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GNOME Flashback is a shell for GNOME 3 which was initially called GNOME fallback mode. The desktop layout and the underlying technology is similar to GNOME 2. It doesn't use 3D acceleration at all, so it's generally faster and consumes less CPU time than GNOME Shell with llvmpipe.

Warning: GNOME Flashback will be dropped soon from the official repositories due incompatibility with the latest GNOME releases. See: [1]


GNOME Flashback can be installed with the package gnome-flashback-session, available in the official repositories. You can also install gnome-applets, which provides some additional applets for the GNOME Panel.

To get a complete desktop environment, it's recommended to install the gnome group which contains applications required for the standard GNOME experience.

Starting GNOME Flashback

Graphical log-in

Simply choose GNOME Flashback session from your favourite display manager.

Starting GNOME Flashback manually

If you prefer to start GNOME Flashback manually from the console, add the following line to your ~/.xinitrc file:

 exec gnome-session --session=gnome-flashback

After the exec command is placed, GNOME Flashback can be launched by typing startx. See xinitrc for details.


GNOME Flashback shares most of its settings with GNOME. See Customizing GNOME appearance for more details.

Customizing GNOME Panel

  • To configure the panel, hold down the Alt key, and right-click on it in an empty area.
  • To move an applet on the panel, hold down the Alt key, and grab it with middle-button.

Alternative window manager

You can use an alternative window manager with GNOME by creating two files:

Note: Xmonad is used as an example, but this works for other window managers.
[GNOME Session]
Name=GNOME xmonad
[Desktop Entry]
Name=GNOME xmonad
Comment=This session logs you into GNOME with the traditional panel
Exec=gnome-session --session=gnome-xmonad

The next time you log in, you should have the ability to choose GNOME xmonad as your session.

If there isn't a .desktop file for the window manager, you'll need to create one. Example for wmii:

[Desktop Entry]

For more information, see this article on running awesome as the window manager in GNOME.

Known issues

  • The clock applet crashes when opening its settings.
  • The desktop background image sometimes blanked out.
  • The panel won't resized properly when the screen resolution changed.