Posts Tagged ‘panel’

Ubuntu has moved on to “Unity“, and Gnome has evolved to version 3‘s “Gnome Shell“, but many people (like myself) still prefer to use the old “Classic” desktop – be it the old Gnome 2 version, or the “Fallback Mode” of Gnome 3 (users of 11.10 upwards have no choice but to use the Gnome 3 version).

While the 2 versions of the “Classic” interface do have some differences – no “System” menu in Gnome 3 (read this if this is your only concern), and having to hold Alt while right-clicking it to access options – both have panels that are much more customisable (and infinitely more useful) than what “Unity” and “Gnome Shell” currently offer.

But things can go awry, like after doing some tweaking, or installing a program, or having to do a hard reboot, and you can find your panel altered (particularly minus the menus), or even completely missing. So we’ll look at a few different scenarios, and how to rectify them, including how to force Gnome to reset your menus back to their defaults (which is probably the quickest and easiest method). Also, because I’ve seen a lot of newbies in forums say “My Applications menu is missing!” when they should be saying “My top panel has totally vanished!”, we’ll look at how to get your panel back as well.

Finally, because some will need to take a harder approach (or just prefer an easier one), we’ll look at how to totally reset your panels back to their defaults. This is by far the most drastic measure, but it’s quick and easy, and for most people there are no customisations to worry about losing. Besides, if your panel has totally died or vanished, and nothing else you’ve tried has worked, then it’s the only option left.

Try A Quick Panel Restart:

First off, it might be enough to simply refresh the panel by forcing it to close then re-open, which can be done by a reboot, or logging out, or simply entering the following command into the terminal or via Alt+F2:

killall gnome-panel

It pays to do that first, in case that’s all that’s really needed, but chances are you’ve already tried logging out or rebooting, so check out the following tips.

Restore Missing Menus to Panel:

If just your main menu (the “Applications” and “Places” menus, and the “System” menu in Gnome 2) is missing, then perhaps all you need to do is add the menu back to your panel. Right-click an empty area of your panel (holding Alt in Gnome 3) and choose “Add to Panel…“, then scroll down till you find “Menu Bar” (ignore “Main Menu“, as that is a small icon version), and drag it to the left area of your panel.

If it’s conceivable that you perhaps accidentally right-clicked the menu and hit “Remove From Panel“, then it might pay to do this, especially if you have panel customisations you don’t want to lose.

Force Reset of Main Menus:

If you can’t add the menus back to your panel, for example you can’t invoke “Add to Panel…” with a right-click, it’s time to reset the menus to their defaults, which is done by deleting some configuration files. Actually, technically you’re not deleting anything, as the 2 files in question are simply renamed with .bak extensions [so they’re still there if you really need them later], forcing Gnome to recreate those files with default values.

To force Gnome to rewrite its panel menus with default values, enter the following command into a terminal:

mv ~/.config/menus/applications.menu ~/.config/menus/applications.menu.bak && mv ~/.config/menus/settings.menu ~/.config/menus/settings.menu.bak

(That should work with either Gnome 2 or 3, though the settings menu part of it probably won’t do anything in Gnome 3).

All you have to do now is log out, then once you log back in again, your panel should be back with all its menus. Or you can simply enter killall gnome-panel into the terminal and it should successfully refresh your panels without having to log out.

Make a New Top Panel if Missing:

If your panel is absent, you could have even accidentally deleted it yourself, if you unwittingly right-clicked the panel and chose “Delete This Panel” (in Gnome 2 – in Gnome 3 that is harder to do, since you need to be holding Alt while right-clicking the panel). But don’t immediately blame yourself, as all sorts of mishaps can result in a missing panel.

Whatever the case, you should be able to recreate your top panel simply by right-clicking the bottom panel (while holding Alt in Gnome 3) and choosing “New Panel“. You’d then move it to the top, then right-click it (holding Alt in Gnome 3) and choose “Add to Panel…” to add back all the various bits and pieces you had before (the “default” panel is actually a blank panel with a bunch of plugins added).

Obviously, this would be the most time-consuming method, but if you plan to customise your panel anyway, you may as well start from scratch. However, the easiest method would be to totally reset your panels, so keep reading.

Force A Complete Panel Reset:

When all else fails, it’s time to force Gnome to completely reset your panels, which is done by deleting the configuration files. That might sound drastic, and in reality this really is the last resort, but if your panel is totally messed up, chances are your old settings are useless anyway, or rather that having to stick some launchers back on a clean panel will be a welcome alternative to having no panel, or one that is buggy, or missing the “Applications” menu or whatever.

To force Gnome to recreate its panels with default values, enter the following commands into a terminal:

gconftool --recursive-unset /apps/panel (This wipes the panel’s settings)

rm -rf ~/.gconf/apps/panel (This deletes the panel’s folders and files)

killall gnome-panel (This forces the panel to close and restart)

Your panel should now be back with all its menus (but of course minus any customisations). If for some reason they don’t appear immediately, a reboot should fix it.

Alternative Commands for Panel Reset:

ΔΔΔ Some guides have gconftool-2 --shutdown as the first command (this shuts down the current user’s gconfd), though gconftool --recursive-unset /apps/panel should work perfectly fine without it. However, if you aren’t having success, then run it first.

ΔΔΔ If you’re running the commands via the Alt+F2 Run Application box, chances are it won’t like the tilde (~) in the second command, so use rm -rf $HOME/.gconf/apps/panel instead.

ΔΔΔ Instead of killall gnome-panel, you can use pkill gnome-panel (which is basically the same thing), or nohup gnome-panel --replace &, or nohup gnome-panel --replace </dev/null &>/dev/null & (note that nohup specifies the command not halt when the terminal is closed, so is not needed if using Alt+F2).

ΔΔΔ If you’d rather make a backup of the panel’s files before deleting them, run mv ~/.gconf/apps/panel ~/Settings/PanelBackup (note the second path can be whatever you want; in this case, it’s a folder called PanelBackup inside a Settings folder within my home folder I have for storing various config files and settings backup). It actually moves the whole folder to a new location, which is basically the same as deleting it, so you shouldn’t need to run the second command (since there is nothing left there to delete, anyway).


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While Ubuntu‘s new Unity interface has been designed for less clutter, and generally makes getting to common tasks a breeze, many have found navigating through the rest a bit of a nightmare. While everything is supposed to be more simplified, some would argue having all your launchers accessible via categories in the old Applications menu was actually simpler and quicker.

But you can actually have the best of both worlds, so if you’re avoiding Unity and using the Classic Desktop simply for access to the Applications and System (or Wine) menus, read ahead.

While you can’t actually add the old menu system to the Unity panel, since it is not gnome-panel that is running, there is actually an “indicator” available for Unity that will do the same thing. So while this new (or old?) menu won’t replace Unity‘s “Dash“, you will see an Ubuntu icon in your system tray’s notification area. Click that, and you will see the old familiar Applications menu, with all the categories you’re used to.

To install Classic Menu Indicator, enter the following commands in sequence in a terminal:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:diesch/testing

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install classicmenu-indicator

Once installed, hit Alt+F2 and enter classicmenu-indicator as the command to run.

Apart from easy access to all your launchers, you’ll find your old System menu is there too, split into the familiar Preferences and Administration sub-menus.

More importantly for many, you will also have your old Wine menu back for running Windows programs. Unity‘s Dash menu system does not currently show a Wine section, and finding those apps can be near-impossible, but classicmenu-indicator will rectify this.

If you find that this menu/indicator does not automatically run upon your next boot (which it should), simply add classicmenu-indicator to your Startup Applications, and it will be forced to load from then onwards (it should already be in there, so check it isn’t disabled).


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If you upgraded to Ubuntu 11.04, you might find that some of your familiar icons in the notification area of your panel’s system tray are missing. These will include such system apps as the Update Manager, but more importantly those programs you are running that usually put icons or indicators there.

Some of these might be used for bringing the related programs to the foreground (which is the only way to access those that disappear when minimised, like Firestarter and Vuze), while others are completely useless if not shown in the notification area. A good example of the latter is Parcellite, a clipboard manager which sits in the system tray, and which you can’t access any other way.

So, in Unity, you might not even be sure certain apps are running, without opening the System Monitor. They’re actually open and still trying to put their icons there, but are being prevented by a default Unity setting. But it’s easy to fix, either by the hands-on/visual approach, or the quicker command-line method.

Dconf Editor

First off, if you don’t have Dconf Editor installed, do so by entering the following into a terminal:

sudo apt-get install dconf-tools

To open it, hit Alt+F2 and enter dconf-editor. Navigate to desktop > unity > panel, where the value for the systray-whitelist entry should look something like: [‘JavaEmbeddedFrame’, ‘Mumble’, ‘Wine’, ‘Skype’, ‘hp-systray’, ‘scp-dbus-service’]

You can manually add programs and indicators to it (eg: [‘JavaEmbeddedFrame’, ‘Mumble’, ‘Wine’, ‘Skype’, ‘hp-systray’, ‘scp-dbus-service’, ‘your-indicator-here’]), or you can just get it to show all notifications (which would be preferable, since any programs you install in the future would be included there).

Simply click the systray-whitelist entry and type ['all'] over what is there. That should restore all your usual system tray icons, which were always running, just not visible. To complete this, you will need to run (via Alt+F2) unity --replace to refresh Unity.

Terminal Command

It’s even easier to do this via the terminal (or Alt+F2):

gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Panel systray-whitelist "['all']"

Once again, you’ll need to refresh Unity to see your changes.

Extra Notes

No Notifications: If you actually want no notifications showing up, leave the value empty. Actually, it will need to be [”] (that’s two single-quotes inside the box bracket), which you can do manually, or by the following command:

gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Panel systray-whitelist "['']"

Don’t Refresh Unity in Terminal: Use Alt+F2 to refresh Unity, as while running unity --replace in the terminal is fine, if you halt that process, or close the terminal window, Unity will crash. While that isn’t a major deal, it will however leave you without a way to rectify this, as Alt+F2 will not produce the Run dialogue (since the panel isn’t running – which also means no way to log out or restart). You may also find that if you manage to get a terminal up (like if you have a launcher for it on your desktop), you won’t be able to type anything into it.


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In Ubuntu 11.04‘s new Unity desktop, you may have noticed that the clock in the panel’s system tray only shows the time, whereas before you may have been used to it showing the day and date as well. But this is actually very simple to remedy: just click the clock, and when the calendar/menu appears, click Time & Date Settings… at the bottom.

When the settings app appears, in the Clock tab you will see you can customise it in all sorts of ways. If you would simply like to show the date, just check Date and month, and it will immediately appear.

If you’d also like to add the day, check Weekday as well. You’ll also be able to choose to show Seconds, or change the time display mode to 24-hour time.



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If you upgraded to Ubuntu 11.04 (or installed a fresh Natty Narwhal system) and are running the Classic desktop, you may find something amiss with the ability to bring folder windows or programs to the foreground by holding an item over its taskbar button until it appears.

For example, you’re looking in a folder at a sound file you downloaded, and wish to play it in Banshee, which is already open but hidden from view. Normally, you would drag the file over the Banshee taskbar button in the bottom panel, wait till Banshee appears, then drop the file onto it.

A more common use is perhaps file management, when you’re dragging files and folders from one Nautilus window to another which is hidden from view. This is most handy, as it means you don’t need to carefully line up both source and destination folders before doing the drag-and-dropping.

But you may find something is preventing you from doing this, with the only thing happening is a + sign appearing, and if you finally let go on the panel instead of press the Esc key, a launcher will be created there, which you then have to remove. This is not some new setting you can change in Nautilus‘s preferences (which is evident if you try with another file manager like Thunar), but a Compiz bug. While that obviously needs to be ironed out, there is a way around this, which is to run the following command in a terminal:

compiz --replace

Note that the next time you restart, things will be back as before, but at least you can just run that command again (which you can easily do by hitting the up arrow when in the terminal, or pick from the menu in the Run dialogue via Alt+F2).

Also note that if you try adding that command to your startup programs, it will likely do nothing, but you can always make a launcher for your panel, which you can then click once everything has loaded, or when you go to drag stuff via the taskbar and remember you need to.

This bug will likely be fixed soon enough, but at least there is a way around it for now. If you’d like to add your voice to the bug report (since more voices mean quicker action), click here (note that if you haven’t already got a Launchpad account, it only takes a couple of minutes to join, and is worth the small effort, since you can then report your own bugs).


Can’t get the Run Application dialog to appear when you hit Alt+F2?


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Please note: this guide is for Ubuntu 10.10 backwards, as Emerald is no longer supported by Ubuntu. If you have upgraded to 11.04, Emerald will still the there, but the themes will be useless unless you uninstall Emerald and reinstall a version compatible with the latest Compiz-Fusion. If you have Emerald running successfully in 11.04 onwards, then this guide will still apply to you. Otherwise, read the guide for restoring window borders in 11.04 onwards.


Once in a while, you might find that when you boot to your desktop, the title-bars to all your windows are missing, along with the control buttons (Minimize, Maximize and Close).

While many wouldn’t know any way around this situation other than a reboot, others will be aware of the fusion-icon package that lets you reload your window manager. Once installed, it can be found in Applications > System Tools > Compiz Fusion Icon, and when launched you’ll find its icon in the system tray. Simply right-click it and choose the Reload Window Manager option, and Compiz-Fusion will be forced to restart, and your title-bars will reappear with the Emerald theme currently in use.

But there is actually a much easier way to go about this, and it is as simple as pasting the following command into a terminal or via Alt+F2:

emerald --replace

This just reloads Emerald, which is all that is needed to get your title-bars back. As you can see, this is much quicker than using the Compiz Fusion Icon, and means you don’t have to worry about installing the fusion-icon package if it’s not already on your system.

But there is an even easier way to do this, and that is create a launcher for it. You can put it anywhere you like, like the desktop or on the panel, but if you’re worried about clicking it accidentally, or just want it out of the way until needed, you can add a drawer to your panel and stick it in that.

The command for the launcher is exactly the same as for the terminal, and you can name it something like Reload Emerald/Compiz. Then all you have to do from then onwards is click your launcher and watch your title-bars bounce back.


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