Why are the printing setting different in Gnome Shell and Unity for Ubuntu 11.10?

I believe this may even be a bug - more than a question. But I want to refine my questions before posting them at Launchpad.

Under Ubuntu 11.10, Unity had a printing menu that looks like this: Unity Print

Yet in the Shell, it looks rather like this: Shell Print

I've connected my laptop, a Dell Inspiron 1525, to my University's wireless printing system (LPD). It was very simple under Ubuntu 10.04, and also after upgrading to Ubuntu 11.10. it was quite easy well.

The problem is - under Unity it worked out-of-the-box (just as it was in 10.04), yet under Gnome Shell it didn't.

Furthermore, printing under Shell doesn't send it to print, yet under Unity it prints just fine..

I like both DE - but prefer Shell as of today. Why is the printing issue different..?

4 Answers 4


You're actually looking at two separate applications. The screenshot at the top is system-config-printer (called "Printing" in the shell) and the screenshot at the bottom is gnome-printers-panel (called "Printers" -- but they may have the same name in your language!). Both are available in both desktop environments.

The latter one is probably supposed to replace the former in Gnome 3, but as you have noticed, it isn't as functional as the old one (yet). That explains why both are installed.

I can't explain why printing doesn't work in Gnome Shell. Do you still experience problems if you use system-config-printer to set up your printer in Gnome Shell?

  • I can open via terminal the 'system-config-printer' - but it doesn't help, since when i want to print - it goes to the default app, which is 'gnome-printers'
    – ushabtay
    Dec 8, 2011 at 16:07
  • @ushabtay: I don't see what you mean. When you print something, it shouldn't go to either application. It should just go to the printer. You should see the same print queue from both applications, I think. What are you printing?
    – Timo Kluck
    Dec 10, 2011 at 11:34
  • regular PDF files that are mainly boring academic articles .. as i said - perfectly runs under Unity, and doesn't work under the shell
    – ushabtay
    Dec 10, 2011 at 20:54
  • 4 years later and the situation has unfortunately not improved yet :) Aug 10, 2015 at 14:49

A nice way to get around this is to make the old printer settings launcher visible in Gnome Shell is to edit the launcher directly:

sudo nano /usr/share/applications/system-config-printer.desktop

and change the line NotShowIn=KDE;Gnome; to NotShowIn=KDE;.

Also, as Timo mentioned above, the name of the new and the old printer settings launchers may be the same, so you may also want to change the line Name=Printers to something like Name=Advanced Printer Settings.


Unity and Gnome Shell are not different desktop environments. For both, the DE is Gnome 3, and the configuration of printing and other system things should be done using the same dialogs with both. They're not supposed to provide different configuration tools.

However, the transition to Gnome 3 is not 100% complete. I'm not entirely sure why, but Ubuntu seems to have overridden the new printing dialog, using the old one instead. This is a weird bug that I can confirm. I would assume that there is something in the session definitions that are missing something, and I would be seriously surprised if there was an actual issue with Unity and Gnome Shell themselves. But since the "gnome-shell" package provides the Gnome session, you should still file a bug at that package. In other words, I can confirm that clicking on "printers" in gnome-control-center when you run it from the "Gnome" session is different than doing the exact same thing from the "Ubuntu" session. No doubt it is a bug, but I don't know the cause of it.

As a temporary fix, in order to run the correct dialog while in the Gnome session, press alt+f2 and enter /usr/share/system-config-printer/system-config-printer.py

  • Ubuntu devs. probably realised the new printing dialogue isn't functional, while the old one is surely is.. the question is - why isn't it transitioned to Gnome Shell as well
    – ushabtay
    Dec 8, 2011 at 16:06
  • It doesn't seem to be related to Gnome Shell or Unity at all, but to gnome-control-center. Seems that the Ubuntu session somehow overrides the control-center applet. Dec 8, 2011 at 19:32

@Timo Kluck the gnome shell configure app is invoked with: gnome-control-center printers

You can edit the printers in gnome shell by running system-config-printer changes are carried across desktop environments.

But it is a problem that needs to be rectified.

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