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Pantheon is the desktop environment originally created for the elementary OS distribution. It is written from scratch in Vala, using GTK 3 and Granite. With regards to usability and appearance, the desktop has some similarities with GNOME Shell and macOS.

Project Status

Although the elementary OS release schedule and toolchain are bound to Ubuntu's LTS release cycle, development moves quickly and has recently moved to github.



Unofficial repository

Alucryd's unofficial repository contains more and more up-to-date packages than the few available in the community repository. To use it add the following lines at the top of your sources in /etc/pacman.conf:

Server =$repo/$arch

Do note that some packages are missing from the repository due to issues with upstream. You will have to supplement the repo with locally compiled packages.


Alternatively, the PKGBUILDs for the pantheon packages are also available in the AUR.

Desktop Environment

For the minimal Pantheon shell, install pantheon-session-gitAUR, which pulls —among other dependencies— the core components:

Services and Configuration

These optional packages provide background services and default settings for Pantheon and elementary OS applications:


These optional packages contribute to the look and feel of the desktop:

It is also recommended to install the following fonts:


These are some of the original, patched, and selected packages that comprise the optional elementary OS software suite:

Launching Pantheon

Via Display manager

pantheon-session-gitAUR provides a gnome-session entry for display managers such as gdm or lightdm.

Autostart applications with a display manager

As a gnome-session, Pantheon implements XDG Autostart.

Via xinit

Tango-view-refresh-red.pngThis article or section is out of date.Tango-view-refresh-red.png

Reason: cerbere has been retired (Discuss in Talk:Pantheon#)

Alternatively, you can use ~/.xinitrc to launch the Pantheon shell, by adding exec cerbere to the end of the file.

Autostart applications with xinit

For applications which do not provide a systemd unit, consider these options:

  • Run once when X starts:
Add it to your ~/.xinitrc Shell script, before the exec cerbere line.
  • Keep running in the background:
Add it to the dconf key io.elementary.desktop.cerbere.monitored-processes.
Should the process stop, cerbere will respawn it.
Use a program like dapperAUR, dex-gitAUR, or fbautostartAUR to implement XDG Autostart.


Configure Pantheon via switchboard or switchboard-gitAUR and its plugs (switchboard-plug-*), which must be installed separately. Not all of gnome-control-center's settings panels have been ported. In addition, except plank, all the Pantheon components store their configuration in the org.pantheon or io.elementary gsettings keys, which can be edited with dconf-editor.


Wingpanel does not come with any indicators; they must be installed separately.

At the minimum, you'll probably want to install:

Third-party indicators

  • If launched by ~/.xinitrc, add third-party indicators to one of the start-up methods described above.

Indicator-session menus unresponsive


Adding new application icons

Either drag and drop a desktop file on to the dock, or right click on a running application and select "Keep in dock". You can then reorder icons by drag and drop.

Note: Plank stores .dockitem launchers in ~/.config/plank/ and configuration in the gsettings key net.launchpad.plank

Pantheon Files

Enable context menu entries

If you want to enable context menu entries such as for file-roller to extract/compress archives, then you have to additionally install contractor or contractor-gitAUR.



To make pantheon-terminal (semi-)transparent, set the dconf key io.elementary.terminal.settings.background to your desired background color and opacity.

Known Issues


Pantheon-terminal transparency

Transparency in pantheon-terminal is not yet fully functional with GTK themes other than the elmentary OS theme. Either use gtk-theme-elementary, gtk-theme-elementary-gitAUR or add the following code to your theme's css or the override file in ~/.config/gtk-3.0/gtk.css:

 * Terminal *

PantheonTerminalPantheonTerminalWindow.background {
   background-color: transparent;

Wingpanel transparency

Wingpanel is transparent by design when using gtk-theme-elementary or gtk-theme-elementary-gitAUR, and becomes opaque when a maximized window occupies your screen. However, using other GTK themes will produce a solid panel most of the time.

To achieve the former behavior within another theme, add the following code to its css or the override file in ~/.config/gtk-3.0/gtk.css:

 * wingpanel support *

.panel {
    background-color: transparent;
    transition: all 1s ease-in-out;

.panel.maximized {
    background-color: #000;

Desktop crashes at login

"Oh no! Something has gone wrong."

One of the RequiredComponents in Pantheon's session file may be failing, causing gnome-session to crash as well.

You may work around this by editing /usr/share/gnome-session/sessions/pantheon.session, removing org.gnome.SettingsDaemon and everything after it on that line.

Subsequent login attempts return to display manager

See gnome-session crashes on session startup.

Most of the time, waiting a little longer to log in is sufficent to clear whatever blockage the previous session has left behind.