Start the GNOME desktop environment


gnome-session [ -a| --autostart=DIR] [ --session=SESSION] [ --failsafe| -f] [ --debug] [ --whale]


The following options are supported:

--autostart=DIR Start all applications defined in DIR ,instead of starting the applications defined in gnome.session ,or via the --session option. Multiple --autostart options can be passed.

--session=SESSION Use the applications defined in SESSION.session .If not specified, gnome.session will be used.

--failsafe Run in fail-safe mode. User-specified applications will not be started.

--debug Enable debugging code.

--whale Show the fail whale in a dialog for debugging it.


The gnome-session program starts up the GNOME desktop environment. This command is typically executed by your login manager (either gdm, xdm, or from your X startup scripts). It will load either your saved session, or it will provide a default session for the user as defined by the system administrator (or the default GNOME installation on your system).

The default session is defined in gnome.session ,a .desktop-like file that is looked for in $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/gnome-session/sessions , $XDG_CONFIG_DIRS/gnome-session/sessions and $XDG_DATA_DIRS/gnome-session/sessions .

When saving a session, gnome-session saves the currently running applications in the $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/gnome-session/saved-session directory.

gnome-session is an X11R6 session manager. It can manage GNOME applications as well as any X11R6 SM compliant application.


Sessions are defined in .session files, that are using a .desktop-like format, with the following keys in the GNOMESession group:

Name Name of the session. This can be localized.

RequiredComponents List of component identifiers (desktop files) that are required by the session. The required components will always run in the session.

Here is an example of a session definition:

[GNOME Session] Name=GNOME RequiredComponents=gnome-shell;gnome-settings-daemon;

The .session files are looked for in $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/gnome-session/sessions , $XDG_CONFIG_DIRS/gnome-session/sessions and $XDG_DATA_DIRS/gnome-session/sessions .


gnome-session sets several environment variables for the use of its child processes:


This variable is used by session-manager aware clients to contact gnome-session.


This variable is set to the X display being used by gnome-session .Note that if the --display option is used this might be different from the setting of the environment variable when gnome-session is invoked.


$XDG_CONFIG_HOME/config/autostart $XDG_CONFIG_DIRS/config/autostart /usr/share/gnome/autostart

The applications defined in those directories will be started on login.

$XDG_CONFIG_HOME/gnome-session/sessions $XDG_CONFIG_DIRS/gnome-session/sessions $XDG_DATA_DIRS/gnome-session/sessions

These directories contain the .session files that can be used with the --session option.


This directory contains the list of applications of the saved session.


If you find bugs in the gnome-session program, please report these on



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