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How To Use The Unity Desktop Environment On Ubuntu 18.04

With Ubuntu 17.10, Canonical made a big deal about dropping the Unity desktop environment in favor of Gnome Shell. For the most part, Linux fans were excited, as Unity isn’t exactly the most popular desktop environment in the community. However, not everyone was happy. As it turns out, many people do love Unity and rely on it daily. If Ubuntu Unity is still a part of your daily routine, and you’ve been putting off upgrading from 16.04, rest easy as it is possible to get the Unity desktop environment on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.

Note: Are you using Ubuntu 17.10? Follow the instructions in the tutorial below. The instructions outlined work for that version of Ubuntu as well.

Install Unity On Ubuntu 18.04

To install Ubuntu’s Unity desktop, you’ll need to open up a terminal window. Sadly, it’s not practical to install this desktop environment from the Ubuntu Software Center, as some system-level prompts appear that require user interaction. Open up a terminal window and use the update command to refresh Ubuntu and check for updates.

sudo apt update

Running apt update is a good idea when installing new software, as the new software you’re installing will likely be at its best when everything is up to date. After running the refresh command, you’ll notice that the terminal says Ubuntu has some updates ready to install. Install these updates by following apt update with the apt upgrade command. Be sure to add a -y to the end of the command to automatically accept the installation, otherwise, you’ll need to do it manually.

sudo apt upgrade -y

At this point, it’s safe to install the Unity desktop environment on Ubuntu 18.04 PC. To do this, enter the following command.

sudo apt install ubuntu-unity-desktop

Running this installation isn’t like installing normal software. It’s a complete desktop environment that comes with its own configurations, and settings that need to be tweaked. For Unity, most of this is taken care of (except for the login manager).

In Ubuntu 17.10, Canonical ditched LightDM as the default login manager app, as they were no longer using Unity by default. As a result, Ubuntu 18.04 doesn’t have the Unity desktop manager. When you run the installation command for the Unity desktop on 18.04, you’ll also have the option to switch everything back over to LightDM.

Don’t worry! This isn’t absolutely required, and Ubuntu should work just fine using the Unity desktop without it. However, if you miss the Unity desktop environment and want it on 18.04, it’s also a good idea to switch from GDM to LightDM.

To switch, read the prompt window that appears in the terminal. Read the message and press enter on the “OK” button. Then, move to the next page and use the arrow keys on your keyboard to highlight “LightDM”. Press enter to save your choice. After that, Ubuntu will switch to using LightDM by default.

When the installation completes, Ubuntu should be using the LightDM login manager, and the Ubuntu Unity desktop should be installed.

Switching To Unity

The Unity desktop is installed on your Ubuntu PC. The next step in the process is to actually start using the new desktop. If you decided to keep GDM, look for the “log out” button in Gnome Shell, click it and return to the GDM menu. Click the gear logo, highlight “Unity” and select it.

After that, select your user, enter the correct password and log into Unity. Using LightDM? Reboot your PC. When your PC finishes restarting, you’ll be ready to use Unity.

Click the logo next to the default username, highlight “Unity” and click on it. Enter your password and log in to access the Unity desktop.

Uninstalling Unity

Decided you don’t want to use Unity on Ubuntu anymore? If you’re looking to uninstall it, start out by logging out of the Unity session and back into the Gnome Shell one. Uninstalling a desktop while logged in can break things and potentially make your PC unusable.

After logging back into Gnome, open up a terminal and run the uninstall command.

sudo apt remove ubuntu-unity-desktop

Installing the Unity desktop pulls down a lot of dependent programs, so running this remove command isn’t enough. To fully get rid of everything, run:

sudo apt autoremove

Lastly, if you switched your login manager from Gnome Desktop Manager to Light Desktop Manager, you’ll need to set it back to the defaults. Do this with:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure gdm3

Go through the selection menu, highlight GDM3 and press the enter key to confirm your selection. Then, reboot your Linux PC. Upon restart, you won’t see LightDM anymore, but GDM like before.

Upon login, uninstall LightDM and Unity will be removed entirely:

sudo apt uninstall lightdm --purge

After running uninstall with the purge command, all traces of LightDM will be gone from your Linux PC.

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