How to Switch from GNOME to Unity in Ubuntu 18.04 and 17.10

Brief: If you are feeling nostalgic, you can easily install Unity in Ubuntu 18.04 and 17.10. Here’s how to do it.

How to switch to Unity from GNOME in Ubuntu 17.10

The most talked about feature of Ubuntu 18.04 is the switch to GNOME. The switch actually happened in Ubuntu 17.10. Ubuntu has done quite a good job in GNOME desktop customization to make Unity users feel at home.

But it is not necessary that you will like GNOME. Unity has been part of Ubuntu for last 6 years and over the time, it did gain its fair share of fan following.

If you are one of the hardcore Unity fans and would like to use it instead of GNOME, I have good news for you. You can totally use Unity on Ubuntu 18.04 and 17.10.

Canonical knows that there is a sizeable chunk of Unity lovers and hence it has made it possible to easily install Unity on Ubuntu 18.04 and 17.10.

However, I must tell you that the Unity packages are not in the main repository anymore. These are served from the Universe repository and packages in the Universe repository are community maintained. Ubuntu developers don’t work directly on these packages.

In other words, the Unity you are going to use in Ubuntu 18.04/17.10 is community maintained.

Is that a bad thing? Not really. You can use them as long as the project is not abandoned completely.

Enough talk. Time for action. Let’s see how to install Unity on Ubuntu 18.04. I’ll also show you how to remove it afterward.

I am not sure of the kind of support it has got in Ubuntu 17.10. If you face weird issues while using Unity 7, you can switch back to GNOME.

How to install Unity on Ubuntu 18.04

I have made a video to better demonstrate the procedure. You can watch the video or follow the text guide, whichever you prefer.

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It’s really simple. Open a terminal (Ctrl+Alt+T) and use the following command:

sudo apt install ubuntu-unity-desktop

At the installation time, you’ll be asked whether you want to switch to LightDM.

Switch to lightdm while installing Unity on Ubuntu 18.04
Option to choose Display Manager

A Display manager is what you see on the login screen.

  • If you want Unity like login screen: select lightdm
  • If you want to keep the default login screen in Ubuntu 18.04: select gdm3

Just select the one you want and press enter to move ahead with the installation procedure.

Lightdm for Unity login screen in Ubuntu 18.04
Select LightDM for Unity login screen

Once the installation is complete, restart your system. At the login screen, click on the Ubuntu symbol in LightDM or gear symbol in GDM.

Select desktop environment at login time in Ubuntu Unity
Selecting desktop environment

In here, you can see the option to use Unity desktop environment.

Switching to Unity on Ubuntu 18.04
Select Unity

Once you log in, you can see the familiar, Unity interface. Enjoy!

How to remove Unity from Ubuntu 18.04

I’ll also cover the removal steps of Unity just for the sake of it. One day if you realize that it’s time to ditch Unity completely and go back to GNOME, you would want to remove Unity packages from your system.

First thing first, login to GNOME. And after that, use the following commands:

sudo apt purge ubuntu-unity-desktop

If you had installed LightDM, you would want to remove it as well. But before you do that, it will be a wise idea to switch to GDM. To do that, use the command below:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure gdm3

Don’t worry if the output says something like GDM is not running and stuff. The job has been done. You can safely remove LightDM with the command below:

sudo apt purge lightdm

I would also suggest running autoremove to clean your Ubuntu system.

sudo apt autoremove

Well, everything has been done now. You can log out or restart your system and you’ll have GNOME back with (almost) no traces of Unity left.

Install Unity 7 in Ubuntu 17.10

This article was originally written for Ubuntu 17.10 and I have decided to keep the older part of the article as it is.

Open a terminal and use the command below to install Unity in Ubuntu 17.10:

sudo apt install unity

It will download files in size around 150 MB. Nothing else needs to be done.

Switch from GNOME to Unity in Ubuntu 17.10

Restart your system. Now, at the login screen, you’ll see a gear symbol. Click on it and you’ll see various options to switch to Xorg from Wayland. You’ll also see the option to switch to Unity. Just select Unity here.

Switch to Unity in Ubuntu 17.10

Log in and you’ll see the familiar Unity desktop environment. The Unity version thus installed is Unity 7.5.

Using Unity in Ubuntu 17.10

If you want to switch back to GNOME desktop, just select the option Ubuntu or Ubuntu on Xorg.

Remove Unity from Ubuntu 17.10

If you decided to stick with GNOME, you may perhaps want to remove Unity. Before you remove Unity, switch to GNOME.

And after that, use the following command to uninstall Unity:

sudo apt remove unity

sudo apt autoremove

I hope this quick tip helped you to use Unity in Ubuntu 17.10. Personally, I see no reasons for going back to Unity. It’s certainly not one of the things to do after installing Ubuntu 17.10. What reasons do you have in mind?

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  • Your tutorial on installing unity was very useful. I installed unity on laptop running ubuntu 18.4. I find that under “Mouse and touchpad” in system settings, nothing whatsoever to do with touchpad is shown. How does one change touchpad settings?

  • I use Linux because of Unity. It looks nice, and it’s very practical. My favorite feature I like is the workspaces. I got used to it and without having those 4 workspaces, I find it hard to work. The GNOME desktop does have workspaces, but in linear fashion (same as windows and MacOS), which doesn’t give the same experience as with Unity interface… I hope they bring back Unity as the default desktop in future Ubuntu releases.

  • Sometimes you look back and think, “Hm. You know what? That was actually better than I thought it was at the time.” Unity is that for me. I became intrigued with KDE, XFCE, Cinnamon, Arch with all the above and so on. Funny thing was that none of them did what I really wanted, and when I ran across this article I decided to see if Unity was the answer after all. Surprisingly to me, yes…it was! I’m grateful that Unity is still available. The latest iterations of Gnome 3.x on my laptop are not fluid. It lags, which gets frustrating. Gnome might work on different hardware configurations, but it doesn’t on mine anymore. Unity, though, now this is a thing of beauty. I’m enjoying it more than I ever thought I would from a DE. thank you, @Abhishek, for bringing this information to the forefront. I’ll be watching Ubuntu 20.04 very closely to see if Unity is also supported on that version. If it isn’t, I’ll just stick with 18.04 until I can’t.

    (I know Unity is being maintained by the community, but is there any work being done to keep it current and/or potentially upgradable?)

  • Nearly a year ago, I successfully installed ‘Unity’ over ‘Gnome’ in Ubuntu 18.04.0 LTS following the above.
    I bought a Dell desktop with Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS. Upgraded online to 18.04.3 LTS. Now ‘Unity’ supposedly got installed, without any error. But I did not get “At the installation time, you’ll be asked whether you want to switch to LightDM.” option. Consequently, after restart the Gnome desktop greeted me with a smile. Can anyone please help and guide to install ‘Unity Desktop’ ?