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Changing Ubuntu's Look and Feel

GNOME, the default window manager for Ubuntu, has a number of options to change how it looks and feels. The default theme is Human; this takes a blend of the GNOME Clearlooks theme, mixes it with icons from the Tango Project, and adds a little spice direct from Ubuntu. However, it is not to everyone's taste, so in this section we look at changing the visual style of Ubuntu.

Changing the Desktop Background

Perhaps the easiest and most dramatic change you can make is to change the default desktop background. It is as simple as right-clicking on the desktop and selecting the option to Change Desktop Background to see the dialog box shown in Figure 2.5. Ubuntu comes with a small selection of wallpapers to start with, but we recommend going to the Web to find a great selection. Our favorite site is http://www.gnome-look.org, where you can find a great selection of desktop wallpapers.

Figure 2.5

Figure 2.5 Choose one of the default wallpapers, or use the Add Wallpaper option to select your own image file.

As you click on a wallpaper, Ubuntu automatically applies it so that you can quickly see whether you like it. When you are happy with your selection, keep the dialog box open so we can change other aspects of the desktop.

Changing Colors

Next up is the colors that Ubuntu defaults to. When Ubuntu was originally launched in October 2004, it came with a predominantly brown theme, leading to some users questioning the style choices of the Ubuntu development team. With Ubuntu 7.10, the brown has been replaced with a warm caramel color (which, to be honest, is only slightly better than the brown).

Thankfully, GNOME offers an array of tools to modify the defaults. Just head to the System, Preferences, Appearance option to quickly change the entire theme (see Figure 2.6). Or if you've kept the dialog box open as suggested earlier, click the Theme tab. You will see a list of predefined themes that you can choose from.

Figure 2.6

Figure 2.6 Either use the default themes or mix and match elements of them to match your specifications.

Alternatively, you can click the Customize button to mix up your own look and feel, as shown in Figure 2.7. You can choose to change the window decorations (title bar, minimize, maximize buttons, and so on), the general color scheme and the icon theme. As you select an option, Ubuntu automatically applies it to the desktop so you can get an idea of how it will look. When you're happy with your selections click Close to return to the main Theme dialog box and move on to the next section.

Figure 2.7

Figure 2.7 Use any number of combinations of icons, colors, and window decorations to give you a truly personalized look and feel.

Modifying System Fonts

GNOME also enables you to change the fonts used throughout Ubuntu. If you have difficulty reading one font, just exchange it for another.

In the Appearance dialog box you will see a tab called Fonts. Click on this tab to see the options available for changing system fonts, which are shown in Figure 2.8. Simply click on each font name to customize the font used for that function.

Figure 2.8

Figure 2.8 Keep your fonts relatively simple for ease of use, or if you prefer, indulge your love of calligraphic fonts!

For instance, you may prefer your Window Title Font to be italicized, so click the font name and select the Italic option. Clicking OK immediately applies the change, again giving you a good idea of whether it works. Sometimes a font can look good within the Font Preferences screen, but when it comes to using it you wonder why on earth you chose it. Choose your fonts wisely!

Changing How Menus Look

You can also change the look of menus, including the location of text descriptions for each icon, by selecting the Interface tab. To be honest, there's not much to look at here, and you would only change any of these options if you had a burning desire to replace your icons with text.

Visual Effects

Perhaps the most exciting part of Ubuntu 7.10 is that by default it comes with some pretty snazzy visual effects to enhance the look and feel of your desktop. Click the Visual Effects tab to see the options available for configuring the level of effects, shown in Figure 2.9. In keeping with Ubuntu's philosophy of keeping things simple, there are three options to choose, from which you can elect to turn off all visual effects, use a basic set of effects, or use a lot of visual effects. If you choose this last option you will need to have a fast computer (that is, purchased after 2004) to ensure that the computer doesn't grind to a halt while rendering effects.

Figure 2.9

Figure 2.9 Wow your friends and colleagues by activating visual effects to enhance your user experience. Alternatively, switch them all off if you get a bit overwhelmed by windows flying everywhere!

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