How to install the new Cosmic Desktop environment on Pop_OS?

How To Install COSMIC Desktop On Your Linux Distro

Pop_OS was perhaps one of the most recommended Ubuntu based distribution two years ago, and pretty much everyone stopped recommending it because it has not been updated for a long while. The last version of Pop_OS is 22.04 which was released in 2022. They still ship important security updates and new kernel versions, so you don’t have to worry about security issues. System76, the company behind Pop_OS has redirected their entire focus on developing a new RUST based desktop environment which they will ship with the next version of their OS.

COMSIC desktop is currently under alpha stage, and therefore it is not recommended to install it on your main machine, however you can still try it out in a virtual machine. In this tutorial, we will try to install and try out this desktop environment on Pop_OS 22.04 as well as other supported operating systems.

What is the Cosmic Desktop?

The new COSMIC desktop is RUST based desktop environment which act as the primary DE for the Pop_OS Linux distribution (And available in other distributions if they will package it in their repositories). Personally, this DE feels like a lightweight and customized version of GNOME, except without the community extensions. All the things which you would normally customize in GNOME with the help of an extension such as the Dock at bottom, user themes, color accents and more can simply be customized with the built-in toggle within the OS.

How to install COSMIC desktop on Pop_OS?

First of all, you will have to forcefully enable Wayland by editing the GDM settings. You can do that by editing the following file using your preferred text editor:

sudo nano /etc/gdm3/custom.conf

Now, navigate to the line which says WaylandEnable=False to TRUE. Once you do that, just exit out of the text editor by pressing Ctrl+X and press enter when asked. Now, just reboot your system so that the changes can take effect.

Edit The Gdm Settings
Edit The Gdm Settings

You will also have to disable SELinux if it has been enabled by your system (Fedora does this), just type the following commands in your Terminal window (note that all your running applications will close after running this command):

sudo setenforce 0
sudo systemctl restart gdm

If you are using any NVIDIA GPU on your system, then you also have to make changes to the udev rules. Open the config file using your preferred text editor and then look for the line which says LABEL="gdm_prefer_xorg" and LABEL="gdm_disable_wayland" and then add # before both the lines.

sudo nano /usr/lib/udev/rules.d/61-gdm.rules

And then restart the GDM service:

sudo systemctl restart gdm

Since I do not have an NVIDIA GPU, I will proceed without making this edit. Finally, you can install COSMIC desktop environment on your PC:

sudo apt install cosmic-*
Installing Cosmic Desktop On Pop OS
Installing Cosmic Desktop On Pop OS

After downloading a few packages, you will be asked to change the default Display Manager from gdm3 to Cosmic-greeter. Just select GDM3 because the Cosmic-greeter is currently unstable.

Change The Default Display Manager
Select GDM3 as your Display Manager

Once every package is successfully installed on your system, just reboot your system or log out and select COSMIC from the bottom right of the login screen.

Select Cosmic From The Login Screen
Select Cosmic From The Login Screen

Once selected, just enter your password, and you will be greeted with the beautiful Cosmic Desktop environment (if it is stable enough and does not crash). I was unable to get any screenshot of the Desktop as it was unable to run on my Fedora 40 as well as Pop_OS virtual machine, but I will update the article when any update in the future fixes the issue.

Also, features of the Cosmic Desktop Environment along with comparison with others will be featured in another article.

Installing Cosmic Desktop on Arch Linux

As the project is available in the AUR (Arch User Repository), you can simply use any AUR helper such as yay to install this Desktop environment, just run the following commands in your Terminal window:

paru -S cosmic-epoch-git

Installing Cosmic on Fedora Workstation

Installing this DE on Fedora is really simple, and you just have to enable the COPR repository. Run the following commands in your Terminal to enable the Repo and install this DE:

# Enable the repository
sudo dnf copr enable ryanabx/cosmic-epoch

# Installing Cosmic
sudo dnf install cosmic-desktop


Yes we know the more choice users have the more they feel choice paralysis, but having another Desktop developed by a company for financial incentives (System76 also sells laptops with Pop_OS) would be ideal in this case as they will improve the DE for their paying customers and the whole Linux Community will benefit from with (and contribute to it as its open source).

Cosmic is already feature rich in the alpha stage and when the bugs are ironed out, and it hits stable, this DE will only go uphill from here.


Cosmic Desktop Repository on GitHub