GNOME First Steps

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GNOME 3 is an easy and elegant way to use your computer. It is designed to put you in control and bring freedom to everybody. GNOME 3 is developed by the GNOME community, a diverse, international group of contributors that is supported by an independent, non-profit foundation." GNOME


Before attempting to emerge Gnome, make sure that you have installed and tested the X Window System on your computer.

Preparing to emerge

After verifying that you have installed the X Window system on your computer, change your system flavor to desktop, and enable the gnome profile mix-in. To accomplish this, run the following:

root # epro flavor desktop
root # epro mix-ins +gnome

By enabling the gnome mix-in, various settings, including the USE portage variable, will be optimized to provide you with a relatively painless Gnome install.


The Funtoo Linux repositories include two ebuild "meta packages" that can be used to install Gnome. One of them, gnome-light installs a bare-bones gnome desktop with few "extra" applications and games that can be found in the gnome-extra and games-* portage categories, respectively. If you are interested in having a Gnome desktop with extra applications like a photo viewer, text editor, sound player, font viewer, etc, immediately after installing the Gnome packages, consider emerging the gnome package instead of gnome-light.


Individual Gnome applications can be installed on top of a gnome-light installation, allowing you to only install the applications you need and limit unnecessary bloat.

Below are two lists comparing some of the different packages installed by default with a gnome-light and gnome installation:

  • gnome-terminal
  • nautilus (the default Gnome file manager)
  • gnome-shell (can be removed using the -gnome-shell USE flag at installation)
  • gnome-control-center
  • gnome-terminal
  • nautilus
  • gnome-shell
  • gnome-control-center
  • gnome-contacts
  • eog (an image viewing application)
  • gnome-weather
  • gnome-maps

... and many other applications.

Best for:
  • Users who want a smaller installation that uses less disk space
  • Users who are comfortable installing additional packages that they require when the need arises
Best for:
  • Users who want a full-featured Gnome desktop right after installation
  • Users who don't mind extra resources being used by additional applications installed on the system
How to install:
root # emerge gnome-light
How to install:
root # emerge gnome

A few finishing touches


GNOME uses OpenGL by default to help it provide nice animations and other eye candy, so you'll want to make sure that you use eselect opengl to ensure that the proper OpenGL implementation for your video card is selected. If this is not done, GNOME won't start, so it's important to check this. Type eselect opengl list as root to list OpenGL implementations, and eselect opengl set <opengl_implementation_name>, again as root, to set your OpenGL implementation to the one that you deem suitable.

Setting up xdm (GUI log-in)

Most users of Gnome are satisfied using gdm, the Gnome display manager, to log in to Gnome. To clarify: a display manager provides a graphical interface during system startup that allows users to log in to a desktop environment.

By default, GNOME displays the /etc/motd file for several seconds after you log in via GDM. The best way to eliminate this delay is to remove the unnecessary /etc/motd file, which only contains information related to when your stage3 was built:

root # rm /etc/motd

By default, after installing Gnome, GDM is not enabled. To enable GDM, edit /etc/conf.d/xdm and set the DISPLAYMANAGER variable to gdm instead of the default, xdm. When finished, your /etc/conf.d/xdm file should look like:

# We always try and start X on a static VT. The various DMs normally default
# to using VT7. If you wish to use the xdm init script, then you should ensure
# that the VT checked is the same VT your DM wants to use. We do this check to
# ensure that you haven't accidentally configured something to run on the VT
# in your /etc/inittab file so that you don't get a dead keyboard.

# What display manager do you use ?
# NOTE: If this is set in /etc/rc.conf, that setting will override this one.

Once you finish configuring that file, add the xdm service to the default runlevel so that GDM will start automatically when your system has finished loading other services. xdm need dbus service started before. To achieve this:

root # rc-update add dbus default

Above command adds dbus to list of services to be started at boot.

Now, we will add xdm service.

root # rc-update add xdm default

The above command adds xdm to the list of services to be started at boot. Since your system has already started, the xdm service will be started the next time the system is started. To run the xdm service now, you can execute the following command, which runs any services in the list of services to start at boot that are currently not running:

root # rc

Setting up xinitrc (text-based log-in)

If, instead of using a display manager like GDM, you would rather log into the console and start Gnome from there, add the following to your ~/.xinitrc file:

# Fix Missing Applications in Gnome
export XDG_MENU_PREFIX=gnome-

# Properly Launch the Desired X Session
exec ck-launch-session gnome-session

If you need support for different input sources, there is no longer a need to configure IBus or SCIM in your ~.xinitrc file as GNOME uses IBus natively. Simply configure it in the Gnome Control Center under the Region & Language section.

Upgrading from older Gnome releases

To update either gnome-light or gnome to a newer version, run the following command:

root # emerge -vauDN world



For bluetooth support under Gnome, ensure that:

  1. Bluetooth support is enabled within your kernel (using modules is fine).
  2. Your bluetooth hardware is turned on.

After ensuring those two things, the bluetooth startup script can be added to the default runlevel and started:

root # rc-update add bluetooth default
root # rc

Once the rc command has been run, the bluetooth init file has been run, meaning that you should now be able to navigate to the Gnome Control Center's Bluetooth section to turn bluetooth on. The icon next to devices should now animate and you should be able to discover and add devices such as bluetooth keyboards and mice.


Additional kernel drivers may be necessary for certain input devices. For example, for the bluetooth Apple Magic Trackpad, the following option must be enabled in your kernel:

Under Device Drivers-->HID support-->HID bus support-->Special HID drivers:

<M> Apple Magic Mouse/Trackpad multi-touch support


To enable printing support, add the cupsd init file to the default runlevel and then start the cupsd service by running the rc command:

root # rc-update add cupsd default
root # rc

You should now be able to navigate to the Gnome Control Center's Printers sections and add printers to your system. After adding printers to your system, you should, hopefully, be able to print to them. If you have troubles with the default printer drivers, consider reading


To enable scanning support, add your user account (and the accounts of any other users who may need to scan) to the lp group. By adding your user account to this group, you will have access to any locally attached scanner:

root # gpasswd -a <username> lp

After adding yourself and any other desired users to the lp local printing group, install xsane, a graphical scanning frontend, by running the following command:

root # emerge xsane

When you run xsane, it should be able to access your scanner.

Automatically Starting Applications at Login

When using an old-fashioned Template:~/.xinitrc, loading applications when X starts is relatively easy, simply add different applications to launch on separate lines in the file. When using GDM, this can also be accomplished with ease by editing the ~/.xprofile file. Here is a sample ~/.xprofile that runs the xflux application to dim a computer's monitor at night:

xflux -z 87107

Remember to add an & at the end of any command that doesn't return directly to the shell prompt after running.


Gnome has a plethora of games that can be added to your installation of either gnome-light or gnome. By default, the majority of Gnome games are not included in the gnome and gnome-light packages. If you are interested in playing games under Gnome, or for that matter, any other desktop environment, you will want to add your user account to the games group. This can be accomplished easily by running the following command:

root # gpasswd -a $USER games

The above command appends games to the list of groups that you are already a member of. Once your user account has been added to the games group, you should log out and log back in to apply the changes to your user at log-in. Below is a list of games that were developed by the Gnome team with the Gnome desktop environment in mind:

  • gnome-sudoku
  • gnome-mastermind
  • gnome-nibbles
  • gnome-robots
  • gnome-chess
  • gnome-hearts
  • gnome-mahjongg
  • gnome-mines
  • gnome-klotski
  • gnome-tetravex
  • gnomeboyadvance
  • gnome-mud

To install any of the above games, simply run an:

root # emerge <gamename>

Significant Known Issues (Workarounds Available)

  • FL-1678: Bluetooth interface gives wrong pairing key
  • FL-1687: Wallpaper corruption when resuming from suspend
  • FL-1908: gnome-terminal does not respect scroll bar placement setting

gnome upstream FAQ has wrong information. A workaround is to use new method:

terminal-window overlay {
  -TerminalScreenContainer-window-placement: bottom-right;
  -TerminalScreenContainer-window-placement-set: true;