How to Make Debian 8 Look Like Classic Ubuntu Gnome 2 Desktop

Gnome 3 was out for quite some time, but many folks still had hard time getting used to it. In this tutorial we will look at how to switch to Gnome 2 (kind of) on Debian 8 Jessie and add Ubuntu elements to make it pleasing to the eye. We will download and install some packages like Ubuntu fonts, Ubuntu wallpaper from Ubuntu trusty repository as it is most compatible with Debian 8.

This tutorial assumes you have installed Gnome 3 as the desktop environment. So let’s get started.

Install Gnome Flashback

We will use the traditional Gnome flashback mode instead of the default Gnome shell. Install it with:

sudo apt install gnome-session-flashback

Then log out and login in Gnome fallback mode. Now it gives you the look and feel of Gnome 2. But the default theme is far from pretty. Let’s change that.

Install Ubuntu Light Theme on Debian 8

Ubuntu light theme is composed of the well-known ambiance and radiance theme. It depends on the gtk3-engines-unico pacakge which is unfortunately removed from Debian Jessie repository. We can download the deb package from Ubuntu trusty with the following command:

64 bit


32 bit


Once the download is complete, install it using dpkg tool.

64 bit

sudo dpkg -i gtk3-engines-unico_1.0.3+14.04.20140109-0ubuntu1_amd64.deb

32 bit

sudo dpkg -i gtk3-engines-unico_1.0.3+14.04.20140109-0ubuntu1_i386.deb

Now download the deb package of Ubuntu light-themes from Ubuntu website. or use wget to download it in terminal:


You also gonna need to download the dependency packages humanity icon theme and Ubuntu mono icon theme. Download them with wget in terminal:



Then install all 3 deb packages with dpkg.

sudo dpkg -i humanity-icon-theme*.deb ubuntu-mono*.deb light-themes*.deb

Next, install Gnome tweak tool:

sudo apt install gnome-tweak-tool

In Gnome tweak tool, set icon theme to ubuntu mono dark. Set ambiance as the GTK+ theme and window theme.

install ubuntu light theme on debian 8

Change Main Menu Icon

The main menu icon used by Ubuntu mono dark is the Ubuntu logo. We want to use the Debian swirl logo as the icon.

Download Debian swirl icon from my Google drive. Then copy it to the icon theme directory and rename it to start-here.svg.

sudo cp debian-swirl.svg /usr/share/icons/ubuntu-mono-dark/apps/22/start-here.svg

Log out and log back in, you should see the Debian swirl icon at the top left corner.

Install cursor theme

sudo apt-get install dmz-cursor-theme

Then set DMZ-white as the cursor theme in Gnome tweak tool.

Install Ubuntu Wallpaper

Download Ubuntu wallpaper from Ubuntu website. Or use wget to download it in terminal.


Then install it with dpkg.

sudo dpkg -i ubuntu-wallpapers*.deb

Change desktop background to the default Ubuntu wallpaper.

install ubuntu wallpaper on debian 8

Install Ubuntu Font

Download ubuntu-font-family deb package from Ubuntu website. Or use wget to download it in terminal.


Then install it with dpkg.

sudo dpkg -i ttf-ubuntu-font-family*.deb

Open Gnome tweak tool, click fonts tab on the left. Then

  • change window titles, interface, Documents to Ubuntu Regular 11.
  • change Monospace font to Ubuntu mono Regular 13.
  • change hinting to slight.
  • change Antialiasing to Rgba.

install ubuntu font family on Debian 8

Change Terminal Background Color and Text Color

In terminal profile preferences, under colors tab, set #300A24 as the background color and #ffffff as the text color.

Debian ubuntu terminal color

Install Nemo File Manager

The Nemo file manage is a fork of nautilus. Installing it on Debian 8 is as easy as running this command:

sudo apt install nemo

Set Nemo as the default file manager

xdg-mime default nemo.desktop inode/directory application/x-gnome-saved-search

Disable Nautilus to handle the desktop.

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons false

Allow Nemo to autostart and manage the desktop.

gsettings set org.nemo.desktop show-desktop-icons true

install nemo file manager on Debian 8 Jessie

Minor Changes

Press Alt key and at the same time right-click the bottom panel, select add to panel. You can add show desktop and Trash applet to the bottom panel.  To move these two applet, press Alt key and right-click on the applet, then select move.

The following screenshot looks like a classic Ubuntu Gnome 2 desktop. But screenfetch command tells us the OS is Debian 8.5 jessie. Do you like it?

Make Debian 8 Look Like Classic Ubuntu Desktop

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