Customizing Your Gnome Desktop: Buttons & Windows Borders

Last week we went over finding and applying wallpaper on your Gnome desktop. While that was not overly challenging (in fact it is not much different then doing the same thing in Windows), it is something that a lot of people do not know how to do. While you can change your wallpaper in Windows just like you can on most Linux desktops, with Windows, that is pretty much where the customization ends. Sure, you can change the colors of some elements, but buttons, windows borders, even your task bar, it all stays pretty much the same.

Not in Linux, and more specifically not in Gnome (our focus). On a Linux desktop, you will find that you can completely customize the appearance of your desktop to your liking and while some of the cooler looking effects take some practice and a lot of reading (stuff we will not be going over here), you can make your Linux desktop resemble Windows or OSX, while at the same time you can make it completely original.

This week we are going to look at customizing the buttons and window boarders on your Gnome desktop. Keep in mind that you can create your own buttons and window borders if you can not find any that you like. You will need to search for some of the great articles out there on that topic as it is too large to cover here. Nope, instead we are going to work on applying buttons and borders that we find at Gnome-Look or Gnome Art, two sites we used in our discussion on changing your wallpaper (desktop background).

For buttons, you want to look at the “GTK 2.X” section in Gnome-Look and for window borders you want to look at the “Metacity” section. If you do not know what GTK is, you can check out the GTK website for more information, but for a quick explanation, it is the GUI toolkit that Gnome is based on. The reason we want to look at the “GTK 2.X” section in Gnome-Look is because Gnome 2.18 (the version of Gnome in Ubuntu Feisty), is based on the GTK 2 series of the toolkit. There is a large selection of button sets to choose from. In fact, there are over 50 pages worth (with 15 choices per page). So find some GTK 2.X settings that you find to your liking and download them. Be sure to read the description provided for the settings you download, because they might have an associated border or wallpaper to go with them.

Click to EnlargeAfter you have picked out and downloaded your new GTK 2.X settings or window border, you have to install them. Fortunately the good people behind Gnome have made this incredibly easy. Simply open up the Theme Manager (see image to the right for where to find the Theme Manager) and “drag & drop” the downloaded tar.gz/bz file into the Theme Manager and it will take care of the rest. Once it has installed the theme it will ask you if you wish to switch to it immediately or continue using the current settings. You can go ahead and tell it to use the new theme.

Alternatively you can also  tell it not to use the new theme, and set it yourself.  If you are installing a window border, this will show up in the main theme manager window with the associated name.  If you chose the to install the theme yourself and this is a “GTK 2.x” button theme, you will need to click the “Customize” button on the theme manager.

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The tabs represent different aspects of your theme that can be customized.  The “Controls” tab is  where you will find your newly installed “GTK 2.x” theme.  If you took the inicitive and downloaded and installed an icon theme, the “Icons” tab is where you will find that.

It helps to have everything tie together nicely.  It will give your desktop an appearance of coherence.  When the buttons, windows, borders, and icons all work together it can give you a really nice looking desktop.  Keep that in mind as you search around for your window borders an controls.  Icons are just as important, but going with Tango or Human icons will help keep it simple.  Overall, with the right window borders and controls, you are well on your way to making your Gnome desktop your own little workspace.

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