Installing Gnome on Kubuntu

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Kubuntu's default desktop environment is KDE. Sometimes people using Kubuntu want to try out Gnome as well, though. If you're not sure what the differences are, read this comparison of KDE and Gnome.

Warning: having KDE and Gnome together means you'll have cluttered application menus full of KDE applications and Gnome applications. You may also run into some other cosmetic problems (the KDE QT look taking over some of your Gnome themes, a hidden file on your desktop that keeps appearing in Gnome after you've just logged out of KDE).

Even though these instructions are for Gnome, the same principle applies for adding KDE to Ubuntu or XFCE to Kubuntu or Ubuntu. Basically, you install the desktop environment, log out, and choose the desktop environment from the available login sessions.


Click on the KMenu, and select System and then Konsole to launch a terminal window.

In theory, you can use KPackageKit to install Gnome, but I couldn't get it to work. I don't know if it's some weird bug in Kubuntu 9.04 (the version I used for these screenshots) or if I just don't know how to use KPackageKit. The terminal pretty much always works, so I'm going with the terminal. Don't worry. You can copy and paste commands with your mouse. You do not need to type anything.


In the terminal, paste in the command

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop


You'll be presented with a very long list of software packages to be installed and then asked to confirm. Before you confirm it, consider whether you might ever want to cleanly uninstall Gnome later. If you might, then highlight (yes, with your mouse) all the packages to be installed and copy them to a text file. You can then later sudo apt-get remove and then paste back into the terminal the long list and be back to your vanilla Kubuntu.

If you're pretty sure you want to keep Gnome, you don't have to copy the list of packages.

Either way, when you are ready to start the installation, type y to confirm.


Wait for the packages to download. The estimated time for the download will keep shifting, depending on the package, so if it looks as if it'll take three hours or five minutes, don't believe it unless you are on dial-up or on some extremely lightning-fast connection.


During the installation process, you should be asked whether you want to use KDM or GDM as your default display manager (basically, the login screen). If you think you'll use Gnome more frequently, make GDM your default. If you think you'll use KDE more frequently, keep KDM as your default.

The default can always be changed later by modifying the /etc/X11/default-display-manager file. For KDM, the file should read /usr/bin/kdm; for GDM, the file should read /usr/sbin/gdm


Type exit to close the terminal.


Log out.


When you get back to the login screen, click on Session and select GNOME.


Then go ahead and log in, as you normally would.


Now you should be logged into Gnome!

If you want to switch back to KDE, just log out, select KDE from the session menu and log back in again.

Last updated 11/13/10 03:05

If you have suggestions or corrections for these tutorials, please post in this Ubuntu Forums thread or leave a comment on my blog.

I will not give help to people posting in the above places. If you require technical support, start a support thread on the Ubuntu Forums. That is the appropriate place to ask for help.