How to Install GNOME Desktop in Ubuntu 22.04 or 20.04

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GNOME is a popular desktop environment for Linux, and it is the default desktop environment for many Linux distributions. It is a desktop environment that is designed to be customizable and user-friendly for all types of users.

It is the default desktop environment for many of the popular Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, Debian, CentOS, RockyLinux, RHEL, Pop!_OS, ZorinOS, and others.

GNOME stands for GNU Network Object Modeling Environment, and is a free and open-source desktop environment. It is developed by the GNOME Project, which is a community of developers and designers.

Some of GNOME’s most appealing features include:

  • It supports a wide range of applications. One of the reasons for GNOME being the default desktop environment for most major Linux distros is that it provides most functionality and compatibility with existing software.
  • It has a consistent, attractive, and intuitive interface
  • There is a large collection of themes and extensions available. Most of these themes and extensions are developed by the community. You can find most of them curated on gnome-look.org
  • It offers better accessibility, than most desktop environments, for people with disabilities.

A disadvantage of GNOME is that it is not as lightweight as other desktop environments and its higher memory usage, which can be difficult to run on low-end hardware.

“Higher memory usage” and “low-end hardware” are relative terms, depending on who you ask. To give you an idea, on a 4GB VMware virtual machine, I’m running Ubuntu 22.04 Desktop. The only app I’m running is System Monitor, and RAM usage is at 1.3GB.

In this tutorial we will install the GNOME desktop environment on a Ubuntu 20.04 or 22.04 machine. We’ll install 4 variants – Ubuntu GNOME Desktop Full/Minimal, as well as Vanilla GNOME Desktop Full/Minimal. To find out more about GNOME you can check out the official website at gnome.org.

Update and Upgrade Package Index

Make sure your packages are up to date. Sometimes you may get some errors when trying to install your desktop environment, when you’re trying to install it on a fresh server, for example.

To do this run the following command to update the system’s package index and upgrade your packages.

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade

Install GNOME Desktop Environment on Ubuntu

There are a few ways to install GNOME and there are a few variations of it. There are minimal installs, which exclude

Install Ubuntu GNOME Desktop (ubuntu-gnome-desktop package)

Ubuntu GNOME Desktop is a full GNOME desktop environment based on Ubuntu. It is designed to be simple and easy to use for new users, while still being useful for experts.

It comes with installed applications that are the ones most often used on a desktop system, such as Firefox for web browsing, LibreOffice for office applications, Rhythmbox for music, and GIMP for image editing, etc.

On a fresh Ubuntu server install, it will take about ~2.5GB space.

To install it run the following command:

sudo apt install ubuntu-gnome-desktop

Reboot the machine after the install is finished.

This is how it looks on a fresh install:

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Ubuntu GNOME Desktop
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Ubuntu GNOME Desktop – Applications Menu

Install Ubuntu GNOME Desktop Minimal (ubuntu-desktop-minimal package)

Ubuntu GNOME Desktop Minimal is a flavor of Ubuntu GNOME that is smaller and lighter than the full Ubuntu GNOME Desktop. It uses a slimmed-down software selection. The purpose of this flavor is to provide a smaller, lighter system to those users who have older hardware or who want a more minimal system.

On a fresh Ubuntu server install, it will take about ~800MB space.

To install it run the following command:

sudo apt install ubuntu-desktop-minimal

Reboot the machine after the install is finished.

This is how it looks like on a fresh install:

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Ubuntu GNOME Desktop Minimal
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Ubuntu GNOME Desktop Minimal – Applications Menu

Install Vanilla GNOME Desktop (vanilla-gnome-desktop package)

Vanilla means that it is the original version of something, without any additions or modifications. In the case of GNOME, this would refer to the official GNOME desktop environment that is released by the GNOME Project.

Vanilla GNOME Desktop is the official GNOME desktop environment that is not packaged with any additional software or modifications. It is the purest form of the GNOME desktop environment that is available.

Vanilla GNOME vs Ubuntu GNOME

The difference between Vanilla GNOME and Ubuntu GNOME is that Ubuntu GNOME is an official flavor of Ubuntu, while Vanilla GNOME is not. Ubuntu GNOME is a fork of the GNOME project that is designed to be integrated with the Ubuntu operating system.

Some noticeable differences between them are that Vanilla GNOME doesn’t have the side dock/panel like the Ubuntu GNOME flavor, and some of the aesthetics are different, such as the Ubuntu branding, there are different fonts, icon sets, etc. There are other minor differences as well.

On a fresh Ubuntu server install, it will take about ~2.5GB space.

sudo apt install vanilla-gnome-desktop

Reboot the machine after the install is finished.

This is how it looks on a fresh install:

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Vanilla GNOME Desktop
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Vanilla GNOME Desktop – Applications Menu

Install Vanilla GNOME Desktop Minimal (gnome-session package)

In the same manner of Ubuntu GNOME Desktop Minimal, Vanilla GNOME Desktop Minimal is a bare-minimum version of the full Vanilla GNOME Desktop that comes installed with the core applications.

It is perfect for people who want to have a lean and clean system with a small memory footprint, or who want to install additional software themselves and do not want any bloat. The goal of this release is to provide a frugal, lean and usable front end for everyday use.

On a fresh Ubuntu server install, it will take about ~2.6GB space.

To install it run the following command, which will install GNOME as well as the GNOME terminal:

sudo apt install gnome-session gnome-terminal

Reboot the machine after the install is finished.

This is how it looks on a fresh install:

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Vanilla GNOME Desktop Minimal
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Vanilla GNOME Desktop Minimal – Applications Menu

Install Ubuntu GNOME Desktop using Tasksel

Tasksel is a Debian/Ubuntu tool that installs multiple related packages as a cohesive unit. It is useful for installing a specific desktop environment, such as GNOME, XFCE, LXDE, KDE, and so on.

It makes it easier to install various desktop environments and some other software.

Install Tasksel

To install tasksel run:

sudo apt install tasksel

Install Ubuntu GNOME Desktop

To install Ubuntu GNOME Desktop using tasksel run:

sudo tasksel

Next you’ll be presented with an interactive screen from which you can select the software you want to install from the configurations available in tasksel. Select GNOME by navigating with your cursor into its corresponding checkbox, press SPACE, then TAB to switch to the OK/Cancel buttons, and press ENTER to OK.

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Running tasksel on Ubuntu 22.04 offers just Debian predefined collections of software.
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Running tasksel on Ubuntu 20.04 offers the full range of predefined collections of software.

Next, wait for the progress screen to finish. When it’s done you’ll get back to the terminal, and you can reboot the machine.

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Conclusion

In this tutorial we covered how to install both Vanilla and Ubuntu GNOME Desktop environments, as well as their minimal versions.

If you have any questions or feedback feel free to leave a comment and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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