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New GNOME Classic Shell session

As you probably know, the fallback mode will be dropped with GNOME 3.8 and instead, users will be able to use a set of GNOME Shell extensions that provide a GNOME2-like layout. Recently, these changes have landed in the GNOME Testing PPA for Ubuntu 12.10 and 13.04.

After some recent updates to the GNOME Testing PPA, a new "GNOME Classic" session has showed up in the login screen:

GNOME Classic Shell login screen

This isn't the old fallback session (which used to be called 'Classic GNOME Session' in Ubuntu), but a new session in which you're still using GNOME Shell, but with some extensions enabled by default that try to provide a GNOME2-like layout.

The first thing you'll notice when using the new GNOME Classic session is that it comes with a light theme, as opposed to the standard GNOME Shell session which uses a dark theme by default. Using this session, you'll get:
  • a window list on a panel at the bottom of the screen, with a notification counter at the right;
  • an application menu and a places drop-down on the top panel;
  • minimize, maximize and close buttons by default (the standard GNOME Shell only uses a close button);
  • classic ALT + TAB;
  • the clock / calendar has been moved to the right.

The extensions used by the new GNOME Classic session are: AlternateTab, Places Status Indicator, Applications Menu, Static workspaces, Window List, Default Minimize and Maximize and Launch New Instance.

Here are some screenshots:

GNOME Classic session: menu

GNOME Classic session: Places

GNOME Classic session: user menu

GNOME Classic session: Activities Overview (black background probably because I'm using it in VirtualBox)
(black background probably because I'm using it in VirtualBox)

Classic ALT + Tab

Since these are just extensions on top of GNOME Shell, there are some advantages over the old fallback mode: you'll be able to use GNOME Shell's features such as the Activities Overview, get GNOME Shell notifications, use other extensions and so on. 

GNOME Classic: notifications

GNOME Classic: notifications and message tray
Notifications / message tray

But there are some disadvantages too: the extensions bundled with the new GNOME Classic session are very simple and with only some basic features so users coming from the old fallback session will probably miss some of its features. For instance, right clicking an item on the bottom panel doesn't do anything, you can't right click a panel to add new applets (and there are no applets), there are no tray icons on the top panel and so on. 

Further more, while the notification count is displayed at the right of the bottom panel which is nice, the actual notifications are displayed at the bottom (center) just like in the standard GNOME Shell session, so they show up on top of the window list which is pretty annoying, as you can see in the screenshots above.

GNOME Shell 3.8 is still under development, so the GNOME Classic session extensions will probably be polished further, but even so, they still won't get all the features that were available in the old classic / fallback session so I wonder if this will be enough to please all those users who were using the old fallback session. What do you think?

If you want to test these changes in Ubuntu 12.10* or 13.04, you'll have to add the GNOME 3 PPA as well as the GNOME Testing PPA (but the GNOME Testing PPA is highly unstable so I advise you to only use it in a virtual machine), then run a "dist-upgrade". 

* In my test, the new GNOME Classic session didn't show up in the login screen for Ubuntu 12.10 for some reason, but it was available for Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail.

thanks to deusmetallum @ Reddit