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What is GNOME?

The GNOME Desktop is an attractive and useful desktop environment. GNOME is both free and one of the most widely used desktop environments on the GNU/Linux operating system.

GNOME in Debian

GNOME is one of the DesktopEnvironment options in the DebianDesktopHowTo.


The meta-gnome3 metapackage is not a good indication of the version of the overall desktop, particularly in development distributions.


There are three options to install GNOME in Debian:

How to install


GNOME desktop task

tasksel see below

Debian's selection of applications
(This is what is installed on a freshly installed system. It includes some applications that do not really integrate with GNOME, like LibreOffice and Firefox)

GNOME (Debian)

gnome package

The full GNOME environment, including applications that are not officially part of the Upstream GNOME releases.
It provides the recommended GNOME environment for Debian.

GNOME (core only)

gnome-core package

Only the official “core” modules of the GNOME desktop. Above packages depend on this one.

For developers:

Installing "GNOME Desktop" task

The GNOME Desktop task is what is installed by Debian-Installer's Desktop "task" (unless you picked another DesktopEnvironment!).

You can install it manually using apt:

# apt-get install task-gnome-desktop


The "GNOME Desktop" task is the combination of tasksel's common desktop (task-desktop) and tasksel's GNOME desktop (task-gnome-desktop) meta-packages.


Most configuration of the GNOME desktop is done via its various GUI utilities. The location of these varies depending on version, but common utilities include networking, themes, sounds and much more. It is also possible to configure (read/write) settings using the command line with gsettings(1).

The equivalent of gsettings(1) in much older versions of GNOME was gconftool(2). This is no longer used by GNOME itself, but might still be useful to configure very old applications.

Change cursor theme

Using GNOME on Xorg, it is possible to change the cursor theme by executing

# update-alternatives --config x-cursor-theme

Improve animations on AMD CPU systems (and some others)

Although Gnome developers are working to improve the situation, as of Gnome 3.30 animations are still heavily reliant on a single thread processed by the CPU.

The default CPUFreq scaling governor (Ondemand) which is used by AMD CPUs, older Intel CPUs, and many other CPUs, drops core frequency significantly between each animation frame (the issue is amplified by the nature of Gnome's engine only rendering frames as required) and this can result in jolty/laggy/slow animations. If you are experiencing this you may find the situation can be greatly improved by adjusting Ondemand's "sampling_down_factor" setting.

You can test if this improves animation smoothness on your system by executing the following command:

# echo -n 50 > /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpufreq/ondemand/sampling_down_factor

If you see an improvement and would like to make the setting persistent through reboots you can install sysfsutils:

# apt install sysfsutils

Then create the file /etc/sysfs.d/ondemand.conf and place inside the following:

devices/system/cpu/cpufreq/ondemand/sampling_down_factor = 50

Note: This tweak can result in a minuscule increase to your CPU's power consumption and heat generation.

See also

About GNOME for Debian:

CategoryDesktopEnvironment | CategorySoftware