My Ubuntu Look and Feel

By | 2009/07/22

Yesterday I blogged about changing the GDM login screen, which seems to be a very touchy and popular subject among readers. I don’t know that I’ve heard from but a very few people that actually like the default login screen in Ubuntu 9.04. It seems everyone has an opinion about changing it. I thought I would offer mine, in more detail. Presenting “My Ubuntu Look and Feel”

Desktop Background

There are so many really amazing desktop backgrounds to choose from it is hard to pick just one and publish it as my “favorite”. I guess what I will say is that I’ve grown accustomed to something darker (which fits with the theme, which we’ll see soon.) One of my recent selections is GNOME Smoke. Not too busy, and not too bright and shiny as to be distracting.

Theme

For my overall theme I have been using Shiki-Colors for months now. I’ve really grown accustomed to the look, and my desktop just “looks funny” to me if its on something else. I’ve blogged in the past about how to install Shiki-Colors. If you haven’t tried it, I’d recommend it.

Fonts

Another must-have in my book is the Droid Sans font. I update all my fonts system wide to use this (Droid Sans Mono within gnome-terminal). You might also check out my previous post about installing Droid Fonts. If you haven’t tried this font set check it out. Here are some quick instructions:

sudo aptitude install ttf-droid

System > Preferences > Appearance > Fonts

Select “Droid Sans” 10pt for everything. I also check “LCD” (I am on a laptop). You also may notice a difference if you click “Details” in the bottom right corner of the window and make sure that you’re resolution is set to “96” dots per inch. I know that recent releases try to dynamically detect the best resolution, often times selecting something higher than 96. I’ve found that 96 still looks the best.

gnome-terminal

It might seem odd to include gnome-terminal is a list of graphical tweaks, but I always customize my terminal as well. Considering I spend the more part of my day within it, it should present me with the most comfortable surroundings.

First I right-click and select Profile > Profile Preferences. I then deselect “Show menubar by default in new terminals”. I then deselect “Use thy system fixed width font” and select Droid Sans Mono, 10pt. I then move to the “Colors” tab and deselect “Use colors from system theme”. I promptly change the color scheme to White on Black. For me, a black background is the only appropriate background for a console. After this I move to the “Scrolling” tab and select “Disable”. You might think this disables the ability to scroll. It does not. It disables the scrollbar within the window (pgup/pgdn still work as expected).

With that I Close the window and enjoy a white on black console with the additional space alloted from removing the scrollbar and menubar, plus a very clean readable font.

Conclusion

Looking back at this it sure doesn’t seem like I’m too particular when it comes to the look and feel of my Desktop, but I definitely have an opinion. I’ve grown to the point that I like/expect certain things a certain way, while not caring about others. It does sometimes feel like I’ve grown a bit more minimalist. Anything that allows me to focus more on my work and less on the “bling” and I’m good.

What are some of your favorite UI tweaks? Have a favorite wallpaper? GDM theme? font? Share the love!

20 thoughts on “My Ubuntu Look and Feel

  1. Jeff

    Shiki-Colors is such a beautiful theme. I like how it's half black, half white.

    Totally dark themes can look really good, but I always switch back after opening Firefox. Because that's the moment the brightly white Google homepage opens up and hurts my eyes…

    Reply
  2. Karolis Pocius

    I use Linux Mint 7 and their default theme is based on Shiki-Colors. I love that theme, but it has just gotten much much much better after installing Droid Sans fonts. Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Mark

    I’ve been using Shiki-Colors for quite a while now and still love it! I use the Brave variant (blue) with my own set of icons (based on the brave set, with some of the Human icons)

    For font I much prefer DejaVu Sans, but I like the suggestion of removing the menu bar and the scroll bar from the terminal – much better!

    Reply
  4. Mike

    I've been using shiki colors since it was posted here. One thing I can't get to look right though is Thunderbird. Anybody had any luck with it and shiki-colors?

    The only other change I make to shiki is the icon for the applications list that's in the dock. I don't like the shiki one, and change it to the Ubuntu one instead.

    Reply
  5. Scaine

    Shiki-colours is a beautiful theme and has just been added to the Ubuntu Karmic repos, meaning that it's only an apt-get away. I also use Brave, like a lot of previous posters.
    I've not used Droid (will try it now), but I use Liberation which is a very clean font and far superior (in my opinion) to DejaVu.
    I'd also add that Docky (part of Gnome-Do) is a must for my desktops.

    Reply
  6. Guest

    jaunty-installation-notes (excerpts)

    1. customizations of theme colors

    SYSTEM, PREFERENCES, APPEARANCE, THEME (NewHuman), CUSTOMIZE, COLORS
    windows, text:
    orig=#EBE0CE (whitish)
    new =#00baff (pale blue)
    #new=#1cdff0 (luminescent aqua)

    input boxes, background:
    orig=#FFFFFF (white)
    new =#FFFFCC (cream)

    tooltips, text:
    orig=#FFFFFF (white)
    new =#00ff00 (bright green)

    /etc/gdm/PreSession/Default, line 61:
    orig=#BACKCOLOR="#76848F" (ubuntu brown)
    new = BACKCOLOR="#3a6ea0" (sky blue)

    SYSTEM, ADMINISTRATION, LOGIN WINDOW
    background color:
    orig=#76848F (ubuntu brown)
    new =#3A6EA0 (sky blue)

    right-click on top panel, PROPERTIES, BACKGROUND, SOLID COLOR
    color=#000000 (black)
    style: transparent <-> opaque, set slider ~65% toward right (more opaque than transparent)

    # mrxvt: no change to /etc/mrxvt, but using a custom .mrxvtrc (let me know if anyone wants me to post it)

    6. install the very nice looking nodoka ui theme controls used in fedora gnu/linux
    sudo aptitude install gtk2-engines-nodoka

    7. set up preferred applications

    SYSTEM. PREFERENCES, PREFERRED APPLICATIONS

    INTERNET
    web browser: Epiphany Web Browser
    mail reader: Claws Mail

    MULTIMEDIA
    multimedia player: Custom, command=vlc

    SYSTEM
    terminal emulator: Custom, command=mrxvt, execute flag: -e

    13. sound processing
    sudo aptitude install tap-plugins # ladspa-plugins

    # configure audacious music player: RIGHT-CLICK, PREFERENCES

    APPEARANCE
    SKINS: Refugee
    FONTS
    player: DejaVu Sans Book
    playlist: DejaVu Sans Bold

    REPLAYGAIN (enable)
    misc: Dynamically adjust scale factor to prevent clipping

    PLAYLIST
    song display, title format: ARTIST [ ALBUM ] – TRACK. TITLE

    PLUGINS
    GENERAL: Audacious OSD, prefs ( TEXT: font=DejaVu Sans Book, color=#00FF00; MISC: real transparency )
    EFFECTS: LADSPA Host, prefs ( TAP DeEsser, TAP Tube Warmth )

    cp eq.preset ~/.config/audacious/ ; restart audacious; LOAD, PRESET, "(WinAmp) Live"

    14. video processing

    # configure vlc video and music (media) player:

    TOOLS, PREFERENCES, SUBTITLES & OSD
    display settings, font color: green

    15. calculator

    APPLICATIONS, ACCESSORIES, CALCULATOR, VIEW
    Show Thousands Separator

    25. .Xdefaults # no custom .Xauthority, just .Xdefaults (for aterm, xterm, uxterm)
    a. cat > ~/.Xdefaults << EOF
    emacs*Background: black
    emacs*Foreground: green
    XTerm*Background: black
    XTerm*Foreground: green
    XTerm*font: 8×13
    XTerm*saveLines: 2000
    XTerm*metaSendsEscape: True
    UXTerm*metaSendsEscape: True
    aterm*background: black
    aterm*foreground: green
    aterm*shading: 25
    aterm*transparent: True
    aterm*scrollBar: True
    xfig*splash: false
    EOF
    b. load the new settings with:
    xrdb -load ~/.Xdefaults

    32. a. Google Android fonts
    sudo aptitude install ttf-droid
    b. Microsoft core fonts
    sudo aptitude install msttcorefonts

    Although I use mrxvt, I do customize the gnome-terminal profile as follows:
    Font: DejaVu Sans Mono Book 14
    Colors: Green on Black
    Background: transparent, move slider ~65% to the right

    Reply
  7. Marius Gedminas

    What? A post about look (and feel) without screenshots?

    Reply
  8. 6205

    AAAAaaaaa my Ubuntu Jaunty desktop is DA BeSt :p look look loook 🙂 Do You Seee: :)))

    http://img44.imageshack.us/img44/2879/mydesk1.png
    http://img266.imageshack.us/img266/9694/mydesk2.p

    1- GTK theme Clearlooks-Human + X-Lite metacity from 'Clearlooks-Colors'
    http://gnome-look.org/content/show.php/Clearlooks

    2- Or eventually tweaked Emerald theme from 'Gommoso-Colors' (on pics..)
    http://gnome-look.org/content/show.php/Gommoso-Co

    3- with icons GNOME-Human from 'GNOME-colors' suite
    http://gnome-look.org/content/show.php/GNOME-colo

    4- with some tweaks(categories menu icons, volume icons..) from 'Erectus' icons
    http://gnome-look.org/content/show.php/Erectus?co

    5- with GNOME Do in 'Docky' mode 48pix (much better and stable than AWN or Cairo Dock)
    info > http://do.davebsd.com/wiki/index.php?title=Docky
    install > https://launchpad.net/~do-core/+archive/ppa

    6- and with Global Menu panel applet (for Firefox i'm using 'Personal Menu')
    http://code.google.com/p/gnome2-globalmenu/wiki/I
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/38

    7- and fonts are Droid Sans 9pt, best shapes

    AAAaaaaahhh it ruLEz :))) like this should look Panda or Koala or whatever..

    Reply
  9. Ryan

    Thanks for this.

    Shiki-colours is a great looking theme and now on my desktop.
    I like the fact that the buttons/widgets are a bit smaller/thinner compared to the standard Human theme.
    The Droid fonts are very nice as well.

    Reply
  10. Omen_20

    I use a customized New Wave theme. I changed the
    controls: Human-Clearlooks
    icons: Human

    I use the Global Menu applet to get rid of menus in most apps.
    In Epiphany:
    –turned off the Status Bar
    –Left Address bar on
    –set it to hide toolbars
    This way I have nothing but tabs, my bookmarks and the rest of the menu is up in the panel and if I need to see or change the address hit Ctrl+L. I never understood having the buttons when I never used them anyways. I've always used hotkeys for getting to the address bar, going back/forward, reloading, new tab, etc.

    I use 4 desktops and usually only have one window open in each and use the scroll wheel on the mouse to get around, or hotkeys, either way. I also use Expo to see sometimes and I have Window Picker set to Super L. The terminal is set to Super R. Oh and thanks for the tip about getting rid of the scroll bar. The Global Menu Applet had the menu out of my way but still in reach but getting rid of the scroll bar was useful.

    I have it set where mounted drives never show up on the Desktop but at the bottom of my right panel.
    I also have the Music Applet along with sound control in the right panel. On my laptop I have brightness along with it.

    For my main menu I use the shrunk down version with just the Ubuntu icon. Global Menu while on the desktop it has Places so that in itself replaces the normal Gnome Places menu. I also made a custom menu beside it for my most used apps like:
    –Epiphany
    –Pidgin
    –Code::Blocks
    –Gimp
    –Screenlets
    –Synaptic
    –Compiz

    Banshee is already covered by the Music Applet which has an icon to launch your chosen music player, once launched it changes to controls.

    I have no bottom panel for Windows List, I got rid of it and use Gnome-Do's dock. I also have my two panels (top and left) set to transparent.

    Screenshots: http://s9.photobucket.com/albums/a62/Omen_20/tayl
    old dark theme: http://s9.photobucket.com/albums/a62/Omen_20/dark

    Reply
  11. Omen_20

    I use a customized New Wave theme. I changed the
    controls: Human-Clearlooks
    icons: Human

    I use the Global Menu applet to get rid of menus in most apps.
    In Epiphany:
    –turned off the Status Bar
    –Left Address bar on
    –set it to hide toolbars
    This way I have nothing but tabs, my bookmarks and the rest of the menu is up in the panel and if I need to see or change the address hit Ctrl+L. I never understood having the buttons when I never used them anyways. I've always used hotkeys for getting to the address bar, going back/forward, reloading, new tab, etc.

    I use 4 desktops and usually only have one window open in each and use the scroll wheel on the mouse to get around, or hotkeys, either way. I also use Expo to see sometimes and I have Window Picker set to Super L. The terminal is set to Super R. Oh and thanks for the tip about getting rid of the scroll bar. The Global Menu Applet had the menu out of my way but still in reach but getting rid of the scroll bar was useful.

    I have it set where mounted drives never show up on the Desktop but at the bottom of my right panel.
    I also have the Music Applet along with sound control in the right panel. On my laptop I have brightness along with it.

    For my main menu I use the shrunk down version with just the Ubuntu icon. Global Menu while on the desktop it has Places so that in itself replaces the normal Gnome Places menu. I also made a custom menu beside it for my most used apps like:
    –Epiphany
    –Pidgin
    –Code::Blocks
    –Gimp
    –Screenlets
    –Synaptic
    –Compiz

    Banshee is already covered by the Music Applet which has an icon to launch your chosen music player, once launched it changes to controls.

    I have no bottom panel for Windows List, I got rid of it and use Gnome-Do's dock. I also have my two panels (top and left) set to transparent.

    Screenshots: http://s9.photobucket.com/albums/a62/Omen_20/tayl
    old dark theme: http://s9.photobucket.com/albums/a62/Omen_20/dark

    Reply
  12. Omen_20

    I use a customized New Wave theme. I changed the
    controls: Human-Clearlooks
    icons: Human

    I use the Global Menu applet to get rid of menus in most apps.
    In Epiphany:
    –turned off the Status Bar
    –Left Address bar on
    –set it to hide toolbars
    This way I have nothing but tabs, my bookmarks and the rest of the menu is up in the panel and if I need to see or change the address hit Ctrl+L. I never understood having the buttons when I never used them anyways. I've always used hotkeys for getting to the address bar, going back/forward, reloading, new tab, etc.

    I use 4 desktops and usually only have one window open in each and use the scroll wheel on the mouse to get around, or hotkeys, either way. I also use Expo to see sometimes and I have Window Picker set to Super L. The terminal is set to Super R. Oh and thanks for the tip about getting rid of the scroll bar. The Global Menu Applet had the menu out of my way but still in reach but getting rid of the scroll bar was useful.

    I have it set where mounted drives never show up on the Desktop but at the bottom of my right panel.
    I also have the Music Applet along with sound control in the right panel. On my laptop I have brightness along with it.

    For my main menu I use the shrunk down version with just the Ubuntu icon. Global Menu while on the desktop it has Places so that in itself replaces the normal Gnome Places menu. I also made a custom menu beside it for my most used apps like:
    –Epiphany
    –Pidgin
    –Code::Blocks
    –Gimp
    –Screenlets
    –Synaptic
    –Compiz

    Banshee is already covered by the Music Applet which has an icon to launch your chosen music player, once launched it changes to controls.

    I have no bottom panel for Windows List, I got rid of it and use Gnome-Do's dock. I also have my two panels (top and left) set to transparent.

    Screenshots: http://s9.photobucket.com/albums/a62/Omen_20/tayl
    old dark theme: http://s9.photobucket.com/albums/a62/Omen_20/dark

    Reply
  13. Sarah

    I am an old lady who loves ubuntu. I am still using 8.04 as it works with everything. I updated my GDM and I love it now. I put 9.04 on my son's computer but it crashes a lot and I can't get the webcam to work with skype. This is a disadvantage since we use skype to stay in touch with family all over the world. it is much cheaper than flying. I updated his GDM too and he was amazed when he turned on his computer. he loves it. I have a great computer now, that works a lot faster and better than my friends who are stuck on Windows. 9.04 is really pretty and his computer is new but if it doesn't work with everything then it is no good for us. If it crashes again I will install 8.04 again. Anyway thanks for all the help you give us old ladies out here.

    Reply
  14. Dan

    The Droid fonts really class up the overall look Thanks for the hint.

    Reply
  15. Jay

    Wow. Just want to ditto that comment. I use Linux Mint 7 and use the default theme as well – which is great. Droid Sans has just made everything even better though. Incredible. Thanks so much for that.

    Reply
  16. romeo

    Hi guys!

    I hide the menu bar on my xterm (select Profile > Profile Preferences. I then deselect “Show menubar by default in new terminals), now I want to get the menu bar to display again.

    Please help.

    Thanks

    Reply
  17. romeo

    Hello guys.

    Please ignore my question. I finally figure it out. All I had to do is right click on a xterm window and I saw the profile preferences. Wow! It took me a while though to figure it out.

    Thanks anyways.

    : )

    Reply

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