Customizing Your Gnome Desktop (Indroduction)

The Linux desktop is becoming more popular everyday. One of the great advantages of the Linux desktop is that you can customize to your liking, sometimes changing the look to be nothing that resembles what you started with.

You have your choice of what is called a “window manager” on a Linux desktop. A window manager is something that draws the windows onto your screen. Most of these managers allow theming to a very large degree. For example, the default window manager in in Ubuntu is Gnome (actually it’s Metacity, but it gets complicated and I wish to keep it simple). There are other window managers out there like KDE, XFCE, WM, and even Fluxbox, all of them with their own little quirks and methods for handling things.

For this article we are going to concentrate on the Gnome desktop, mainly because it is what I am most familiar with and in my opinion, it is one of the easiest to customize. For starters we need some terminology, there are different areas that can be configured in a Gnome desktop and for a “just the basics” approach we are going to only look at the following:

Wallpaper The background image that you see when you have no windows open
Panel The bar(s) at the top and/or bottom of your desktop. Panels can contain a application menu, a window list, a clock, and a bunch of other information.
Window Border (Metacity Themes) How your windows look. This is primarily the title of the window and the close/minimize/maximize buttons.
Buttons (GTK Themes) These are the “Ok”, “Canel”, and other buttons that can be a part of the operating system.


With all that in mind, let us begin. For starters, you are going to want to check out two websites to find some stuff to customize your desktop with. The first is Gnome-Look. Gnome-Look is a great website for finding wallpapers, icons, GTK themes, and even Metacity themes for your desktop. Gnome-Look is part of a network of sites geared towards beautifying your Linux desktop, regardless of your window manager. There are sites for KDE, XFCE, Beryl, Compiz, and Enlightenment. The second site is Gnome Art. Gnome Art is a sub site of (Gnome’s homepage). It contains a smaller selection of what is offered at Gnome-Look, but does have some things not found on Gnome-Look so it deserves its own mention.

Over the coming weeks, we are going to be looking at various aspects of the Gnome desktop and working at customizing them.  We are going to start simple and work our way towards a complete theme.  We will not be designing our own theme from scratch mind you as that is an exhaustive task, but rather using elements already created by others to design a look and feel that we like and can enjoy.  The idea here is to get a desktop that you love and can work on.

Stick around, hopefully you can take away something valuable.  If you have something specific you would like covered during this series, leave a comment or email me.  If I can answer the question, I will do my best to so.  If I can not, then I will try to find out where you can get the answer.

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