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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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3 Answers 3

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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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 package gnome-desktop.

Gnome developers use this file to get the DE version number and display it in various Gnome utilities like System Monitor, System Settings (aka gnome-control-center) etc.
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:


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

Note that commands like gnome-session --version, gnome-shell --version etc, 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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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

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