Default GNOME Flashback session on Debian with the System Settings manager open


GNOME Flashback is a session for GNOME 3 which was initially called "GNOME Fallback", and shipped as a stand-alone session in Debian and Ubuntu. It provides a similar user experience to the GNOME 2.x series sessions. The differences to the MATE project is that GNOME Flashback uses GTK+ 3 and tries to follow the current GNOME development by integrating recent changes of the GNOME libraries. The development currently lags behind a little but a lot of progress has been made and most importantly many open bugs have been fixed.

Currently GNOME Flashback consists of the following components:

  • GnomePanel: This component provides a flexible panel. One or more of these panels can be added to the screen and can be populated with multiple applets to open application, indicators for sound and network, a clock applet with date, time and weather and many more.

  • Metacity: The window manager of GNOME Flashback, optionally other window managers such as mutter can be used but Metacity is the one thats officially supported. Recently Metacity has been ported to GTK+ 3 and gained the side-by-side window tiling feature that is also available in GNOME Shell.

  • GnomeApplets: This component provides a collection of useful applets for the GNOME Panel. See also a list of third-party applets.

  • Flashback module: A new module since September 2014. It provides session files, background features, a sound applet and shutdown dialogs.

  • Notification Daemon: This was part of GNOME Flashback for few releases. In 3.20 notification daemon is merged into gnome-flashback module.


GNOME Flashback 3.20.0 released on 2016-04-03

A new major release which adds support for GNOME 3.20.x.

Download Sources: gnome-applets gnome-flashback gnome-panel metacity

GNOME Flashback 3.18.0 released on 2015-09-24

A new major release which adds support for GNOME 3.18.x.

Download Sources: gnome-applets gnome-flashback gnome-panel metacity notification-daemon

GNOME Flashback 3.16.1 released on 2015-04-15

A bug fix release which fixes numerous bugs across all 5 components. More Info

Download Sources: gnome-applets gnome-flashback gnome-panel metacity notification-daemon

GNOME Flashback 3.16.0 released on 2015-04-07

A new major release which adds support for GNOME 3.16.x. It fixes several bugs and adds several features. More Info

Download Sources: gnome-applets gnome-flashback gnome-panel metacity notification-daemon

gnome-panel 3.14.0 released on 2014-10-30

A new major release which adds support for GNOME 3.14.x. It fixes several bugs and adds several features. Download

gnome-panel 3.8.1 released on 2014-08-22

A bug fix release which has fixed several bugs in GNOME Panel. Download

gnome-panel 3.8.0 released on 2013-09-25

This is the first release that ships a session descriptor and wrapper script for the "GNOME Flashback" session. This is similar to the standalone fallback session previously shipped in Debian / Ubuntu. As integration with the rest of the GNOME stack has suffered somewhat, this is mainly aimed at distributions that still want to support a metacity / gnome-panel based desktop (e.g. for LTSP installations). Download

You can find the overview of all releases on the FTP Server together with the hash sums for each release.


GNOME Flashback needs a couple to utility tasks to be performed to make the desktop useful. These are collected and provided through the new flashback component and they include:

  • Background drawing (which was previously handled by nautilus)
  • A sound applet library (which adds a volume applet to the notification area to control the sound settings)
  • Shutdown dialogs to shutdown or suspend the computer.

Notification Daemon

The notification daemon is required for showing messages from applications that are currently running and what to notify the user. Messages will appear at the top right of the screen and if missed they can be accessed from the notification area. This module was previously part of Gnome put has been deprecated because its features are now part of Gnome Shell.

Hacking / Contributing

The GNOME Flashback team was born in December 2012 out of a shared desire to continue work on the discontinued "GNOME Fallback" mode based on Metacity and GNOME Panel. People from downstream and derived desktops that have shared interests (e.g. the MATE team) are invited to join the GNOME Flashback team, and share the burden of keeping this technology useful.

We usually meet on the gnome-flashback-list.

jhbuild has the meta-gnome-flashback metamodule, but it's a bit hard to build.

If you are building Gnome Flashback 3.8.1, Use the gnome-world-3.8 moduleset.

For newer versions of Gnome and Gnome Flashback, see the Projects/GnomeFlashback/JHBuild page.

Alternatively, start with your distributions' Gnome 3.8 packages, install -dev packages, and uninstall gnome-panel. Then build from the tarball, and install to /usr/local. You might need to

 sudo ln -s /usr/local/share/xsessions/gnome-fallback.desktop /usr/share/xsessions/
 (and, if you use your distribution's gnome-session:)
 sudo ln -s /usr/local/share/gnome-session/sessions/gnome-flashback.session /usr/share/gnome-session/sessions/

A better approach might be the following:

 git clone git://
 ./ --prefix=/opt/gnome-panel-3.8/
 sudo make install

Now you can start gnome-panel either manually:

  XDG_DATA_DIRS=/opt/gnome-panel-3.8/share:/usr/local/share:/usr/share /opt/gnome-panel-3.8/bin/gnome-panel --replace

or with jhbuild. If you use jhbuild, make sure that the "prefix" ~/.config/jhbuildrc points to the same variable that you passed to --prefix in ./

 jhbuild shell
 jhbuild run gnome-panel

Reporting bugs

If you want to report a bug about Flashback, then please add it to the "gnome-flashback" product in bugzilla.

If you have a patch to contribute, please also file a bug in bugzilla as above. Additionally, we'd appreciate a ping on the gnome-flashback-list.



  • ping distributions, get it packaged, collect bug reports -> IN PROGRESS

  • re-approach downstreams, review mergeable code -> IN PROGRESS

Current problems being targeted

  • Visibility of Desktop icons aren't settable by dconf, see Bug 695088

  • gnome-screensaver?


  • The talika-applet has some nice features similar to the Windows Vista/7 task bar, but is only GTK+2.

  • window-picker-applet was recently merged into gnome-applets:


  • New mailing list creation, see Bug 695225

  • Basic documentation on Wiki (includes this page and GnomePanel)

  • Bring down the rather large bug list for gnome-panel, make a call for attention to bugs that are left / high priority

Also, this page is rather new and details might be thin for a little while. Feel free to improve it by adding more content.


Projects/GnomeFlashback (last edited 2016-06-22 13:13:02 by AlbertsMuktupavels)