That’s my blog… Life and Linux

Ubuntu goes GNOME, theming stays. Let’s test (and tune) it!

Hi guys! Again… Long time, no see you :-).

As you surely know, in the past weeks Ubuntu took the hard decision of stopping the development of Unity desktop environment, focusing again in shipping GNOME as default DE, and joining the upstream efforts.

While, in a personal note, after more than 6 years of involvement in the Unity development, this is a little heartbreaking, I also think that given the situation this is the right decision, and I’m quite excited to be able to work even closer to the whole opensource community!

Most of the aspects of the future Ubuntu desktop have to be defined yet, and I guess you know that there’s a survey going on I encourage you to participate in order to make your voice count…

One important aspect of this, is the visual appearance, and the Ubuntu Desktop team has decided that the default themes for Ubuntu 17.10 will continue to be the ones you always loved! Right now some work is being done to make sure Ambiance and Radiance look and work good in GNOME Shell.

In the past days I’ve released a  new version of ‘light-themes‘ to fix several theming problems in GNOME Shell.


This is already quite an improvement, but we can’t fix bugs we don’t know about… So this is where you can help make Ubuntu better!

Get Started

If you haven’t already, here’s how I recommend you get started.
Install the latest Ubuntu 17.10 daily image (if not going wild and trying this in 17.04).
After installing it, install gnome-shell.
Install gnome-tweak-tool if you want an easy way to change themes.
On the login screen, switch your session to GNOME and log in.

Report Bugs

Run this command to report bugs with Ambiance or Radiance:

ubuntu-bug light-themes

Attach a screenshot to the Launchpad issue.

Other info

Ubuntu’s default icon theme is ubuntu-mono-dark (or -light if you switch to Radiance) but most of Ubuntu’s customized icons are provided by humanity-icon-theme.

Helping with Themes development

If you want to help with the theming itself, you’re very welcome. Gtk themes are nowadays using CSS, so I’m pretty sure that any Web designer out there can help with them (these are the supported properties).

All you have to do, is simply use the Gtk Inspector that can be launched from any Gtk3 app, and write some CSS rules and see how they get applied on the fly. Once you’re happy with your solution, you can just create a MP for the Ubuntu Themes.

Let’s keep ubuntu, look ubuntu!

PS: thanks to Jeremy Bicha for the help in this post.

  • Dennis Shimer

    Wow this is encouraging to hear someone say this out loud. I’ll miss Unity but have been running Ubuntu Gnome 17.04 on a test box for several weeks and could (will) easily get used to it. Several of the Gnome tools work better for me than their 16.10 counter parts. What scared me was the thought that Ubuntu would lose some of the distinction that I believe set it apart as “Linux for human beings”. A rock solid base, sane default install and tweaks that make life easier, extensive software choices. I think snaps replacing ppas can only make it better. The one thing that could continue the trend of Linux for common people would be integrating some of the best ideas painstakingly develop within the fold, one that comes to mind is the first run software-boutique in Ubuntu-Mate.

  • I can’t report it as a bug, since I’m using 17.04, but the following has been bothering me for a while:

    With Ubuntu-Mono icons (both Dark and Light), the battery icon in the top bar looks ugly. It is a very small icon, but the proportions are wrong.

  • Copper Bezel

    Lovely to see this confirmed for 17.10. I was really not looking forward to the idea of Ubuntu releasing with the default Adwaita theme and no visual distinction.

    Is there any chance of a modified Shell theme to go with it, perhaps adopting an existing one?

  • Good to hear that you definitely will be theming Gnome. If I may suggest, perhaps you could consider using this opportunity to make Ubuntu theme more modern? It looks kind of old fashioned and low Res. This might be a good time to modernize it.

    Thanks for considering it and best of luck with the new Ubuntu desktop

  • Copper Bezel

    I *think* you might be okay reporting it, but I’m not sure. I can’t imagine the icon would have changed. I’m similarly on 17.04 and looked up a bug I’d noticed in Radiance, which turned out to have already been reported – by someone else using 17.04. So.

    https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/ubuntu-themes/+bug/1692925

  • Yeah, we’re interested in this too…

    As I mentioned in the post, any help is very welcome.

  • Yeah, I personally would like to reuse the work done for the SURU UI in unity8 to be integrated in GNOME shell, but this needs a lot of work, and our time is quite limited unfortunately 🙁

  • Good enough is fine.

  • Well, the United-GNOME theme [1] seems to make some reuse of Unity8 patterns, adapted to GNOME (for instance, we can see here the green checkboxes, the switch from suru).

    It also use colors from the Ubuntu palette (so it’s good to have a coherante branding), and use on some spot the Canonical purple (a bit like the Pop theme use the two colors from Pop on different points). It even have a dark headerbar variant for GTK application, so it could be great as a mixt of Ambiance and Suru 🙂

    And as it support both the GTK2, GTK3 and the GNOME Shell, it would improve shell integration 🙂

    So maybe it could be a great base to do something, or maybe it’ll be possible to work with the creator ?

    https://github. com/godlyranchdressing/United-GNOME/

  • Copper Bezel

    United is the theme I’m presently using (and loving) now; there’s also System76’s Pop. Both are forks of modern, flat themes already in circulation that aren’t likely to go away anytime soon. (And both look best with Papirus icons. = D I had to orangifiy the folders for United, though!)

    I’m really hoping for something similar in 18.04 (which both Ubuntufied flat theme forks target.) Just glad to see *something* for 17.10.

  • I 100% agree with you on that last point, it’s really great to see that kind of work be done to keep the Ubuntu identity inside Ubuntu. Even if I don’t use the Ambiance theme anymore, that kind of work is really great.

    Even if I love the System76 theme too (it’s really great), it’s just that as United have already some Suru and Unity8 elements, I thought that it could be a great option for Ubuntu 18.04 🙂

  • It’s a good option… From a quick look I see there are some aspects that should be fixed at shell level to properly follow some designs for unity8 (some of them haven’t probably even been too much disclosed), but it would be a good starting point…

    I think there’s room for discussion here, maybe starting from early 18.04 dev cycle.

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  • OrazionS

    Ambiance and Radiance in Gnome is a good point, but I hope that dash to dock and top icons extensions would be made by default out of box.

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  • CR

    Where to report other issues with ubuntu + gnome shell? The suspend button seems to be missing from the power menu. Locking the screen reverts the resolution to a default, rather than what I set in settings. On-screen keyboard does not work. Half-maximize does not work either.

  • This is the place:
    https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/gnome-shell

    Or run ubuntu-bug gnome-shell

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