Right now, there are two types of users of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS “Trusty Tahr”. The first type uses Ubuntu 14.04 because it’s an LTS release, and they want to enjoy the stability benefits that come with that. The other type use Ubuntu 14.04 because it’s the latest Ubuntu release – and don’t care about the LTS thing, or stability.
If you fall into the second category, you may be interested in upgrading to the latest version of Gnome. Here’s how.
Why You Would Want To Upgrade
When Ubuntu 14.04 shipped, Canonical decided to stick with Gnome 3.10. This older version of Gnome was considered more stable than Gnome 3.12, the latest release. This isn’t necessarily a bad thin if your top priority is stability, but some users might want the new features and improvements of Gnome 3.12.
Thankfully, upgrading has been made easy for Ubuntu users thanks to a simple PPA (personal package archive).
We wrote an extensive article about why you should consider upgrading to Gnome 3.12 if you’re a Gnome user. In that article we talk about some nifty improvements — my favorite one of the bunch is the improved HiDPI (high dots-per-inch, aka ultra high-resolution screens like on the MacBook Pro Retina) support. While those improvements will only appear in select locations as the rest of the HiDPI support is handled through Unity, it’s still a good idea to get those toolkit and theme tweaks.
How To Upgrade
Upgrading to Gnome 3.12 is a rather simple affair. First, you’ll need to make sure that you have all available updates installed. You can do this by opening up the Software Updater utility, or by running the command
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade in the terminal.
Next, you’ll want to run the following command in the terminal:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3-staging && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade. This command will add the Gnome 3 Staging PPA (which contains all of our Gnome 3.12 packages), and then rerun the previous command to check for updates and apply any that are available (which there should be now). Let the command do its work, and after a reboot you should be running Gnome 3.12 as the backbone!
If you’d like to run a true Gnome environment rather than Unity with Gnome as the backbone, you can switch the session at the login screen (before you hit enter after typing in your password) from Unity to Gnome Session. Be warned that (for better or worse, depending on your preferences) this means you’ll now be running Gnome Shell.
In case Gnome Shell isn’t already installed on your computer, you can install it with the command
sudo apt-get install gnome-shell.
If you want to get the most out of your Gnome 3.12 experience, you can install some additional Gnome applications that are usually included with Gnome, but not with Ubuntu. These include the Gnome “Epiphany” web browser, the Polari IRC client, and the Gnome Maps application. You can install them using these three tools with the following command:
sudo apt-get install epiphany-browser gnome-maps polari -y.
How To Roll Back
Of course, there’s a slight risk that you’ll experience some bugs while using Gnome 3.12. While the Gnome developers have released the software as a stable release, there may be some issues that other software (such as Unity) not meant to work with 3.12. So far the only complaints from other users include screen flickering and a few broken Gnome extensions.
If you’ve had enough of Gnome 3.12, whether it be because you just don’t like it or if you have the rare scenario of a serious problem with it, you can also roll back the updates very easily. Open up a terminal and type in the following command:
sudo apt-get install ppa-purge && sudo ppa-purge ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3-staging. This command will install a “purge” tool, which will then be used to remove the Gnome 3 Staging PPA and any updates that were applied because of it.
As you can see, it’s very easy to upgrade to the latest version of Gnome 3. If you’re interested in the new features and don’t mind taking a slight risk, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try it out – you can always roll back in case things go wrong for whatever reason. However, if you’re concerned about stability, I wouldn’t recommend that you try this, simply because Gnome 3.12 includes code that has been far less tested than code found in Gnome 3.10. Canonical also won’t be updating Ubuntu 14.04 to any version after Gnome 3.10 for the lifespan of the distribution release anyways.
Are desktop environment updates worthwhile in the middle of distribution releases? If yes, do you prefer a rolling release model over this or not? Let us know in the comments!