How Do You Customize Your GNOME Desktop?

By | 2009/09/16

In less than a month I’ll be presenting at the Utah Open Source Conference regarding GNOME UI Customizations. This topic will cover usage of the graphical  gconf-editor as well as using command-line tools to track and implement UI changes. In preparation for this event I would like to ask for public feedback regarding common desktop customizations. Please comment or email me regarding UI changes that you make to your desktop.

To get started with some ideas, here are the most common changes that I make:

  • Move bottom panel to top
  • Shrink both panels to 19 pixels
  • Update system font to Droid Sans (ttf-droid package), 8pt font
  • Updated workspace switcher to four workspaces
  • Activate GNOME-based compositing
  • Set gnome-terminal to white-on-black, Droid Sans Mono, 8pt font. Disable scrollbar and menubar
  • Set custom wallpaper, screensaver and GDM login screen
  • etc..

I’d like to make sure that my presentation can cover the most interesting and popular changes to the UI. If you would like to share the changes you make, please comment. Feel free to include links to screenshots, references, etc.

Thank you!

13 thoughts on “How Do You Customize Your GNOME Desktop?

  1. Alexis

    Thats funny, I make almost work for word the same changes! Droid Sans looks great on Ubunut!

  2. Alex

    My desktop customization generally depends on my mode, so my desktop can be blue or white or black (using Ubunt 9.04). For now it’s:

    . My theme is dust sand
    . My font is Liberation Sans
    . Remove workspaces
    . Install awn completely transparent in 3D mode
    . Remove all gnome-panels
    . Install gnome-do
    . My clock is a simple osd_clock (no extra functions and nothing more than a digital clock)
    . Compositing by compiz with only snapping windows activated
    . Gnome do installed and transparent
    . Custom background
    . Screensaver to black

    and that’s it

  3. TK_

    I'm looking to create my own distro of ubuntu using Reconstructor. Is it possible to modify GNOME settings by default for all users by modifying settings in a global location? Does anyone know where exactly that is located? If possible I'd also like to build my own debian package which will update GNOME settings to my choosing. Does this seem feasible?

  4. SamD

    The most recent version of Gnome on Ubuntu will not allow panel sizes smaller than 23 pixels, which is only 1 pixel less than the default size. If there is a way to override that, it isn't obvious.

  5. Clint

    Top panel:
    Switch Menu Bar to Main Menu, create a Application Launcher and pick a custom menu I make with my most common apps in it. This way it acts just like Main Menu. I hate drawers.
    Add globalmenu-panel-applet:
    System Monitor applet for processor, memory, network.

    Left Panel:
    Trash, Volume, Brightness(if laptop), Force quit, Remote Desktop, System monitor launcher, Synaptic, Compiz, Screenlets, Appearence, etc. Sometimes some of these are put in my Custom Menu. At bottom I have Disk Mounter.
    If desktop I have the Music Applet

    Workspace Switcher to 4

    Gnome-Do dockie
    –Still havent found good app switcher for panel that will move to a different workspace. They always bring to current.

    Make mounted drives not show up on desktop
    -Key: /apps/nautilus/desktop/volumes_visible unchecked
    Make windows appear in center of screen
    -Key: /apps/metacity/general/focus_new_windows Value: smart
    -Key: /apps/compiz/plugins/place/screen0/options/mode Value: 1

    Startup Applications:
    Dropbox, Pidgin, CheckGMail.

    Add my Google Calendars to Evolution so the Clock Applet shows them in the calendar.
    Change TweetDeck appearence to match my color scheme.

    Setup Dropbox which has all my non-media files. Once this is done point my wallpapers to it, and pull in themes, icon sets, sound themes, fonts, etc. Dropbox keeps my desktop and laptop pretty much the same machine aside from wallpaper and color scheme, etc.

    Point Epiphany homepage to my custom one I have in dropbox. Change toolbars, turn off Back, Forward, etc, then Hide Toolbars. This way only tabs show and pressing ctrl+l still pops down the address bar.

    Show Desktop
    Widget Layer (only on desktop)
    -Pandora and Terminal Screenlets
    Trail Focus
    -Unfocused: Opacity(80), Brightness(60), Saturation(40)

    Keyboard Shortcuts:
    launch browser = alt+z
    log out = ctrl+alt+delete
    lock screen = ctrl+alt+l
    terminal = super r
    window picker = super l
    expo = shift+ctrl+space
    move window to workspace = shift+ctrl+alt+ (left/right/up/down)
    desktop = ctrl+alt+super l
    switch to workspace = ctrl+alt+ (left/right/up/down)

    Mouse thumb buttons: Expo, Widget Layer

    Kill the scroll bar
    Change font to Monospace Bold 12
    Background color to same as window header
    Text color same as the one used for global-menu-applet

    P.S.) I cant wait till Dropbox gives users the feature of a public link of a folder, especially Public or a subdirectory. If it were so you could easily browse my wallpapers, themes, GDM, etc.

  6. pezmanlou

    I'm using gnome 2.26.1 and it is letting me resize the panel down to 19px. I remember having the problem with resizing the panel before and I think the reason I can now may have something to do with switching the font to droid-sans 8pt.

  7. budirj

    Alt+F2, gconf-editor> apps>nautilus>desktop to bring common desktop icons to desktop

  8. Andrew

    Delete bottom panels, move everything to the top panels (dual screen setup)
    Replace menu bar with main menu, install GNOME Do.


  9. kernel_script

    My deskmods can be seen on my deviantART gallery, some have descriptions of what i used to modify the desktops:

  10. drewbenn

    Enable focus-follows-mouse. It's one of those things that is *definitely* not for everyone, but I can't live without it! gconf-editor | apps | metacity | general | action_right_click_titlebar = lower; raise_on_click = false; focus_mode = mouse. I wouldn't call it a 100% solution, but it's "good enough" for me.
    That and reduce the number of workspaces to one, which I think another commenter already mentioned. It's a fantastic feature, just not something I need for home use.
    Your terminal settings (white-on-black text and disabled menubar and scrollbar) also make me a lot happier, though I couldn't get used to the droid font when I tried it.

  11. Nerdfest

    Since I’m generally far shorter on vertical space than horizontal space, especially on netbooks, I remove the bottom menu and move the top menu to the left side. I add the window selector applet, and the syetem monitor applet as well. I also add Gnome-Do with the Docky theme.

    I used to move the bottom menu to the right side, but found that it bahaves erratically. I discovered that with the window selector and Gnome-do/Docky, it’s just wasted space anyway. I like it so much I do it on all machines, not just those with limited resolution.

    Try the left hand task bar setup, it works very nicely … much like the typical web-site left hand navigation setup.

  12. robo47

    First things is moving the “taskbar” to the bottom, because sometimes i have a second screen on top and it sucks to have the taskbar so far on top, then changing color to the darklime-theme

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