How to Unlock Gnome Panel For Customization in Ubuntu Netbook Edition (UNE)

Even though Ubuntu Lucid has not been officially released, I believe some of you have already upgraded your system to the beta or release candidate version. Now, if you have upgraded your Ubuntu Netbook Edition to the latest version (10.04), you will notice one thing: the top Gnome panel is locked and you can’t perform any customization on it. Yes, you can’t add/remove applets; nor can you delete the panel or move it to the side. In short, there’s nothing that you can do about it.

What’s wrong with the panel?

This version of UNE comes with three desktop sessions – Ubuntu Netbook Edition, Ubuntu Netbook Edition 2D (for older PCs) and Gnome. The default UNE sessions lock the gnome panel and a few other GNOME settings in order to separate the UNE interface from the normal GNOME interface. When you right click on the panel, you will find that all the customization options are greyed out. There is no way for you to add/remove applets or to delete/move the panel.


If you want to customize the panel (or even delete/move it), the only way is to switch to Gnome and use it as the default session.

Here’s how you can switch to Gnome, unlock the panel and yet maintain the looks and feels of the UNE.

How to unlock the Gnome panel for customization

Open a terminal and type the following:

The above commands will create a bunch of symlinks from the UNE configuration file to the Gnome configuration file.

Next, log out of your current session. At the login screen, change the session to Gnome.


Login to your desktop. You should be able to mess around with the panel now. Don’t forget to check out the 13 ways to customize your UNE for better usability.

Reference: Ubuntu Community Documentation

Damien Damien

Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.


  1. Yes, I am talking about Linux, Ubuntu, or more specifically Ubuntu Netbook Edition.

    I was surprised too when I found that the Gnome panel is locked down. This is so unlike Ubuntu. In this version of Ubuntu, the development team seems to focus on doing what they want instead of what the community want.

  2. Linux systems are 'locked down' – that's why the sudo command is there for – to stop you messing with the “system”

    But they are not 'locked down' in the way other OS's are – you can change almost any part of the Linux OS.

  3. Oh!Thank you Tooooooo~ much!This article solve a big problem for me!
    Well,according the description,that is to say I can no longer use normal GNOME environment unless I remove the 4 links in /etc/xdg/autostart/,/usr/share/gconf/defaults/,is it?

    By the way,if you don't mind,I would translate this article to Traditional Chinese and post to my blog.I'll must mark the source.Are you willing?

  4. Yes, Undo the symlink to restore back default Gnome environment.

    Yes, you may translate to Chinese.

  5. Well, I did create the symlincs but I still don't have any choice of session at login !?

    Could this be because I did disable maximus at boot first ?


  6. The choice of session will appear after you have selected your username. It should be there right from the start, regardless you create the symlink or not.

  7. I did everything according to instructions and still locked. What could be the reason for this?

  8. this didn't work for me either. i don't know what is up but i get no choices on the login screen. all i did was cut and paste your instructions

  9. The top panel come with the maximus which span the whole panel. You have to right click on the center of the panel, select Remove from panel. This will remove the maximus. After that, you will be able to add applets to your panel.

  10. unfortunately there's a lot of uncertainty and doubts about UNE (probably becouse it's new). The sad think here is the shortage of official information by the ubuntu developers about this release.

    I hope that in a future these issues can be fixed.


  11. unfortunately there's a lot of uncertainty and doubts about UNE. The sad think here is the shortage of official information by the ubuntu developers about this release and i've been investigating for days for can upgrede to UNE correctly and i couln't find precise and good information.

    About you're link i could read till slightly more than half and your talk about the alpha and we're in final allready.

    Another thing missing are the multiple workspaces, my god! for netbooks are essential (tiny screen, full screen windows). What i did for solved it was close the session (UNE session) and login to a Gnome session, and for my surprice the panels were locked and olny had one workspace, so i unlocked the panels and configured 4 workspaces, then i close the gnome session and login to the UNE session again and so then i could have the 4 workspaces but the panels were still locked.

    One more thing, there's no mouse-based UI to add items to the panels and to the favourites.

    I hope that in a future these issues can be fixed.


  12. Hi, thanks, i'll try it, but in case, Could you tell me how undo the symlink to restore back default Gnome environment?

  13. To undo the symlinks:

    sudo rm -rf /etc/xdg/autostart/maximus-autostart.desktop/
    sudo rm -rf /etc/xdg/autostart/netbook-launcher.desktop
    sudo rm -rf /usr/share/gconf/defaults/20_une-gconf-default
    sudo rm -rf /usr/share/gconf/defaults/20_une-gconf-mandatory
    sudo update-gconf-defaults

    1. Thank you. You saved my gnome installation… These commands on the post screwed up my UI.

  14. This is a great resource! For me, it had the added benefit that my old task bar and desktop (from 9.10), which I had spent hours customizing and had thought to be irretrievably lost during the upgrade, immediately reappeared.

  15. “If you want to customize the panel (or even delete/move it), the only way is to switch to Gnome and use it as the default session.” Actually, no. I was slightly annoyed to find I could not move the panel from top to bottom directly, but with a little help from my friends:
    ALT-F2 (bring up run application dialog)
    Type 'gconf-editor' and run
    Navigate to apps->panel->toplevels->top_panel
    Change orientation value from 'top' to 'bottom',
    Voila, the panel is moved.
    I'm sure other locked down options are similarly configurable.

  16. is there a way to keep the changes you made in the GNOME environment back to the netbook one?

  17. Yes, the configuration files are kept in the .gconf and .gnome2 folders in the Home directory. By copy/paste the folders from the GNOME to the netbook, it should give you back the same configuration.

  18. Can you explain how you can transfer these changes to UNE?? Whenever I switch back to UNE, the changes are gone…

  19. Hello Damien,

    It was one cool post. Can you tell me how can I copy paste the Gnome settings to UNE? I badly need this.

    Thanks for the post.

  20. this doesn’t actually unlock it… it just copies it to a different session. It remains locked as UNE

  21. I just tried doing this but it does not work for some reason. When I select from which session to use the only options available are Recovery Console, Ubuntu Desktop, Ubuntu Desktop (Safe Mode), and Ubuntu Netbook Remix… No GNOME.

    Any ideas?

    1. I believe the Ubuntu Desktop is referring to the Gnome session. I see that you are using Ubuntu Netbook Remix. The version used in this tutorial is Ubuntu Netbook Edition.

  22. An alternate method.  Edit the following file:

    Then comment out lines by prefixing with a # sign:
    #/apps/panel/general/toplevel_id_list [top_panel_screen0]
    #/apps/panel/general/object_id_list [menu_bar_screen0,browser_launcher,yelp_launcher]
    #/apps/panel/general/applet_id_list [applet_0,applet_1,applet_2,applet_3,applet_5,applet_6]

    Also change the following line from true to false towards the bottom:
    /apps/panel/toplevels/disable_movement false

    Run the following command (one line):
    sudo update-gconf-defaults –source=/usr/share/gconf/une/mandatory/ –destination=/var/lib/gconf/une.mandatory/

    Log out and back in (to netbook session).
    Right click and delete bottom panel.
    Right click and add to top panel “window picker”
    You can also remove Applications Places and System by right clicking and removing them if you wish.

    It should now be the same, but with editable menu bar.

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