How to Install GNOME Desktop Environment in Linux Mint

Linux Mint is an excellent Linux distribution, especially for beginners.

I like that it stays on the familiar Ubuntu/Debian front and yet it does several things better than Ubuntu. One of them is that it doesn’t push Snaps down my throat.

However, I am not a fan of the Cinnamon desktop as I never really liked the Windows XP or 7’s default setup either.

As I was looking for the stability that Linux Mint offered with the ability to use GNOME and here’s what I got in the end:

install gnome in linux mint

Nothing too fancy but this is my Linux Mint 21 running GNOME 42.5.

And if you want to install GNOME on Linux Mint, this guide is for you.

Things to know before installing GNOME on Linux Mint

You really should have good enough reasons to install GNOME on Mint. If you are just feeling experimental, try it in a virtual machine. I performed this tutorial with Linux Mint installed in VirtualBox.

The thing about installing a desktop environment other than the one provided by the distribution is that the removal part complicates the matter.

Cinnamon uses some GNOME elements. If you decide to remove GNOME later, it may impact some parts of Cinnamon.

This could be a cause of panic for inexperienced users. Of course, reinstalling the Cinnamon desktop from the TTY screen could be a possible solution here.

The gist of all this is that if you easily get spooked and don’t like troubleshooting, you should not do these ‘experiments’ on your main computer.

With that aside, let’s see the simple procedure of getting GNOME on Linux Mint.

Install GNOME Desktop Environment in Linux Mint

Here you have two options. Either you can go with a complete GNOME desktop which includes all the GNOME utilities, or you can go with the stripped-down version having the least amount of GNOME packages.

And I will be covering both.

To install GNOME with the least amount of GNOME utilities, you’d have to install a package named vanilla-GNOME using the given command:

sudo apt install vanilla-gnome-desktop

And if you want to have a complete GNOME experience, you can simply install the gnome package:

sudo apt install gnome

Once you execute any of the two shown commands, you will be asked to choose the preferred display manager in the next step.

choose display manager
Choose a display manager of your choice

gdm3 is a display manager for the GNOME desktop while Linux Mint uses lightdm by default and both should work just fine, but I will suggest you go with gdm3 to have the complete GNOME experience.

Switching to GNOME

Once done, log out and hit enter once, and there you’d see a small gear icon. From here, choose GNOME:

choose gnome while logging in

And now, you have GNOME with Linux Mint as a base!

Bonus Tip: How to Apply Themes with consistency

You can use that Cinnamon themes, but most of them don’t work as expected, so I will recommend using GNOME themes such as Adwaita to have consistency around the desktop.

For me, the default fonts do not work at all, and I prefer something close to what Fedora offers. So open GNOME tweaks from the system menu and make changes as shown:

change fonts in ubuntu to have vanilla gnome experience

Here’s what I have used:

  • Cantarell Regular (11) for both interface and document text.
  • Noto Sans Mono Regular (13) for monospace text.
  • Cantarell Bold (11) for window titles.

And it turned out to be far better than the default Ubuntu font scheme.

Since you have GNOME, you can use our detailed guide on installing and changing GNOME themes on Linux to make it as your heart desires.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, installing GNOME on Linux Mint is quite simple. And as I mentioned earlier, the removal part could complicate things as it has the possibility of removing some GNOME packages required by Cinnamon.

What is powering your main machine right now? I’m on Pop!_OS.

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  • I would strongly recommend beginners – or even intermediate level users – to stay away from this. Linux Mint is stable exactly because of its choices on packages, desktop managers and tools. Adding Gnome on top of that may break the ecosystem, making applications behave inconsistently and cause library conflicts (as Linux Mint repos lock the versions of several gnome libraries). You may do it at your own risk, but I’d recommend to at least don’t do it in your main computer, and do a full backup (both Timeshift and a regular one) before starting…

    • Totally agree. Have no idea why anyone would want to do this. There are a million stable distros that use Gnome – Why risk breaking Mint to do that, especially given it’s Ubuntu based anyway and you can just use Gnome on Ubuntu?

  • I think I found a typo.

    “open GNOME tweaks from system many and make changes as shown”

    Did you mean “system menu”?

    I tend to use Ubuntu 22.04 LTS with Gnome most. ElementaryOS was my go-to for three or four years, but switched to Ubuntu when 20.04 LTS was released I think.