GNOME 2 allows one to either save the session automatically or manually (i.e. save the session as it looks right now). This is a nice feature because it restores the various desktop states between logins (and system restarts):

  • which apps were open
  • where (physically) on the desktop were they open
  • what specific window sizes were these apps set to

Looking around, I can't find the feature in GNOME 3? Did I not look hard enough?

5 Answers 5


Try using dconf Editor, here are the steps

  1. Open dconf Editor
  2. Goto org/gnome/gnome-session
  3. Check the property called "auto_save_session"

The description says "If enabled, gnome-session will save the session automatically."

If you don't have dconf Editor installed, the setting can also be changed via the command line with:

gsettings set org.gnome.SessionManager auto-save-session true

Good luck!

  • 1
    This works on Ubuntu 16.04
    – aggsol
    Jul 3, 2016 at 10:34
  • Works on debian 8.6
    – Pierre
    Dec 13, 2016 at 15:47
  • I don't have dconf-editor, there is some problem with the graphic interface. How do you do this same operation using dconf in terminal? Dec 5, 2017 at 0:36
  • Use gsettings, just look it up.
    – Hasasn
    Dec 6, 2017 at 13:27

Normally you would Alt-F2 to run gnome-session-properties, and select "Automatically remember running applications when logging out" under the Options tab.

However, it is broken at the moment. There is a bug filed:


  • That works on Fedora 15 (is it even the same bug?).
    – tshepang
    May 25, 2011 at 7:40
  • If Fedora uses a vanilla Gnome3, then yes. So you got it working in spite of the bug, or with it?
    – jasonwryan
    May 25, 2011 at 7:45
  • I didn't do anything special. I just selected the option, and can log out and in without a problem, and my session gets restored.
    – tshepang
    May 25, 2011 at 8:38
  • Odd. The bug is still open... Oh well, at least it is working for you.
    – jasonwryan
    May 25, 2011 at 8:45
  • for what it's worth, this is most definitely working for me right now in Fedora 16. Thanks jason! Nov 18, 2011 at 23:31

Sadly in 11.10 gnome-session-properties doesn't offer any Option tab with Auto Save Session toggle.

So I installed gconf-editor to flip /apps/gnome-session/options/auto_save_session to TRUE.

Not sure if it works. Once I had to add that missing key as boolean.

  • Update: even with this setting, not really, yet, if at all in Gnome3/Unity. Fuller discussion at askubuntu.com/a/78692/38636
    – Marcos
    Jan 31, 2012 at 11:05
  • Or just gsettings set org.gnome.SessionManager auto-save-session true
    – goetzc
    May 4, 2017 at 21:47

I wrote a little library/command line tool which allow saving and restoring sessions and has support for different monitors setups as well as virtual desktops. It requires NodeJS to be installed.


npm install -g linux-window-session-manager


Save the current session to ~/.lwsm/sessionData/DEFAULT.json

lwsm save

Save the current session to ~/.lwsm/sessionData/my-session.json

lwsm save my-session   

Restore the session from ~/.lwsm/sessionData/DEFAULT.json

lwsm restore

Restore the session from ~/.lwsm/sessionData/my-session.json

lwsm restore my-session   

Gracefully close all running apps before starting the session

lwsm restore --closeAllOpenWindows

Check it out: https://github.com/johannesjo/linux-window-session-manager


It works from the CLI - gnome-session-properties brings up the dialog. I'm not sure where it is on the menu. You can't run it from the Alt+F2 command window with that command though.

  • Just to give an update, it runs fine from the Alt+F2 command window in gnome 3.4 from debian. Jun 3, 2012 at 5:00
  • in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS it runs from cli or Alt+F2 (Mod4+r in awesomewm). But running it from anywhere, the auto_save_session option doesn't appear. May 15, 2013 at 7:12

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