Most distributions try to design a nice icon set for the default desktop. You could use the default set of icons, but then you would be default. Default is mediocre. You don't want to be mediocre, do you? Do you want to be mundane? Unexciting? I think better of you than that. I think you want to put your own personal stamp on every aspect of your desktop. We spend so much time in our desktop these days that we should make ourselves at home there. I might be badgering you, but I think it's really fun to find new icons and design the desktop I live in.
Desktop and Panel Icons
Changing icons for items on your desktop and panel is easy. Whether you are in KDE or GNOME, you just have to right-click the item and choose the new icon that you want.
To change icons for desktop and panel items in GNOME, right-click the item and go to Properties on the right-click menu. Click the icon in the Launcher Properties dialog box. You will be in a dialog box to browse the icons in the directory where the current icon lives. Select a new icon from one of the icons displayed, or use the address bar to type in or browse for a different directory. Click OK when you are done.
In KDE, the method to change icons for desktop and panel items is almost the same as in GNOME. Right-click the item, choose Properties from the menu, and click the picture of the icon in the dialog box. The difference in KDE is that you have two categories to choose the new icon from, system icons and other icons. The system icons are the ones that come with KDE. Clicking Other Icons brings up another available directory full of icons, such as /usr/share/pixmaps, as well as a Browse button. Use Browse to go to another directory of icons that you choose, such as one you might have downloaded an icon image to.
File Manager Icons and Emblems
Your file manager need not be the plain sea of folders that you see by default. You can change many aspects of the look of Nautilus and Konqueror, including icons, emblems, and background colors and images. Personally, I tend not to mess with these customization options too much because I don't spend a lot of time in my file manager. However, you might be a file-browsing fool who wants green camouflage backgrounds and tiny kitty icons.
You cannot directly change the icon for each item in Nautilus. You can, however, add an emblem to any item. An emblem is a small icon that sits next to the item denoting a category or whatever you want to use it to denote. To add an emblem to an item in Nautilus, right-click the item, choose Properties, and then go to the Emblems tab. You will see a whole bunch of small icons. You can check as many as you like and then click OK when you are done. You can change the icons for file types in Nautilus by installing Nautilus themes that you can download from the Internet. Nautilus toolbar icons are affected by your choice of window control theme, but not all window control themes include Nautilus icons with them.
In Konqueror, there are no emblems. You can right-click any item in Konqueror to change the icon for that item, just as if it were a desktop item. Icons for different file types and for the Konqueror tool bar are often changed when you install a new desktop style theme.
Both Nautilus and Konqueror give you the option to change the background of your file manager. You can choose from preinstalled patterns, add your own pattern image, or choose a solid color. In Nautilus, go to Edit > Backgrounds and Emblems in the menu bar. Nautilus has options for patterns and colors, and a place in this dialog box to add new emblem images. In Konqueror, you go to View > Background Color or View > Background Image from the menu bar. Both file managers allow great flexibility for the look of your directories, but they also provide a couple hideous choices to steer clear of.
Finding and Creating New Icons
You can never have too many icons. Although both KDE and GNOME come with lots of good icon choices, you will have to look online to find more unique icons. There are lots of Web sites for icons, including the same great sites we looked at for themes, kde-look.org and art.gnome.org. You can find icons on non-Linux Web sites as well. Good sites such as http://www.deviantart.com/ and http://www.wincustomize.org/ have mostly Windows icons, but you can grab them for use in Linux as well. The Links section at the end of this topic has more URLs for desktop customization sites. Just download any file and then convert it to a .png file to use it as an icon.
To create icons in Windows, you have to use programs that will work with the special .ico file type. To create icons in Mac OS X, you have to use a special file type as well. To create icons in Linux, you don't need any voodoo&8212;just a graphics editor. Most icons in KDE and GNOME use the .png file type. Unlike .ico files, PNG files are common and can be created by most graphics editors. When creating your own icons remember a few general rules of thumb:
- Keep your image square.
- Size your image as 32 x 32 pixels or 45 x 45 pixels, for the most flexibility.
- Make the surrounding space of your icon transparent.
- Keep the image simple. Complexity doesn't come through well in such a small image.