etc.) within Xfce.

See also:

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I think Xfce is a fine distribution, but where it falls down for me is that, as far as I know, it aspires for efficiency at the expense of features. What I really want is a feature rich environment, but with a certain look and feel, and Xfce only provides one of those. –  Questioner Apr 1 at 2:54
Well, what do you mean by "feature rich"? As a core Desktop Environment, IMO the flexible Xfce is much more feature rich than the rigid Gnome2 ever was. As an extended collection of applications, Xfce is nominally worse equipped than Gnome2, which is no big deal: you can straightforwardly use most Gnome2 applications right within Xfce without a hitch (Evince, File Roller, Gparted, or what have you). So what kind of features exactly is Xfce lacking in your experience? –  landroni Apr 1 at 4:02

you can also install unity and use classic menus in it. classic menu creates the same type of applications menu as in gnome 2 but the only problem is that it appears to the right with the time and system tray.

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