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GNOME is a popular desktop environment. This guide tries to describe all aspects of GNOME, including installation, configuration, usage, and more!

What is GNOME?

The project

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 Project.

The software

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, and developers.

The community

Like with any big free software project, GNOME has an extensive user and development base. GNOME Planet is a popular blog aggregator for GNOME hackers and contributors whereas is for the GNOME developers. GNOME Library contains a huge list of GNOME resources for end users. The WOGUE is also a popular aggregator for GNOME-related news.


Before the GNOME install process, first read and follow the instructions in the Xorg guide to setup a X environment. X is the standard base for all desktop environments in Linux. Also, be sure to read and comply with all the settings from the systemd article.

If the reader does not want to use GNOME with systemd, please read the GNOME without systemd article.


Before installing GNOME, editing the system's USE variables is a good idea. Make sure that X, gtk, and gnome are in the USE variable located in /etc/portage/make.conf. It is recommended to enable support for D-Bus system-wide. Systemd includes this system message bus. Add systemd to the USE variable as well (D-Bus is a system message bus that GNOME uses extensively). If no KDE support is required, remove qt4, qt5 and kde from USE. USE flags can be removed by adding a minus sign (-) in front of them. See the example below for the minus sign used properly.

FILE /etc/portage/make.confExample USE flags for a GNOME desktop environment
USE="-qt4 -qt5 -kde X gtk gnome systemd"

Adding the branding USE flag provides a lovely Gentoo-branded splash screen instead of the default GNOME splash screen:

root #echo "gnome-base/gnome-session branding" >> /etc/portage/package.use
When using the desktop/gnome/systemd profile, these USE flags will be set automatically. It is possible to check the system profile by running eselect profile list. Modifications can be made by running eselect profile set <profile-name> as root. Be sure to replace "<profile-name>" with the number or name of the desired profile.

Once finished, begin the GNOME installation by emerging GNOME:

root #emerge --ask gnome-base/gnome

For a minimal GNOME installation install the gnome-base/gnome-light package. This option provides a lightweight GNOME installation without pulling in the full GNOME desktop environment. Most people may need to install additional packages afterwards.

root #emerge --ask gnome-base/gnome-light

This will take a while, so start reading some books. Done? Great, now update environment variables:

root #env-update && source /etc/profile

Next the remaining services and user groups will be cleaned.

Verify the plugdev group exists. If it does, it is advisable to make each GNOME user member of that group, but step this is optional (the group is not common anymore).

root #getent group plugdev

Substitute <username> in the next command with each GNOME user's user name:

root #gpasswd -a <username> plugdev

First impressions

It is time to take a look at what was just built. Either configure the session manager to run GNOME when the the startx command is invoked (see using startx in the Xorg guide for more information), or enable the GDM service, for a more convenient way to start Gnome.

Enabling GDM


To start GDM upon boot:

root #systemctl enable gdm.service

To start GDM immediately, run:

root #systemctl start gdm.service
The following command both enables and starts GDM immediately:
root #systemctl enable --now gdm.service

Another suggestion is to activate Network Manager, in case no other network managing service is activated.


OpenRC provides a script, XDM, to start up display managers. The following edit will set GDM as the default display manager:

FILE /etc/conf.d/xdmSetting GDM as the default display manager

To start GDM on boot, add the XDM init script to the system's default runlevel:

root #rc-update add xdm default

To start GDM immediately, run:

root #/etc/init.d/xdm start

Again, a good suggestion is to activate Network Manager, in case no other network managing service is activated.

Using startx

Exit the root shell and log in as a regular user. The next step is to configure the session manager to run GNOME when the the startx command is invoked (see using startx in the Xorg guide for more information).

user $echo "exec gnome-session" > ~/.xinitrc

Starting with gnome-base/gnome-session-2.26.2, users will need to prepend the XDG_MENU_PREFIX variable to get the GNOME menus when using the ~/.xinitrc method to start the desktop. If ~/.xinitrc is not being used it will be handled automatically; no additional configuration is needed.

user $sed -i '1i\export XDG_MENU_PREFIX=gnome-' ~/.xinitrc

Now start the graphical environment by issuing startx:

user $startx

If all goes well GNOME should happily provide a greeting. Congratulations on setting up GNOME!

Customizing Gnome

For extra configuration options in GNOME 3 install the gnome-extra/gnome-tweak-tool package. The tweak tool allows customization at a deeper level than the standard Settings frame.

Widgets in GNOME 3

By default in Gentoo Gnome 3 does not support widgets. For users who wish to obtain widget functionality a separate package is available:

root #emerge --ask gnome-extra/gnome-shell-extensions

After the Shell Extensions are installed, eselect can be used to control defaults on a global level:

root #eselect gnome-shell-extensions list
Available extensions (* means enabled for all users by default):



A possible way to completely remove a GNOME installation is by explicitly uninstalling the gnome-base/gnome package, then cleaning the dependencies of that package.

In order to do this sanely make sure the main Portage repository has been synced:

root #emerge --sync

Next, run a world update so that the system is fully up-to-date:

root #emerge --ask --update --newuse --deep --with-bdeps=y @world

Unmerge the GNOME base package:

root #emerge --ask --depclean gnome-base/gnome

Finally, depclean the system:

root #emerge --ask --depclean

GNOME should now be removed.


Oh no something has gone wrong

One source of this error can be the permissions for the video device. When logging in fails and a message appears that says "Oh no, something has gone wrong", then try to become a member of the video group. Add the user to the video group with gpasswd like so:

root #gpasswd -a <user> video

External resources

This article is based on a document formerly found on our main website
The following people contributed to the original document: Lars Strojny, nightmorph
They are listed here as the Wiki history does not allow for any external attribution. If you edit the Wiki article, please do not add yourself here; your contributions are recorded on the history page.