Unity Desktop Environment is a graphical shell for the GNOME desktop environment created and maintained by Canonical for Ubuntu operating systems. As time has passed and Ubuntu is now officially using GNOME as the default desktop environment, it is maintained and developed by the Unity7 Maintainers and UBports.
With Ubuntu 21.10 being released, another Unity Desktop environment has occupied it. This release still uses the Unity 7 interface as the UnityX 10 is still under development. However, in further Ubuntu distribution releases, this interface will undoubtedly appear. Overall, Unity is an excellent option for its speed, alternative looks to rival any other Desktop Environment.
In the following tutorial, you will learn how to install Unity on Ubuntu 21.10 with various options.
- Recommended OS: Ubuntu 21.10.
- User account: A user account with sudo or root access.
Update Operating System
Update your Ubuntu operating system to make sure all existing packages are up to date:
sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y
The tutorial will be using the sudo command and assuming you have sudo status.
To verify sudo status on your account:
Example output showing sudo status:
[joshua@ubuntu ~]$ sudo whoami root
To set up an existing or new sudo account, visit our tutorial on How to Add a User to Sudoers on Ubuntu.
To use the root account, use the following command with the root password to log in.
Install Unity Desktop Environment
The Unity Desktop has three installation choices with minimal, standard, or complete. Each one has pros and cons depending on what you are looking to get out of the desktop. A brief explanation will be explained with each option.
sudo apt install ubuntu-unity-desktop --no-install-recommends
The minimum installation is suitable for testing, and having the bare minimum, older hardware would benefit from this version. Overall, the size is 76MB to download, and 280MB additional space is required afterward.
sudo apt install ubuntu-unity-desktop
The standard Unity installation is the most recommended for the average desktop user that wants a balance system. Overall, the size is 250MB to download, and 820MB additional space is required afterward.
sudo apt install ubuntu-unity-desktop --install-suggests
This comes with everything naturally being a complete installation, but it will add bloat, affecting older systems without enough resources. However, newer systems will probably not enjoy this installation since it will add many applications they will not use, such as firebird, jackd2, and others.
Overall, you will need to download a whopping 2GB, with 15GB of additional space required. Unless you need this installation expressly, it is advised to stick with the standard installation.
The tutorial will install the standard package. The process is pretty much the same for all installation options.
Next, during the installation, you will see the following prompt window.
As the above output has stated, this message informs you about which display manager to choose. For Unity Desktop, this will be “lightdm”. Press the “TAB” key to select <Ok> and press your “ENTER KEY” to proceed.
Once complete, you will need to reboot your system for the new changes to take effect.
Restart by typing the following command:
First Look & Verifying Unity Desktop
Once you have restarted your Ubuntu system, you will first come to a new login screen that is slightly different from the previous.
DO NOT LOG IN STRAIGHT AWAY. First, you need to verify the desktop environment. This is done by clicking the configuration button in the top right-hand corner of the login window, to the right of your username, and selecting “Unity” instead of “Ubuntu (Default)”.
Once logged in, you will notice quite a few UI changes besides the apparent background changes. The taskbar is modified to look more streamlined, along with the application window not taking up the entire screen, along with more integrations in the top right-hand corner of services where the time display is.
To confirm the installation, a handy package to install is Screenfetch. To install this package, use the following command in your terminal.
sudo apt install screenfetch -y
Once installed, run the following command in your terminal.
As the above output has shown, you have successfully installed Unity 7.5.1 on Ubuntu 21.10 Impish Indri.
How to Update Unity Desktop
For future updates for Unity desktop and Ubuntu 21.10 system packages, run the standard apt command.
sudo apt update
When updates are available, it is the same process to upgrade.
sudo apt upgrade
How to Remove (Uninstall) Unity Desktop
Removing Desktop environments can be tricky. Luckily, Unity and Ubuntu are cleaner than some other desktop and distribution combinations.
To remove Unity, use the following command.
sudo apt purge unity-session unity -y
Once done, remove the unneeded packages.
sudo apt autoremove -y
Next, you must check that the “gdm3” display driver and its packages are installed. By default, this should still be on your system, but it is good to check.
sudo apt install ubuntu-session gdm3 -y
While you are still in the terminal, type the following command to restart your system.
When returning to the login screen, if GNOME has not been selected, re-select it manually, and you will return to the default GNOME 40.
Note, as stated, removing desktop environments can sometimes cause instability in some cases. Everything worked well during the tutorial removal, but I did note that problems can and do arise, and sometimes it is better not to remove the environment. Making sure to have backups ready of any critical data is the key.
Comments and Conclusion
In the tutorial, you have successfully learned how to install Unity Desktop. Overall, this distribution is one of the cleanest, well-managed, and community-driven. It strikes similarities with some other DE’s. Overall, this may be the last Unity 7 as the plans for Unity 10 are still on track and will hopefully be seen in the following LTS release schedule next April.