I'm new to Linux so still learning it. I installed Gnome 2.28 with desktop environment.

So I'm wondering why so much variable stuff like CD recorders, image editors, games is installed with Gnome.

But this is only a half of the problem! Gnome depends on them! So when I want to uninstall them via Synaptic Package Manager it asks me to uninstall Gnome too!

How can I remove only that application what I want to remove?

  • 2
    What parts of gnome did you actually want/need?
    – Zoredache
    Jan 13, 2010 at 22:55
  • Seriously, if you're using that machine for learning, do it from the command line. The whole purpose of a GUI is to hide the workings from the user, so the instructional value is a whole lot less.
    – John Gardeniers
    Jan 14, 2010 at 1:25
  • How are you using GNOME 2.28 on Debian 5.0, which ships with GNOME 2.22?
    – TRS-80
    Jan 14, 2010 at 2:41
  • @TRS-80: I installed it from a package repository. Wow! Jan 14, 2010 at 10:23
  • @John Gardeniers: Yea, I do the most of tasks via terminal. But sometimes I don't know a command for a task or how to do it without a GUI, etc. So sometimes it's really needed. Jan 14, 2010 at 10:24

6 Answers 6


First off, you've installed gnome-the-package, not gnome-vis-a-vis-the-gtk-api or gnome-the-user-desktop or gnome-the-{insert other ideas here}. There is a difference; some of these are ideas and concepts, some are software, some are development tools, and some are just there for the systems administrator.

I think you are also confusing several concepts. Unlike what you find in Windows (where one-size-kinda-fits-all*), your Linux environment is much more modular and can be heavily customized. The parts needed are installed in layers, with a display, a display manager, a window manager, and on top of that any user programs.

A Quick Visit to X11 and Friends

X11 is a graphical display environment, in the form of a server, a client, and a protocol. Graphical sessions can either be local to a video device, or over a network to a remote client. Using X11 allows you to isolate where you have your graphics appear from where they originate from.

A display manager's job is to provide authentication (a graphical login screen) to determine who is and isn't an authorized user, and launch the appropriate graphical session for that user. Display managers can be thought of as a kind of gatekeeping process for X11, asking users to identify themselves and managing who gets access to what display (where I'm using display to loosely describe your X11 session).

After the display manager has determined who you are and what you want to do (or should be doing), it then launches various programs, usually including the window manager. The window manager's job is to do what it sounds like - manage windows! If you ever get to a point where your windows suddenly loose all their borders and you can't resize them, then the window manager has stopped working.

When people talk about desktop environments in linux, what they are usually talking about is actually a collection of several things, including X11, a display manager, a window manager, and several user programs, all installed together to provide a "desktop experience". When you install "Gnome", you're really installing gdm (the Gnome Display Manager), Metacity (a window manager), and a boatload of other programs to provide a "desktop experience".

Because every user is different, and some users will have different expectations from others, there are usually a broad swath of programs that cover a majority of use cases, so that people can start using it right away. That's why when you installed gnome, you ended up with all kinds of stuff, and not all necessarily stuff you wanted.

That being said...

When you install a package in Debian, you are potentially installing other packages that are dependencies, i.e. these other packages need to be installed 'underneath' it for the one 'up top' to function properly. When you installed gnome-desktop as a package, you installed a variation of this, a meta-package, which is a package of nothing but dependencies on other packages; the gnome-desktop package doesn't itself have any thing really in it (other than a few glue files), but rather, the dependencies attached to it cause all of the others to be installed.

If you are looking for a minimal GUI environment, and want to control what is and isn't installed to keep things lightweight, you're better off uninstalling gnome-desktop completely, purging all of the files in the process, and then re-installing something smaller with no dependencies. You'll need to leave your GUI behind for a moment, because the package tool you're trying to use may or may not be a part of the removal process; so you'll want to get into a normal text shell, probably by pressing Alt-F1 while at the system console. From there, log in as root, and do the following command:

 apt-get purge gnome-desktop && apt-get update && apt-get install fluxbox 

That command will remove the gnome desktop and all of the associated packages, update your list of available packages to install, and install fluxbox as a window manager. After installing your window manager, you'll want to install other software that uses a GUI interface and proceed from there; most likely you'll want to do the following as root while in that shell:

apt-get install synaptic && /etc/init.d/gdm restart

That will install the synaptic package manager and restart your display manager. From there, log in, and run synaptic from the menu of your window manager, and select the packages you want to install. Be sure to not re-install gnome-desktop again.

*Footnote: yes, I know that Windows uses modular components itself, and that several can be replaced as needed; but in practice, and from the general public's point of view, it's usually seen as a monolithic entity, with a single user interface.

  • "Linux environment is much more modular and can be heavily customized" and "there are usually a broad swath of programs that cover a majority of use cases" seems for me being opposite ideas. I mean that 'windows-must-die' concept adepts often attack windows for large amount of build-in applications when very popular Gnome does the same.. Jan 14, 2010 at 10:36

Gnome "depends" on all those things because they are a part of gnome. By definition, they are a part of Gnome. If you don't want them, don't install Gnome. You can uninstall Gnome and then just install those parts of the system you want to keep, though.

  • How to get Gnome itself without ton of variable user applications? All the more I'm configuring a server bot a client computer.. Jan 13, 2010 at 21:45
  • 4
    You shouldn't be installing a GUI on a server anyway.
    – womble
    Jan 13, 2010 at 22:40
  • @womble, there is a software company in Redmond, Washington that I'd like to introduce to you. They have some peculiar habits in regard to GUIs running on servers, and you might want to mention that to them. Although, to their credit, they have gotten much better about it as of late; yet some of their best 2nd party applications continue to insist on some kind of GUI, the name escapes me...Portals? Viewspaces? Glassplanes? What was that again...can't remember... Jan 14, 2010 at 0:17
  • 1
    [citation needed]
    – womble
    Jan 14, 2010 at 1:34
  • 1
    womble: Server Core in Windows Server 2008. Also, the gnome package includes things that aren't part of GNOME - it's only gnome-desktop-environment that is exactly GNOME.
    – TRS-80
    Jan 14, 2010 at 2:41

Gnome in debian is just a metapackage. It install the whole environment, which includes all the apps and utilities. So when you uninstall just one of those applications, it must remove the umbrella 'gnome' package. However all the stuff that it pulled will stay intact.

  • Ok, is there any way to remove only one package if I'm ready to risk and break this 'dependency'? Jan 13, 2010 at 21:50
  • Use apt-get purge {packagename}. You will get a prompt telling you other packages that will be removed if they depend on that package.
    – Zoredache
    Jan 13, 2010 at 22:57

Further to womble's answers, Gnome (and KDE as well) is a very tightly integrated suite of programs to provide a complete desktop experience. As such, a lot of the components are tightly coupled with each other to seamlessly provide various services to each other.

For example, to provide music preview in Nautilus, there is a dependency on Totem to provide the music/gstreamer play functionality. Similarly how clicking a link in any Gnome-integrated application will correctly load your preferred browser (usually Firefox, but can be set to something else in the Gnome Preferences).

  • 1
    Because of how tightly integrated Gnome is, you probably aren't gaining anything by removing burners and such anyways. I would honestly just ignore it.
    – Ophidian
    Jan 13, 2010 at 21:57

Debian has two GNOME metapackages - gnome-desktop-environment which is strictly the packages released by GNOME upstream, and gnome which depends on a whole bunch of extra apps as well. So to get rid of the extra packages, remove them but mark gnome-desktop-environment to be kept.

Note that CD burning is part of upstream GNOME now. So if you want to remove that as well but keep the other parts of GNOME, run apt-get remove brasero; aptitude keep-all. This will remove the gnome-desktop-environment metapackage, but the keep-all command will stop the other packages it depends on being automatically removed.


Try installing gnome-core instead of gnome.

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