What's Your Preference? Customizing Your Linux Desktop Environment
I have a little twitch. I'm not quite obsessive compulsive. I don't have to wash my hands constantly or make sure to turn light switches on and off a certain number of times. My twitch happens when I see someone else's desktop. I walk up behind you when you are using your computer and see the default desktop wallpaper, the default icons, the default task bar items, and all the same colors that came with your desktop environment.
"Rrraaowuuga!" I yell as I stand directly behind you.
You jump, startled, and turn around. I don't like the furious look on your face.
"What?" I ask.
"Why are you sneaking up on me and yelling?" you ask.
"I'm not," I claim.
You look at me with incredulous eyes and a fed-up grimace. "I just heard you. What do you mean, you didn't do it? What do you want?"
I'm thinking that you're a little testy today, but, hey, I'll cut you some slack. You are reading my book, after all. "It's a twitch, you know, a tick. It's like Tourette's syndrome."
"Wouldn't that mean that you should be cussing me out right now?" you ask.
"Oh no, Tourette's has many forms. In fact, it's a common myth that most sufferers of the syndrome swear. Noises are more common," I kindly inform you. I pull out a tote bag. "Here. Please take this informative brochure on Tourette's syndrome. Also, here is a video tape of an admirable piece done on ABC's '20/20' about Tourette's. Barbara Walters, a paragon and legend of the journalism community, hosted '20/20.' She can make people cry faster than hot lemon juice on a self-inflicted flesh wound. Isn't she great?"
You're giving me that grimace again. "What do you want?" you repeat.
"Well, I don't really have Tourette's, but I can't stand to see someone's desktop when the wallpaper isn't even changed. It hurts me."
"I could hurt you," you say.
Although I think that is a kind offer, I don't think that I will take you up on it. I remind you that, instead of hurting me, you are supposed to be out in the world spreading that rumor that I am a genius.
"Why would it matter to you if I customize my desktop?" you ask.
I take a deep breath and sit down beside you. "Pull up a chair." You look down at the chair you are already sitting in. "Okay, I guess you have a chair. It's just that there are so many options in Linux for customizing everything about your desktop, fonts, wallpaper, colors, window borders, icons. . . . When you don't change any of it, I can't help but think that you're not living life to the fullest. It's like not stopping to smell the roses. It's like not ever taking that trip to Europe you always dreamed of. It's like not hugging your teddy bear."
You scoot your chair a little farther away from me.
"It's okay," I say, "We will get through this crisis together. Let's start off by looking at all of the ways to customize your desktop environment."
You remove the arm that I put on your shoulder and continue to move your chair farther away from me. You're such a joker, always kidding around and pretending you think I'm creepy.
What Can You Change on Your Desktop?
There are so many preference options in KDE and GNOME that you can make your desktop look nothing like a traditional desktop (see Figure 4.1). You can change everything from your desktop wallpaper to themes for your Window Manager to fonts and icons. KDE and GNOME each have their own tools to help you customize your desktop and make it your own.
Figure 4.1 Everything seen here is an integrated desktop object or panel in GNOME.