Making Ubuntu 11.10 and 12.04 behave like 10.04

January 2, 2012

My Ubuntu 11.10 behaving exactly like 10.04 :)

My Ubuntu 12.04 behaving exactly like 10.04 :)

Like many others you chose to install new Ubuntu 11.10. And like many others, after about one minute of using it, the bling wore off and you were shocked how crappy it really was.

Although the new system is shiny and glam, from the usability point of view the new Unity interface simply sucks. The Gnome3 Shell that is advertised as an alternative is not that nice as well. This was the reason that many people abandoned Ubuntu for more sane systems like Mint. Many people like me simply like to have a system to get stuff done, and not to interact with. Gnome 2 based systems, like Ubuntu 10.04 were perfect for that goal.

So now, after you cried a river on how the new Ubuntu made you feel bad, time has come to dry your tears. There is a way to make new Gnome3 based ubuntu look and play nice – exactly like your good ‘ol desktop ( or like mine, on the photo on the right :P ).

Here’s what you have to do:

Secure your rights

As of April 2013 the current threat to the freedom of internet is SOPA PIPA CISPA, aka SOPA 2.0 though many lawyers say it is way worse. Go to the EFF site and learn more, sign petition, and make a ruckus about it among your friends on twitter and facebook:

For this tutorial and other websites to exist in a free uncensored internet, it is essential to kill any toxic bills. Some politicians will never learn like some old grandpa who clings to some racist believes. Hence they will try to go again and again with attempts to limit freedom using the usual “we are only trying to protect you” agenda.

Install new stuff

Ubuntu by default does not ship with sane packages that are out there. You have to install them from a terminal:

Classic gnome3 ( source):

sudo apt-get install gnome-panel gnome-session-fallback gnome-tweak-tool

Ported indicator applet ( source):

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:jconti/gnome3
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install indicator-applet indicator-applet-complete indicator-applet-session indicator-applet-appmenu


sudo apt-get install compiz compizconfig-settings-manager compiz-plugins-extra

Radiance 10.04 theme for both gtk3 and gtk2 ( 10.04 Ambiance and Radiance for gtk2-only engines – pre 11.10 – are here )

# choose one:
# this is for 12.04
sudo tar -xzf Radiance-10.04a-gtk3-gtk2.tgz -C /usr/share/themes

# this is for 11.10 (will cause render errors in 12.04)
sudo tar -xzf Radiance-10.04-gtk3-gtk2.tgz -C /usr/share/themes

Set it all up

This text below, till the other orange message, applies only to the 11.04. In 12.04 compiz starts okay in gnome classic and no other tinkering is needed.

Your system now has all the stuff it needs to be happy, but it doesn’t exactly know at this stage what to do with all of this. So you have to massage it a little.

Tell lightdm that were cooking with compiz ( source ). To do so you must create new gnome session file:

sudo sh -c "cat >> /usr/share/gnome-session/sessions/gnome-classic-compiz.session"

Then paste the following text and hit ctrl-d when you’re done.

[GNOME Session]
Name=GNOME Classic Compiz

Next create new xsession file:

sudo sh -c "cat >> /usr/share/xsessions/gnome-classic-compiz.desktop"

Then select and copy ( button in corner ) and then paste the following text into the terminal. After doing so press ctrl-d to tell terminal that you ended filling that file.

[Desktop Entry]
Name=GNOME Classic Compiz
Comment=This session logs you into GNOME with the traditional panel
Exec=gnome-session --session=gnome-classic-compiz

And tell lightdm to use that new session as default ( source).

sudo /usr/lib/lightdm/lightdm-set-defaults -s gnome-classic-compiz

Resume with the tutorial from here if you have 12.04 and above section did not apply to you. 

Now your system will know what to chose when logging. But you have to add compiz  –replace command to the startup applications ( Applications → Other → Startup Applications ) so the compiz will actually start. Compiz by default takes over Alt + Right Mouse Button to move windows around. Unfortuately gnome-classic uses the same key combination to access preferences. You got to change compiz setting in Applications → Other → CompizConfig Settings Manager | Window Management → Move Window → Initiate Window Move to something that suits you. I use Super instead of Alt. You can now setup your panel preferences in gnome-classic + compiz by clicking Alt + Right Mouse Button. Theme settings are accessible through Applications → Other → Advanced Settings where you can setup theme, fonts and so on. Desktop font configuration is accessible through:

gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.desktop font 'Purisa 10'

To add transparency to the inactive window, like in 10.04, issue this command:

gconftool-2 –set –type float /apps/gwd/metacity_theme_opacity 0.75

This will restore roll-over effect that happen when you move your mouse scroll wheel over your window title bar:

gconftool-2 -s -t string /apps/gwd/mouse_wheel_action shade

I hope this comprehensive guide helped you a lot getting back to the Ubuntu. If you wanna share the gratitude, then feel free to donate few bucks for my Non-Alcohol Beer Fund and for my Remedial Massage Therapy course that I plan to attend, since I’m done with paid-for office computer work :)

Here’s the paypal button:

That is all. You now can enjoy full 10.04 like desktop on your gnome 3 based Ubuntu :) ( minus few occasional usability bugs that gnome folk currently work on re-implementing into gnome3 – its not as smooth experience as gnome2 but its far better than unity’s madness )

If you did all of your stuff correctly your desktop should now look and feel like so:

or so:

If you like me use auto-hide panels, then this might help you. Add this script in startup applications, so it will tell all panels to be on top, since gnome folks missed that one feature (or at least my instance behave like so).

for i in `wmctrl -l | grep "Edge Panel" | cut -f 1 -d ' '`; do wmctrl -v  -i -r $i -b add,above ; done

If you feel like adding proper colors for Ambiance gtk3, this little one liner might help you get things done. I used it to make my gtk3 version of Radiance, by injecting proper colors into 11.10 version of Radiance. It lists all html colors used in file or files called v.

v="gtkrc"; for i in `cat $v | egrep -o '\#[0-9a-fA-F][0-9a-fA-F][0-9a-fA-F][0-9a-fA-F][0-9a-fA-F][0-9a-fA-F]|\#[0-9a-fA-F][0-9a-fA-F][0-9a-fA-F]' | tr [A-Z] [a-z] | sort | uniq` ; do echo "<span style=\"background: $i; color: white;\"> &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; </span> $i <br/>"; done > col.html

Cheers :)

This post might be edited from time to time without me mentioning it. Most likely when I will find some stuff that needs fixing or when I will find better ways of achieving the gnome2 workflow. Don’t be alarmed if such thing will happen.


37 Responses to “Making Ubuntu 11.10 and 12.04 behave like 10.04”

  1. Great post. You’ve tempted me to go back and install Ubuntu again on my laptop. I did have Windows Vista and Ubuntu 11.10 on dual boot but I got so annoyed with the poor usability of 11.10 to the point that I uninstalled it and put Mint on!

    Problem is that when I boot into Mint my mouse and keyboard don’t work! But since I’ve had this iPad for Xmas I haven’t even tried to fix it! Ha!

    Definitely following your blog, good work!

    • Thanks, my little bro had the same problems with mint :)

      Just share around this article, since i think maaaaany people would benefit from the fact that all is good to get back again :)

  2. Will do, I know a few people will very much appreciate it!

  3. Brandon Bachman Says:

    I guess I am the odd one out then. I use Avant Window Navigator, and had it for awhile as stand-alone. Hey, it works, and I make the system both usable and *fun*.

    Best yet, as long as I can install some GTK2 stuff on any system, AWN functions the same across distributions, so in theory no matter what I am using, I can use my setup: Compiz (Cube or Expo), with related settings to make it usable with DockbarX, which I keep tucked inside AWN via a nice little plugin from a webupd8 PPA.

    Pretty neat, though, it’s damn near like not using GNOME at all…

    • I try to run my system as stock / COTS as possible :) I’m sure there are better ways, but i want my stuff usable so i can use my system instead of constantly changing something. For me 10.04 was that standard which i wanna keep alive, fed with fresh packages. Maybe ill give it a try, so far im happy with what i have here, so i can move on with my life to vegan cooking, plant growing and looking for a massage course :D

  4. coffee412 Says:

    Hi, Im really happy to see that those that hate gnome3/Unity are finding ways to get back to a real working desktop! I will most likely be trying this soon as I run a 2 drive system with Fedora 15 on one drive and Ubuntu 10.04 on the other.

    You know, I was so upset at the new gnome3 and unity that I sat down and made a video about it and posted it to Fedora “Rants and Raves”. But it seems they killed the whole message! Anyways, I was also thinking of making a script with your work to kinda automate the whole thing.
    Here is the utube link to my video. Hope you find it funny. Evidently Fedora Forums didnt.

    • Lol, tell me about silly forum admins. Right now some ubuntforum admins decided that by posting this awesome fix I am spamming them… I guess “No good deed goes unpunished” :D

      About script, awesome news, i was thinking on making such myself. If you happen to do so, please add my name ( Artur Sowinski ) and a link to this article in some very visible place. Some new changes might pop up so i can quickly add them here.

    • If you do that script let me know, so i can put a link to your site so all would be connected and synegistic and social :)

      And it will save a lot of folk some trouble.

      I was thinking on making a make-ubuntu-usubale-again.deb in a ppa that would easily allow people to go for it. But I have now other priorities, and i dont feel like engaging in the internal ppa beurocracy, nor making .deb again… nor sieving the system changes from the user changes and keeping it reliable.

      But if you do want to do this, go for it. It would bring lots of joy to the world of ubuntu :D

      And let me know so i can post link to your site as well

      • coffee412 Says:

        I will look into making a script for this but it will take a few days as I also work on computers for a living and have to donate time.

        Artur, I will add your name of course to it as it will be mostly your hard work.


  5. Garthhh Says:

    Hi Kangarooks

    making ubun as user friendly, must be unacceptable to the powers that be
    your post on the forum disappeared

    for me I question the direction of canonical
    I don’t want to be downstream of Ubuntu
    RedHat runs on a 7 year release cycle compared to Debians unknown
    I’m on
    which is a fork of Mandriva, the key talent being let go
    a similar situation to open office / libre office

    • i have hope that someone will make some nice gnome2 experience pack for 12.04lts, it has 5yr support so it would be nice thing to have. things are looking up, since many port to gnome3-classic widgets from gnome2 (that allowed my entry to be made), but still gnome3 interface itself needs a lot of polishing… its file manager etc. so far im staying with 11.04, since it s the last gnome2 ubuntu. after it will expire ill think about it then…

  6. coffee412 Says:

    Iam finally working on the script. Its gonna take a bit but should work. I will send you a copy when I get a working version ready. Then you can test it. Im sure it will need formatting and alot of clean up but just want to make sure it actually runs before we pretty it up.


    • I am back with 11.04, because 11.10 was unfortunatelly driving me nuts. so i cant really test it. I wish you good luck with script, i hope i will use it sometime around 12.04 :) If not then its xfce for me like the rest of the guys that made the switch, since i dont feel like dedicating my time to constantly setting up ubuntu and fighting with it :) tho who knows, maybe gnome3-classic experience will improve over time to make it sane, pleasant and one-off thing to install.

  7. planetphp Says:

    I followed this on Ubuntu 11.10 and now do not have any panels at all! I triple checked and compared the instructions with what I’ve done and see no mistakes. Please help I am hating unity :(

    • You gotta add panels ported from gnome2. If you followed my tutorial you already have them. Just alt-rightclick to get into “Add to Panel…” Menu, from there select the missing indicator and so on… If you have compiz running already make sure that your compiz is set to have meta-mouse move to move windows, instead of alt-mouse move, so it doesnt conflict with gnome3’s alt-rightclick.

  8. John Bayles Says:


    This is looking very primising but I’m stumped at this command:

    sudo sh -c “cat >> /usr/share/gnome-session/sessions/gnome-classic-compiz.session”

    I’ve pasted in the command as above but nothing happens, the cursor justs blinks, any idears…

    Many thanks


    • The cursor will blink, just paste the code (select in browser and use middle mouse button, OR just use ctrl-c in browser and ctrl-shift-v in terminal, and after doing so press Ctrl-D to end filling that file.

  9. norisezp Says:

    Hi. I am putting together my own script from a cut and paste of the text from above, converting to here-documents for creating the files, and I have questions, if you don’t mind.

    1. What is the “Super” key to which you refer; is that the same as the “windows” key?
    2. What is the ‘Purisa 10’ font, and can I substitute ‘Lucida-Sans’ or something else?
    3. Is there a command to add the compiz –replace command to the startup applications ( Applications → Other → Startup Applications ) that can be used in the script?
    4. Can this change be backed out if something goes wrong? How?


    • 1. yes, in linux world windows-key is referred as super, or at least compiz has it like so in its interactive key config in ccsm

      2. awesome font that i use :) its part of thai-ttf font package (not sure about exact name, but im sure its from thai fonts package that is in default repos out there, synaptic im sure will point you to it ) i use it for my desktop icons, and for my terminal, which you can see in the screenie on top of the tutorial. it has really awesome hand-written feel to it. for terminal i use 9.4 size which is rendered best on 96dpi and slight hinting :)

      3. 4. im not aware of such being made. knowing gnome, probably you can get to it thorough some gconf2/dconf voodoo (lots of changes were made on that level as well when they released gnome3. i think dconf is the config tool for gnome3). tho you’d have to google it out, i wasnt interested in automating it so i cant answer yes/no on that one.

      i noticed that when you by accident login to unity, unity will kill your compiz settings and set its own defaults, so you have to beware of that stuff. dunno if gnome3 will work too, since compiz takeover is in startup apps, so basically some bash quick if would be needed to determine if im part of process tree that has gnome3 session as a head, or gnome3classic

      (that + some other little quirks in gnome3 usability eventually pushed me to using plain gnome2 and 11.04, tho they said they will fix a lot of those usability bugs in time for 12.04 and i think i will switch to it then )

    • oh, one more thing, there is a guy on ubuntuforums called coffee412 . he said (earlier in comments here) that he will be doing script too to automate this whole procedure into a ppa/.deb package or something, maybe you should team up with him?

  10. Travis Says:

    Thank you for such a great article, I’m back to being a Ubuntu user. One minor question, in the menu top left, it has application and places. How does one add the “System” menu that used to be there in Ubuntu 10.04?

  11. alan Says:

    Well I followed all this to the letter for 12.04. I entered each command one at a time and pressed enter before entering the next, the pc did all sorts of stuff then at the end I shut down and counted to 10 and switched on…………And it all was exactly as I left it. a row of pictures on the left and all the bad things of 12.04 still there. What did I not do??? Al

  12. xyz Says:

    How to change the scrollbar back to normal like in 10.04?

    • no idea.. my primary machine is 1024×600 netbook so i kinda like them, but i think i might seen others do it, not sure where tho

      • xyz Says:

        My mean is the scrollbar on any windows is not as same as in 10.04, lots of people don’t like the new way,… We like it go back to 10.04 way like you did it in some way,…

      • Its linux. You are welcome to make and contribute those changes yourself. Feel free to modify and change as you like… if you do, drop me a note so i could point others to your blog/site so they could do it too..

  13. Dave Says:

    I don’t like the Radiance theme. Attractive themes are a combination of lights and darks. I use Zuitwo-Dust for GTK+ and Zukitwo-Dark for Windows which are pleasing to my eyes.

  14. Dallas Says:

    This did Not Work when I tried it because I don’t understand which commands to type in a terminal to make 12.04 LTS Look like 10.04LTS. My 10.04 is Lucid so what is Classic gnome3,Ported indicator, Compizapplet and Radiance 10.04 theme for both gtk3 and gtk2 ( 10.04 Ambiance and Radiance for gtk2-only engines – pre 11.10 – are here ) is 10.04 gnome3 or is it gtk2?
    Is 10.04LTS Gnome3 or Gnome 2?
    I cut and pasted everything one at a time starting at
    Classic gnome3 ( source):

    1 sudo apt-get install gnome-panel gnome-session-fallback gnome-tweak-tool

    If I have 12.04 64-bit do I have to do everything in-between the orange text or only everything before the orange text?

    I HATE the 12.04 Unity interface it is not at all user friendly and makes it impossible to find programs and I hate the way it makes Firefox look. Also my mouse does not work right away in 12.04 and I either have to wait for it to respomd or keep hitting the connect button, I don’t get this problem in Windows 7 or XP so it’s not my mouse.
    I installed the MAC Theme on my 10.04 and really love the way it looks but I upgraded my PC to a SATA 2 and 3 only interface and apparently 10.04 can’t handle SATA 2 and above so it would not boot and I could not install 10.04LTS on my new system but the support is ending in April so it would have been pointless to install 10.04 for only 4 months and then be forced to upgrade to crappy 12.04LTS if I wanted continued support.

    • Gnome 3 is what is shipped with unity interface. All after and including 11.10 is gnome3 based in ubuntu, therefore themes from previous versions which were gnome2 based like 10.04, will not fit. Therefore I made some changes, and people re-created indicators to match new gnome3 system. Gnome classic is the name for normal gnome interface that was in 10.04. Hope this helps. Please re-read this article and I’m sure you will get it through step by step.

      I use my 12.04 daily with setup i given in this article. All is good, and many others reported success as well. Take it easy, im sure youll get there eventually :)

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