Can I modify Gnome so it behaves more like Gnome2 and other desktops?

One has to go to the activities menu in the corner, click, then click the buckshot pattern at the bottom then see this.

enter image description here

Is there something we can tweak in DConf to make have a bar that shows all of the open applications, not just the one on top? And a menu with applications grouped by category we tier down to?

I need to use Debian and Gnome for a project I am working on, so I don't have the choice of changing distribution or Desktop environment. Ubuntu made Gnome have a menu bar and menu, so did some other distros, so I am assuming it is possible.

I am looking for something like:

enter image description here

Cinnamon and Mate are both Gnome based things so it should be a few tweaks to something in DConf to bring back an actual menu. That's what I'm looking for.

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    Two things to observe here: 1. You need to vent about how GNOME has been looking for a decade now. That's understandable, but this is not the place. 2. you literally demand GNOME look and work like Cinnamon and Mate's. You know what the right answer here is, but you preclude that option of actually installing the desktop environment you want (which comes with no downsides that you would mention!). That points to 1. being the real motivation here, and in that case, we can't really help you: We can only solve technical problems. Commented Mar 23 at 15:01
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    So, let's work on getting something that actually helps you and fits the format of this platform! Why do you need to use GNOME, specifically? Maybe if we knew that, we would know how to give you what you need without compromising on the user feel. But all we know is "I have to"; and that's not allowing us to infer any technical problems. Commented Mar 23 at 15:03
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    I removed the rant. You're not wrong, and that's why many of us don't use gnome (it is exactly why I moved away from it years ago when gnome3 first came out and looked like this) but this isn't the place for our venting. Now, it would also help if you could explain why you cannot just use a different desktop and whether you have tried to simply install a menu app and bar, there are many out there.
    – terdon
    Commented Mar 23 at 15:24
  • @Marcus Muller - as was clearly stated in the post, I have to use Debian 12 default desktop per the OpenSource project I'm working with. They support a whopping 3 default distro/desktop now and refuse to look at bugs in others until they get to the end of development. Ubuntu (tired of "upgrade to Pro" nags and unattended upgrades locking up Debian testing for half an hour) Fedora, nope, they don't test with NVIDIA. That leaves Debian 12. Restricting desktops until the product gets "feature complete" is not unreasonable. CopperSpice just needed to choose distros better. Commented Mar 24 at 18:08
  • The choice of distro and environment seems reasonable. The fact that you don't like the most prolific desktop environment is… well, unfortunate, but if you think you can't handle that environment with its UX, then you simply might not be the optimum contributor for such bug reports at this point in time (no predictions on the future). Frankly, the attitude "the desktop needs to work my way" might be exactly the reason that you're not the optimum contributor at this point! Don't let that discourage you. One can help a project in more ways than reporting bugs. Commented Mar 24 at 18:12

2 Answers 2


if you install gnome-flashback it will do what you want

GNOME Flashback is a shell for GNOME 3 which was initially called GNOME fallback mode. The desktop layout and the underlying technology is similar to GNOME 2.

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    "the underlying technology is similar to GNOME 2": the question then is: does it still fulfill the purpose for which OP was forced to use GNOME in the first place? Commented Mar 23 at 16:23
  • Thank you for actually reading the original post instead of ranting about it. wiki.gnome.org/Projects/GnomeFlashback That page clearly states "GNOME Flashback is a session for GNOME 3 which was initially called "GNOME Fallback", and shipped as a stand-alone session in Debian and Ubuntu. It provides a similar user experience to the GNOME 2.x series sessions." so it is full-on Gnome 3, not Gnome 2 technology. It meets the requirements. I will try it later today. Commented Mar 24 at 18:13
  • @MarcusMüller according to the op, it meets the requirements Commented Mar 24 at 18:41
  • @cinemassacres happy to hear that, really! I wouldn't have thought so, because their main problem according to their own comment is that they want to produce bug reports on a standard platform, and the metacity fallback is anything but the standard Gnome platform, technically quite different and anything but "a few modifications" as demanded in the question, but if they changed their mind, that's really really fine by me! I hope the project they aspire to contribute to see it the same way, and they've not only achieve "compatibility in name, but not in functionality". Commented Mar 25 at 8:02

@cinemassacres gets the win! However, there were some minor steps I had to figure out, so I am giving a step by step guide below:

enter image description here

Despite the other gnome-flashback stuff in green, you really need to install task-gnome-flashback-desktop as shown. Once done, reboot.

enter image description here Click the tiny gear in the lower right portion of the screen and choose Flashback. enter image description here

Gnome 3 libraries are still used underneath, but now you have a fully functional desktop with applications grouped by category and names in a readable font. No more guessing if an image really is the app you need.

  • If the accepted answer is lacking details, you may want to suggest edits to it.
    – Kusalananda
    Commented Mar 26 at 13:40
  • I know you’re extremely dismissive of edits, but you really should edit the accepted answer, or accept this one instead — the gnome-flashback package is just a helper application, installing it won’t help as you discovered, so the accepted answer is misleading. Commented Mar 29 at 11:00
  • As an award winning technical book author, edits by those not competent to make them are morally and ethically repugnant. Edits by the unknowing are a plague in the Stack family that seems to be encouraged. Previous answer pointed me on a journey a Newb wouldn't have endured, but they were correct, so far not one edit on this has been, the first edit clearly removed the reason behind the question. This is the detailed answer and it could not have happened without the first answer. To a Newb the accepted answer is useless. To me it was not. Commented Mar 30 at 12:06
  • Right, so what I’m saying is that it would be helpful if you used your editing expertise to improve the accepted answer so that it is useful to everyone. Presumably your own edits would be acceptable to yourself, wouldn’t they? Commented Apr 1 at 16:50
  • The reason all regulated environments block all Stack properties at the router is because of editing. When someone references a post in their documentation or code comments, some years later when there is an audit because of some adverse outcome, you fail the audit and could even risk prison. Much of my work over the past decade has been making medical devices and the devices which test them. EDITING SOMEONE ELSE'S ANSWER IS NEVER A GOOD THING TO DO. You lose the audit trail. Commented Apr 2 at 18:48

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