How do I (if possible) set different default desktop environments for different users in linux?

e.g. when user X login, Gnome Shell starts, when user Y login, Gnome starts. (I'm using ubuntu if it matters).

  • By Gnome, are you referring to GNOME 2?
    – tshepang
    Jun 14, 2011 at 17:21
  • No, Gnome 3. is it the same as gnome shell?
    – MByD
    Jun 14, 2011 at 17:22
  • 1
    – tshepang
    Jun 14, 2011 at 17:26
  • @Tshepang - Thanks for the link, but in general (if I take two different desktops) is it possible?
    – MByD
    Jun 14, 2011 at 17:27
  • Are you looking to do that for a large number of users (so you want an automated way), or do you want to know how each user can make a choice that sticks between sessions? (The latter works out of the box on Ubuntu 10.04 and most other systems, does your environment lack a choice on the gdm login screen?) Jun 15, 2011 at 8:33

1 Answer 1


For GNOME 3:

  • You will need to log in with each user and specify this in Applications -> System Tools -> System Settings -> System Info -> Graphics --> Forced Fallback Mode. Fallback Mode is old GNOME interface and the other Mode is GNOME Shell (standard) mode.

For other desktops:

  • You do the selection using your login manager. It should have an option to select which session you want to log in, and if you change from default, it should ask if you want to permanently use the new session. Session in this case refers to any Desktop (GNOME, KDE, XFCE, ...).
  • What if I want user x to get Gnome3 and user y to get awesome or some other window manager? Can this not be set at the gdm login screen like in gnome2 days?
    – Caleb
    Jun 14, 2011 at 21:08
  • 1
    Good question, and me not know the answer.
    – tshepang
    Jun 14, 2011 at 23:51

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