The GNOME Configuration HOWTO
What is GNOME?
The GNOME project is a free software
project dedicated to the development of GNOME, a Unix/Linux desktop suite and
development platform. The GNOME
Foundation coordinates the development and other aspects of the GNOME
GNOME is a desktop environment and a development platform. This piece of free
software is the desktop of choice for several industry leaders. It is
interesting both for business users, home users as well as developers.
Like with any big free software project, GNOME has an extensive user- and
development base. GnomePlanet is
a popular blog aggregator for GNOME hackers and contributors whereas Developer.Gnome.Org is for the GNOME
developers. GNOME Library
contains a huge list of GNOME resources for end users. The World of GNOME is also a popular
aggregator for GNOME-related news.
What do you need?
First read and follow the instructions in the X Server Configuration Howto to setup your
Before you start installing GNOME, you might want to edit your USE variables.
Make sure that X, gtk, and gnome are in your USE variable
listed in /etc/portage/make.conf. If you want support for dbus, a
system message bus Gnome uses extensively, add it to your USE flags. If you
don't want KDE support (the other big desktop environment), remove qt4
Code Listing 2.1: Example USE in /etc/portage/make.conf
USE="-qt4 -kde X dbus gtk gnome"
You can add the branding USE flag to get a lovely Gentoo-branded
splashscreen instead of the default Gnome splashscreen:
Code Listing 2.2: Enabling Gentoo branding
# echo "gnome-base/gnome-session branding" >> /etc/portage/package.use
If you use the desktop profile, these USE flags will be set for you. You
can check your profile by running eselect profile list and eselect
profile set <profile-name> as root.
Once done, start installing GNOME by emerging gnome:
Code Listing 2.3: Installing GNOME
# emerge gnome
You can also opt for a minimal Gnome installation using gnome-light.
If you do so, you will have a lightweight Gnome installation without
the additional tools that a full Gnome installation provides so you might need
to install additional packages afterwards.
Code Listing 2.4: Installing a minimal GNOME environment
# emerge gnome-light
This will take a while, so you might want to start reading all those books your
mother bought you but you never opened. Done? Great, now update your
Code Listing 2.5: Updating environment variables
# env-update && source /etc/profile
Next we'll clean up the remaining services and user groups.
Code Listing 2.6: Setting up the DBUS service
# /etc/init.d/dbus start
# rc-update add dbus default
Check if the plugdev group exists. If it does, it is adviseable to make
yourself member of that group, but this is optional (the group is not that
Code Listing 2.7: Checking and adding users to plugdev
~# getent group plugdev
~# gpasswd -a yourUserName plugdev
Let us first take a look at what we just built. Exit your root shell and log on
as a regular user. We will configure our session to run GNOME when we issue the
startx command (see also
Using startx in the
X Server Configuration Howto):
Code Listing 2.8: Setting GNOME as the default desktop environment
$ echo "exec gnome-session" > ~/.xinitrc
Starting with gnome-base/gnome-session-2.26.2, you will need to prepend
the XDG_MENU_PREFIX variable to get the Gnome menus if you're using the
~/.xinitrc method to start your desktop. (If you're not using
~/.xinitrc, it will be handled automatically for you; no additional
configuration is needed.)
Code Listing 2.9: Prepending XDG_MENU_PREFIX to ~/.xinitrc
$ sed -i '1i\export XDG_MENU_PREFIX=gnome-' ~/.xinitrc
Now start your graphical environment by running startx:
Code Listing 2.10: Starting GNOME
If all goes well, you should be greeted by GNOME. Congratulations. Now let us
take a look at how you can configure GNOME to suit your needs.
GNOME's Graphical Login Manager
If you want the GNOME Display Manager (GDM) to run automatically when you boot
(so you can log on graphically), you must add the xdm init script to the
Code Listing 3.1: Adding xdm to the default runlevel
# rc-update add xdm default
Now edit /etc/conf.d/xdm and alter the DISPLAYMANAGER variable.
Code Listing 3.2: Editing /etc/conf.d/xdm
If you installed Gnome using the gnome-light package, you will need to
install gdm too (as it is not defined as part of the gnome-light
Code Listing 3.3: Installing the gdm application
# emerge gdm
If you reboot now, the GNOME Display Manager will prompt you for your username
and password and will default to using GNOME as Desktop Environment (even though
you will have the option of selecting a different one of course, choosing from
those available in /usr/share/xsessions/). Thus, if you use GDM,
you don't need to edit ~/.xinitrc.
The contents of this document, unless otherwise expressly stated, are licensed under the CC-BY-SA-2.5 license. The Gentoo Name and Logo Usage Guidelines apply.