I've been having enough problems with Unity that I've actually installed Xubuntu fresh on my laptops.

Unfortunately, my main desktop was upgraded over the net from Ubuntu 10.04 to 11.04 and, even though I've gotten gnome-panel up and running (and disabled as much as possible of the Unity shortcuts), I still prefer the Xubuntu desktop.

Is there a way to switch from Ubuntu to Xubuntu (or Unity to XFCE) without having to go through all the backup/install/restore stuff?

Can we simply download a package of some sort that will install XFCE as the window manager?

Is this even a sane thing to consider or should I bite the bullet and re-install totally?

  • FWIW, I've now totally ditched Ubuntu, the "Windows ME of the Linux world" :-) and I'm running pure Debian.
    – user9184
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 9:05

2 Answers 2


It all depends on how you want your system If you just want bare xfce as your desktop and run all the applications you have been running. You can just do

apt-get install --no-install-recommends xubuntu-desktop

and remove those unity and gnome related desktop packages using synaptic and choose xubuntu session from gdm during login. Adding to what jpfluery pointed out the given script tends to replace applications such as libreoffice, evolution, totem, empathy, banshee, gedit with some lighter alternatves i.e abiword,gnumeric, thunderbird,parole,pidgin,gmusicbrowser,mousepad etc which are recommended packages of xubuntu. With xubuntu what you will get is

  • xfce alternative to gnome,unity
  • thunar alternative to nautilus[although they both can co-exist]
  • xfwm alternative to compiz[although compiz can be run with xfce] and metacity

If you need xubuntu-artworks, plymouth theme and even gdm theme you can install them as well.

  • 2
    No need (unless disk space is limited) to purge GNOME applications or GNOME libraries. Just install Xubuntu and select XFCE session as default from login screen.
    – Takkat
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 9:36

Is there a way to switch from Ubuntu to Xubuntu (or Unity to XFCE) without having to go through all the backup/install/restore stuff?

Yes, there's a way:

  1. First, install Xubuntu:

    sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop
  2. Then, remove default packages installed by Ubuntu (Gnome):

    sudo apt-get remove adium-theme-ubuntu alacarte appmenu-gtk at-spi bamfdaemon banshee banshee-extension-soundmenu banshee-extension-ubuntuonemusicstore baobab binfmt-support bluez-gstreamer bogofilter bogofilter-bdb bogofilter-common branding-ubuntu brasero brasero-cdrkit brasero-common capplets-data checkbox checkbox-gtk cli-common compiz compiz-core compiz-gnome compiz-plugins compiz-plugins-main compizconfig-backend-gconf computer-janitor computer-janitor-gtk dvd+rw-tools empathy empathy-common eog evolution evolution-common evolution-data-server evolution-data-server-common evolution-exchange evolution-indicator evolution-plugins evolution-webcal example-content exiv2 gbrainy gconf-defaults-service gconf-editor gdm-guest-session gedit gedit-common geoclue geoclue-ubuntu-geoip ginn gir1.2-gconf-2.0 gir1.2-panelapplet-3.0 gir1.2-soup-2.4 gnome-about gnome-applets gnome-applets-data gnome-bluetooth gnome-control-center gnome-disk-utility gnome-mag gnome-media gnome-media-common gnome-mime-data gnome-nettool gnome-orca gnome-panel gnome-panel-bonobo gnome-panel-data gnome-power-manager gnome-screensaver gnome-screenshot gnome-search-tool gnome-session gnome-session-canberra gnome-session-common gnome-system-log gnome-system-monitor gnome-terminal gnome-terminal-data gnome-themes-selected gnome-themes-ubuntu gnome-user-share gnome-utils-common growisofs gsettings-desktop-schemas gstreamer0.10-gnonlin gwibber gwibber-service gwibber-service-facebook gwibber-service-identica gwibber-service-twitter indicator-applet indicator-applet-appmenu indicator-applet-complete indicator-applet-session indicator-appmenu indicator-datetime indicator-me indicator-session libappindicator0.1-cil libart-2.0-2 libart2.0-cil libbamf0 libbonoboui2-0 libbonoboui2-common libboost-serialization1.42.0 libbrasero-media1 libcamel1.2-19 libcanberra-pulse libcompizconfig0 libcryptui0 libdconf0 libdecoration0 libdee-1.0-1 libebackend1.2-0 libebook1.2-10 libecal1.2-8 libedata-book1.2-8 libedata-cal1.2-10 libedataserver1.2-14 libedataserverui1.2-11 libegroupwise1.2-13 libevolution libexempi3 libexiv2-10 libfolks-telepathy22 libfolks22 libgail-common libgail-gnome-module libgconf2.0-cil libgdata-common libgdata1.7-cil libgdata11 libgdu-gtk0 libgeoclue0 libgexiv2-0 libgkeyfile1.0-cil libglade2.0-cil libgladeui-1-11 libglew1.5 libglewmx1.5 libglib2.0-bin libglib2.0-cil libglib2.0-data libgmime-2.4-2 libgmime2.4-cil libgnome-mag2 libgnome-media0 libgnome-vfs2.0-cil libgnome-window-settings1 libgnome2-0 libgnome2.24-cil libgnomecanvas2-0 libgnomecanvas2-common libgnomeui-0 libgnomeui-common libgnomevfs2-0 libgnomevfs2-common libgoocanvas-common libgoocanvas3 libgpgme11 libgpod-common libgpod4 libgraphite3 libgsl0ldbl libgtk-sharp-beans-cil libgtk2.0-cil libgtkhtml-editor-common libgtkhtml-editor0 libgtkhtml3.14-19 libgtksourceview2.0-0 libgtksourceview2.0-common libgudev1.0-cil libgweather-common libgweather1 libgwibber1 libhyphen0 liblaunchpad-integration1.0-cil liblircclient0 liblouis-data liblouis2 libmetacity-private0 libmission-control-plugins0 libmono-addins-gui0.2-cil libmono-addins0.2-cil libmono-cairo2.0-cil libmono-corlib2.0-cil libmono-i18n-west2.0-cil libmono-management2.0-cil libmono-posix2.0-cil libmono-security2.0-cil libmono-sharpzip2.84-cil libmono-system2.0-cil libmono-zeroconf1.0-cil libmtp8 libmythes-1.2-0 libndesk-dbus-glib1.0-cil libndesk-dbus1.0-cil libneon27-gnutls libnotify0.4-cil libnux-0.9-0 libnux-0.9-common liboverlay-scrollbar-0.1-0 libpanel-applet-3-0 libpanel-applet2-0 libprotobuf6 libprotoc6 libpst4 libpth20 libquvi0 libraptor1 librasqal2 librdf0 libreoffice-base-core libreoffice-calc libreoffice-common libreoffice-core libreoffice-draw libreoffice-emailmerge libreoffice-gnome libreoffice-gtk libreoffice-help-en-us libreoffice-impress libreoffice-math libreoffice-style-human libreoffice-writer libsdl1.2debian libsdl1.2debian-pulseaudio libstlport4.6ldbl libsyncdaemon-1.0-1 libtaglib2.0-cil libtelepathy-farsight0 libtelepathy-logger2 libtextcat-data libtextcat0 libtotem-plparser17 libubuntuone-1.0-1 libubuntuone1.0-cil libunity-misc0 libunity4 libutouch-geis1 libwmf0.2-7-gtk libzeitgeist-1.0-1 light-themes media-player-info metacity metacity-common mono-2.0-gac mono-csharp-shell mono-gac mono-gmcs mono-runtime mousetweaks nautilus nautilus-data nautilus-sendto nautilus-sendto-empathy nautilus-share notify-osd notify-osd-icons nux-tools obexd-client overlay-scrollbar pitivi plymouth-theme-ubuntu-logo protobuf-compiler pulseaudio-module-bluetooth pulseaudio-module-gconf python-argparse python-brlapi python-configglue python-egenix-mxdatetime python-egenix-mxtools python-farsight python-gnome2 python-gnomecanvas python-gtksourceview2 python-gtkspell python-indicate python-libproxy python-louis python-mako python-markupsafe python-papyon python-protobuf python-pyatspi python-pygoocanvas python-pyinotify python-pyorbit python-rdflib python-speechd python-telepathy python-twisted-names python-ubuntuone-client python-ubuntuone-control-panel python-ubuntuone-storageprotocol python-uno python-wnck rdesktop seahorse shotwell ssh-askpass-gnome telepathy-butterfly telepathy-gabble telepathy-haze telepathy-idle telepathy-logger telepathy-mission-control-5 telepathy-salut tomboy totem totem-common totem-mozilla totem-plugins tsclient ubuntu-artwork ubuntu-desktop ubuntu-docs ubuntu-mono ubuntu-sounds ubuntu-system-service ubuntu-wallpapers ubuntuone-client ubuntuone-client-gnome ubuntuone-control-panel ubuntuone-control-panel-gtk unity unity-asset-pool unity-common unity-place-applications unity-place-files uno-libs3 ure vino whois wodim xfonts-mathml zeitgeist zeitgeist-datahub zeitgeist-extension-fts

You can visit Getting Back to a Pure XFCE on Ubuntu for more information.

  • It might be a bit trickier than that. That link seems to indicate how to get back to Xubuntu after installing one of the other flavours on top of it. Unfortunately, I never had Xubuntu in the first place, it was a raw Ubuntu. I suspect if I just removed all that Gnome stuff without adding (for example) XFCE, my system would not work that well. Still, +1 since there's some other stuff on that site that looks like it might help.
    – user9184
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 3:46
  • Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 11:24
  • 1
    @Stefano: OK, I'll edit my answer to add some context.
    – jep
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 19:52
  • @paxdiablo: actually, the code pointed out in the link already contained removal of Gnome and installation of Xubuntu, so sudo apt-get remove ... && sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop. I edited my answer. I hope it's clearer.
    – jep
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 20:45

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