GNOME-SESSION(1) General Commands Manual GNOME-SESSION(1)
gnome-session – Start the GNOME desktop environment
gnome-session [-a|–autostart=DIR] [–session=SESSION] [–failsafe|-f] [–debug] [–whale]
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 ses‐
sion, or it will provide a default session for the user as defined by
the system administrator (or the default GNOME installation on your
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-ses‐
When saving a session, gnome-session saves the currently running appli‐
cations in the $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/gnome-session/saved-session directory.
gnome-session is an X11R6 session manager. It can manage GNOME applica‐
tions as well as any X11R6 SM compliant application.
The following options are supported:
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.
Use the applications defined in SESSION.session. If not speci‐
fied, gnome.session will be used.
Run in fail-safe mode. User-specified applications will not be
Enable debugging code.
Show the fail whale in a dialog for debugging it.
Sessions are defined in .session files, that are using a .desktop-like
format, with the following keys in the GNOME Session group:
Name Name of the session. This can be localized.
List of component identifiers (desktop files) that are required
by the session. The required components will always run in the
Here is an example of a session definition:
The .session files are looked for in $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/gnome-ses‐
sion/sessions, $XDG_CONFIG_DIRS/gnome-session/sessions and
gnome-session sets several environment variables for the use of its
This variable is used by session-manager aware clients to con‐
This variable is set to the X display being used by gnome-ses‐
sion. Note that if the –display option is used this might be
different from the setting of the environment variable when
gnome-session is invoked.
The applications defined in those directories will be started on
login. gnome-session-properties(1) can be used to easily con‐
These directories contain the .session files that can be used
with the –session option.
This directory contains the list of applications of the saved
If you find bugs in the gnome-session program, please report these on