12 of 24 Corrected Ubuntu version references to include new releases. Fixed the statement saying that GNOME Shell doesn't need hardware acceleration any more http://goo.gl/dS47k2. Other fixes and adjustments.


GNOME Shell running on Ubuntu 11.10

GNOME Shell is the "official" shell developed for GNOME 3 by GNOME.


  • It uses Mutter instead of Compiz for the window manager.
  • GNOME Shell has an Activities view, similar to Unity's Dash, where you can drag windows between workspaces, search for applications, and more.
  • By default, windows cannot be minimized in GNOME Shell, as the use of workspaces is supposed to replace that. This could need some getting used to at first, or alternatively the GNOME Tweak tool could be used to restore this functionality.
  • GNOME Shell uses automatic workspace management; at any given moment, it only keeps open as many workspaces as you have active windows on, plus an extra empty one to start more windows. When you remove all the windows from a workspace, that workspace will be removed until you need it again.
  • Indicators are kept hidden by default in the lower-right corner of the screen; this area is known as the Messaging Tray.
  • GNOME Shell in Ubuntu 11.10 and above comes with the Adwaita GTK3 theme, which is the new default theme for GNOME replacing Clearlooks. This theme can also be used in Unity if one wishes.
  • GNOME Shell's functionality and interface can be extended or modified through the use of extensions. For more information on how to install these extensions, see How do I install and manage GNOME Shell extensions?.
  • Lots of interesting extensions can be installed from https://extensions.gnome.org/

System Requirements

GNOME Shell requires hardware acceleration, and has roughly similar requirements to Unity. As of the time that this was written, the GNOME developers aim to have GNOME Shell able to run on any hardware that is at most four to five years old.

How To Get It

Recommended Method

Ubuntu GNOME includes a full blown GNOME desktop environment installed and used by default. This is the recommended method to get GNOME Shell installed in Ubuntu, if you don't plan to use Unity, KDE or any other desktop environment.

Other Method

In 11.10 onwards, GNOME Shell is natively installable from the official repositories. Click this link to install the gnome-shellInstall GNOME Shell package, find it in the Ubuntu Software Center, or type sudo apt-get install gnome-shell in a terminal.

Old Method

GNOME Shell is available in 11.04 via a PPA.

For more detailed information on how to install GNOME Shell (including how to compile the latest upstream version yourself), you may also refer to How do I install and use the latest version of GNOME?.

You can try it out by pressing Alt+F2 and entering gnome-shell --replace.