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Alternative desktop environments as fallback for Gnome 3


There are many people whose hardware can't run Gnome Shell, which is Gnome 3's defining user interface. While Gnome 3 contains a fallback interface, it has clearly been stated that it won't be developed further and isn't intended to provide any good user experience. These users are many and however they can solve their problem by manually installing an alternative desktop environment, in order to help these users and provide a good default user experience to them, we should make this automatic.

There are two possible approaches to do this (whether we should go with the first or the second needs discussion)

  • Detect the lack of 3D capability on first boot and present the user the option to switch to Xfce on first boot and/or installation time. See below for details.
  • Modify the Gnome session to launch Xfce instead its own fallback interface

Assuming that non 3D accelerated / Otherwise not capable of running gnome-shell hardware is either old hardware that would work better with a lighter DE, or has a too low amount of RAM for running gnome-shell properly (fallback mode also require a big amount of available ram as GNOME 2.32 did).


  • Email: venemo (at)

Current status

  • Targeted release: Fedora 16
  • Last updated: 10th April 2011
  • Percentage of completion: 0%

Detailed Description

  • DVD and netinst installation
    • Anaconda could detect the 3D capabilities and offer the option to default to Xfce if Gnome 3's requirements are not met.
  • Live CD (needs investigation whether we can have the necessary free space or not)
    • Only install Xfce basic components, use Gnome utilities (eg. gedit) which are already shipped on the installation media, instead of Xfce utilities (to save space)
  • At the first boot
    • Display a dialog that explains the experience of Gnome's fallback mode, Gnome Shell, and Xfce
      • The dialog will select the best option for the specific hardware, but will allow the user to change the selection
        • When 3D acceleration is available, gnome-shell will be selected by default
        • When 3D acceleration is not available, or when the system doesn't have large amount of RAM, Xfce will be selected
          • If Xfce is not installed, it will present the option to install it
        • If the user selects gnome-shell, and 3D acceleration is not available, display a warning (not in a message box, but in the window itself) that gnome will start in fallback mode unless 3D acceleration is available

Benefit to Fedora

  • Better user experience for users with low-end hardware
  • Fedora could lower its minimal hardware requirements to the requirements of Xfce


Changes to the first boot user interface and Anaconda are required.

How To Test

  • ...?

User Experience

  • Users with low-end hardware will
    • Enjoy a light-wight, relatively modern, actively developed desktop environment
    • Can have this without the need of any manual configuration or installation


  • gnome-shell
  • @xfce
  • ...?

Contingency Plan

Revert any changes made to firstboot and Anaconda, continue using gnome fallback mode. (default in Fedora 15)


Release Notes

Comments and Discussion