I hate neither Unity nor gnome-shell. Both have their merits and I used both for some time, but I’m used to my old setup with GNOME, compiz, various (or none) panels and/or AWN. Starting with Ubuntu Oneiric (11.10), there’s no obvious solution for setting up my system like this. 

“Ubuntu” sessions start Unity, which happens to live in a compiz plugin. Disabling this plugin breaks the “Ubuntu” session. “GNOME” sessions start gnome-shell, which is built around the “mutter” compositing window manager and that gets old fast.

What I wanted was a standard GNOME3 sessions that wasn’t broken (“Ubuntu” with Unity removed) and allowed me to run compiz. Turn’s out the solution isn’t that hard, once you’ve figured it out:

  1. install gnome-session-fallback

    this runs GNOME3 without gnome-shell or compositing at first, it pulls in metacity and gnome-panel.  It’s almost as easy to configure as GNOME2 was, but not before you find out that holding Alt before right clicking panels opens their default panel menus
  2. install ccsm

    for disabling unity later 
  3. modify or copy /usr/share/gnome-sessions/sessions/gnome-fallback.session

    Now, in that file, replace



  4. Logout and log back into GNOME fallback (Safe Mode)
  5. Should Unity popup, start ccsm and disable all unity plugins

After logging out and back in, you should be able to customize your desktop the way you used to in Ubuntu before 11.10. If you want to change window borders and button themes, install gnome-tweak-tool and use that for further customization.