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Is there an authoritative way to get the GNOME version, as long as I have a working GNOME desktop (any version) running? Several of these suggestions don't work on my system, either because the executables and/or packages simply don't exist or the menu item isn't available.

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up vote 17 down vote accepted

GNOME 3 version is stored in this file:


content (on my system):

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
 <distributor>Arch Linux</distributor>

The file is part of the upstream package called gnome-desktop (note that some distros split it into several packages so on your distro the file may end up in a package with a different name...)

GNOME developers use this file to get the DE version number and display it in System Settings (aka gnome-control-center). So getting GNOME version "the official way" means parsing the said file and extracting platform, minor and micro values.

If you play with that file you can instantly see the results :)

enter image description here

In GNOME 2 the file in question is:


(though this file might be missing on some older Gnome 2 versions IIRC)

And no, you shouldn't use commands like gnome-session --version, gnome-shell --version, gdm --version etc. Those are GNOME desktop components, they are separate packages (with different code, history/changelog and maintainers) and as such their version may be different. They'll report the right GNOME version only if they have the same version as gnome-desktop (which is not always the case).

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A friendly update: as of this writing, Debian Stretch (Testing) seems to provide file /usr/share/gnome/gnome-version.xml in package gnome-desktop3-data . To see installation history, on Debian: zgrep " installed" /var/log/dpkg.log* | grep "gnome-desktop3-data" | cut -d':' -f2- | sort -r – iokevins May 30 at 18:36
@iokevins - possible... but I'm not using debian/ubuntu/derivatives and my post isn't distro-specific: upstream, there is only one package and that is gnome-desktop; some distros may chose to split the package and call the parts whatever. I'll edit my post to be more specific. – don_crissti May 30 at 19:39
I see it now--appreciate the clarification; thank you! – iokevins Jun 2 at 21:57

If you launch gnome-system-monitor it shows the version in the dialog:

% gnome-system-monitor

My aging Fedora 14 box

            ss of monitor dialog fedora

Ubuntu 12.04

             ss of monitor dialog ubuntu

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Try gnome-session --version. There is a man page for it on my Debian (namely GNOME-SESSION(1)) but the --version option is not listed. Well, for me it says gnome-session

You can run it in the console

DISPLAY=":0" gnome-session --version

(possibly having to change the display).

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This reports 3.2.1, and gnome-system-monitor reports 3.4.2, so it doesn't look right. And my distro is fully up to date. – l0b0 Apr 22 '13 at 5:33
See don_crissti's answer. On my system, /usr/share/gnome/gnome-version.xml has 3.4.2 in it. gnome-session --version reports 3.4.2. gnome-system-monitor reports 3.4.1. based on that and a rough morning I'd say gnome-system-monitor is junk. Further exploring shows that the gnome-system-monitor version (not the gnome version) is 3.4.1.... so that's what that's reporting. Further exploration in my package manager, shows that I have, even with an up-to-date system, a mixture of 3.4.0 (gnome-common), 3.4.1 (gnome-shell) and 3.4.2(gnome-desktop3, gnome-session etc.) components. – SuperMagic Apr 22 '13 at 11:47
@SuperMagic: Those numbers are fairly consistent, although it is irritating not to be able to get a definite answer. My /usr/share/gnome/gnome-version.xml says 3.4.2, but gnome-session --version says so that's sort of correct (?). Maybe the morale of all of this is that the version isn't holy; it is just a number. – Emanuel Berg Apr 22 '13 at 22:39
$ apt-cache show gnome-shell | grep Version

(Vivid or Wily)

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As I said in my post, gnome-shell is just a gnome component so this method is unreliable. Use what the gnome devs use. – don_crissti Sep 3 '15 at 18:46

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