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Pantheon is the default desktop environment originally created for the elementary OS distribution. It is written from scratch using Vala and the GTK3 toolkit. With regards to usability and appearance, the desktop has some similarities with GNOME Shell and MacOS.


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

Unofficial binary repository

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

SigLevel = Optional
Server =$repo/$arch
Note: The PKGBUILDs for these packages are also available in the AUR.

Desktop Environment

To get the basic Pantheon desktop interface, start by installing pantheon-session-bzrAUR, which pulls--among other dependencies--the core components:

You may additionally install these packages as well:

Services and Configuration

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


These 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 elementary OS software suite:

Launching Pantheon

Via Display manager

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

Via xinit

Alternatively, you can use ~/.xinitrc to launch the Pantheon shell, such as:


#Prepend xinitrc.d/ configuration
if [ -d /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc.d ]; then
  for f in /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc.d/*; do
    [ -x "$f" ] && . "$f"
  unset f

#Autostart services and applications
gsettings-data-convert &
xdg-user-dirs-gtk-update &
/usr/lib/polkit-gnome/polkit-gnome-authentication-agent-1 &
/usr/lib/gnome-settings-daemon/gnome-settings-daemon &
/usr/lib/gnome-user-share/gnome-user-share &
eval $(gnome-keyring-daemon --start --components=pkcs11,secrets,ssh,gpg)

#Load Pantheon
exec cerbere

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, before the exec cerbere line. This is a Shell script.
  • Keep running in the background:
Add it to the org.pantheon.desktop.cerbere.monitored-processes key using dconf-editor; should the process stop, cerbere will respawn it as many times as org.pantheon.desktop.cerbere.max-crashes.
Use a program like dapperAUR, dex-gitAUR, or fbautostartAUR to implement XDG autostart.


Configure Pantheon via switchboardAUR and its plugs (switchboard-plug-*), which must be installed separately. The intent is to replace gnome-control-center, but not all settings have been ported. In some cases, you may prefer to use gnome-control-center or gnome-tweak-tool instead. All Pantheon settings, except plank's, can also be altered via dconf and are located in the org.pantheon key. Use dconf-editor for easy editing.


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 its configuration files in ~/.config/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.


Opacity (transparency)

To make pantheon-terminal (semi-)transparent, open dconf-editor and go to org.pantheon.terminal.settings.opacity to set your desired opacity. For pantheon-terminal-gitAUR, the background color and transparency are set by org.pantheon.terminal.settings.background.

Known Issues

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

Reason: This information is quite old; some of these issues may have been resolved. (Discuss in Talk:Pantheon#)


Cannot interact with the LightDM Pantheon greeter

You need to delete /var/lib/lightdm/.pam_environment. Do note however that this file is a workaround for the following LightDM bug:

Gala crashes on start

Unconfigured gala tries to use default gnome wallpaper, which is absent unless you have the package gnome-themes-standard installed. Install it workaround the crash; it is safe to remove after you configure another wallpaper.

No mouse cursor after login

The Gala window manager is most likely not running. Either install cerbere-gitAUR or add gala to the list of cerbere's monitored processes.


Indicators not appearing in wingpanel

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

Note: wingpanelAUR supports Ayatana indicators, while wingpanel-gitAUR has native indicators (wingpanel-indicator-*-git).

Third-party indicators

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

Indicator-session menus not responsive

  • indicator-sessionAUR relies on dbus methods provided by Unity for most of its functions and fails to fallback to gnome or systemd methods in its absence.


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-elementaryAUR, gtk-theme-elementary-gitAUR or add this code to your theme or the override file in ~/.config/gtk-3.0/gtk.css.

Wingpanel transparency

Wingpanel is transparent by design when using gtk-theme-elementaryAUR 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 other themes, add the following lines to the end of 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;

GTK+ applications surrounded by awful black shadow box

The elementary GTK theme seems to be using its own files and ignoring the ~/.config/gtk-3.0/gtk.css user-override config file. This has been reported on To work around the issue, go to the file /usr/share/themes/elementary/gtk-3.0/gtk-widgets.css and look for the following (around line 3669):

.window-frame {
    border-radius: 4px 4px 0 0;
    box-shadow: 0 0 0 1px alpha (#000, 0.3),
                0 14px 28px rgba(0,0,0,0.35),
                0 10px 10px rgba(0,0,0,0.22);
    margin: 12px;

Replace the above by the the code below

.window-frame {
    box-shadow: none;
    border: none;
    padding: 0;
    margin: 0;

White icons in pantheon-files

Currently there seems to be a bug which displays the view icons in the top location in a white colour instead of black. This can be fixed by installing gtk-theme-elementary-gitAUR or, for gtk-theme-elementaryAUR, add the following line to gtk-widgets.css:

GtkToolItem { color: @text_color; }