Based on the KDE Theming Guide

It is quite easy to customize the look and feel of your Kubuntu desktop by individually controlling different parts of the visual appearance. This guide gives a explains how to theme your Kubuntu desktop by tweaking some of the customizable parts of KDE, the powerful desktop environment used by Kubuntu.

Most these settings can be reached through Appearance options of Kubuntu's System Settings. This guide is also based on Kubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft). The arrangement of System Settings in Kubuntu 6.06 LTS (Dapper Drake) may be different.

Background

The desktop Background, more commonly known as the wallpaper, allows you to display certain images on your Kubuntu desktop. The settings for the Background are found in the Desktop options of Kubuntu's System Settings, or by right-clicking on the desktop and selecting Configure Desktop.

You have the option to use no picture, a single picture, or a slideshow of images. If no picture is chosen to be the desktop background, the Colors options are used instead. You can also choose whether to use a single background on all virtual desktops or to apply a different background for each desktop. This is done by selecting "All desktops" or the specific desktop name from the drop-down menu.

Other background images can be downloaded from:

Colors

The Colors settings allow you to control the colors that are used for various window elements, such as window titlebars, window backgrounds, text, and buttons. You can change the color of each window element by selecting the element from the drop down list and choosing a color for it. You can then save your changes by clicking on Save Scheme. This will save your settings in a Color Scheme file. Color schemes are text files, with a .kcsrc extension, that contain entries for each window widget and its color, in RGB format. It is also very easy to add color schemes that you have downloaded by clicking on Import Scheme and pointing to the .kcsrc file. With color schemes, you can save the changes you have done in one convenient file or easily change to a predefined color setting, without having to change each window element separately.

Additional color schemes can be downloaded from the Color Schemes section of KDE-Look.org.

Icons

An icon theme contains the images used to represent actions, files, devices, and applications. Managing icon themes is easily done through the Icons module in Kubuntu's System Settings. Simply select the icon theme you want to use and click on Apply to switch to the new theme. To install new icon themes, all you need to do is to click on Install New Theme and browse to the location of the icon theme archive. There is no need to extract the contents of the archive into a directory. In fact, the Icons module only accepts archived icon themes. To remove an icon theme, simply select the theme from the list and click on Remove Theme. Note that you cannot remove the icon theme that you are currently using. You need switch to some other theme before the current one will become removable. You also cannot remove icon themes that were installed by the administrator (root) or by your distribution's package manager.

Other icon themes can be found in the Icon Themes subsection in KDE-Look.org.

Window Decorations

You can change the appearance of window borders, titlebars and buttons in KDE using window decorations. Some window decorations even have the capability to apply effects such as translucency. Window decorations must be able to do all these without sacrificing speed and performance. This is the reason why window decorations come in source code that must be compiled, or as binary packages that must be installed. Basically, Window decorations are plugins or small programs that instruct KWin, KDE's Window Manager, how to display window frames.

In order to add a new window decoration, you need to compile it from source code. If a package is available in Kubuntu, you simply need to install it using Adept or apt-get. For instructions on how to install packages, please see the Kubuntu Desktop Guide. Instructions on how to compile software from source code can be found in the CompilingSoftware page. Once the window decoration has been installed, it can be accessed in the Window Decorations settings in System Settings. In the Window Decoration tab, a list of installed window decorations can be seen in the drop-down box. Simply select the decoration you want to use and click on Apply. Different window decorations have different capabilities and settings. Play around with the different options available. The Buttons tab allow you to control the buttons on the window titlebar. Enable the "Use custom titlebar button positions" in order to rearrange, remove, or add buttons. To add buttons to the titlebar, drag an item from the list to the titlebar preview above it. To remove a button, drag the button from the titlebar preview to the item list. Simply drag buttons in the titlebar preview to rearrange them.

While all window decorations need to be compiled from source code, some window decorations can load pixmap-based theme files that do not need to be compiled. KDE ships with a pixmap-based window decoration called the IceWM window decoration. Another pixmap-based window decoration is deKorator, which can be found at KDE-Look.org. Both of these window decorations can easily be installed in Kubuntu. The IceWM window decoration is included in the kdeartwork-theme-window package, while the deKorator window decoration is installed by the dekorator package. For instructions on how to install packages, please see the Kubuntu Desktop Guide. The advantage of using pixmap-based window decorations is it is relatively easy to make themes for them, by using images and editing a configuration file. The tradeoff is a bit of performance, while this may be unnoticeable on very fast systems.

To add an IceWM theme, select IceWM as the window decoration and click on the "Open KDE's IceWM theme folder" link in the window decoration description area. This will open a Konqueror window to $KDEHOME/share/apps/kwin/icewm-themes. Extract your IceWM theme to this folder. The theme will then be added to the list of IceWM themes. Select the theme you want to use and click on Apply.

To add a deKorator theme after you've installed deKorator, select deKorator from the window decorations list and go to the Themes tab. Click on "Install New Theme" and locate your deKorator theme archive. Make sure that the version of the deKorator theme matches the deKorator version installed on your system. Once the theme has been added, select the theme you want to use and click on Set Theme Path's. Click on Apply for the changes to take effect.

Some more window decorations are available in KDE-Look.org under the Native KDE 3.x and Native KDE 3.2+ subsections. Themes for the IceWM and deKorator window decorations have their own subsections under the Window Decorations category.

Style

Widgets are the basic elements of a graphical user interface, such as buttons, scrollbars, tabs, and menus. A widget style is a plugin or a small program that instructs KDE how widgets are displayed. Since widgets are the very basic parts of an interface, they are frequently accessed and must be able to respond very quickly. This is why widget styles must come as source code to be compiled or as binary packages to be installed, just like window decorations. Instructions on how to compile software from source code can be found in the CompilingSoftware page.

Once a widget style has been installed, it will be added to the list of available in the Style module in the KDE Control Center. The Style tab allows you to select a widget style from the list and to configure it if the style has a Configure feature. Different styles have different options. A preview of the selected style is available at the lower portion of the tab. The Effects tab control different visual effects for some widgets like comboboxes, and tooltips. The Toolbar tab gives some options on the general appearance of toolbars.

Additional widget styles can be found in the different KDE subsections of the Themes/Styles of KDE-Look.org. Take note that Styles come in source code or binary package forms. They are not KDE theme files.

Splash Screen

The Splash Screen is the animated image or screen that is displayed while KDE loads after you log in. Each user can have a different splash screen. Changing the splash screen for the current user can be done in the Splash Screen module of Kubuntu's System Settings. Select the splash screen you want to use and click on Apply. You can also test what a splash screen will look like by selecting the splash screen and clicking on Test. Installing a new splash theme is very easy. Just click on Add and browse to the splash screen archive you want to add. There is no need to extract the contents of the archive. Removing splash screens is also easily done by selecting the splash screen and clicking on Remove. Note that you cannot remove splash screens installed by the administrator (root) or by your distribution's package manager.

Splash screen themes can be found at KDE-Look.org, in the Splash Screens section. Take note that some splash screens require a specific KSplash engine to be installed.

KDE Theme

KDE allows you to save the different changes you made to your desktop's appearance in one file, using the Theme Manager. The KDE Theme Manager is not directly available through Kubuntu's System Settings. You can reach the Theme Manager by running KControl, KDE's Control Center. Click on the K Menu and select Run Command (alternatively, you could also press Alt+F2). In the Run Command dialog box, enter the text kcontrol and click on the Run button or press the Enter key. The Theme Manager is under the Appearance group of the Control Center.

Once you have set up your desktop the way you want, click on Create New Theme. Enter the details you want to give your theme, such as theme name, author, version, etc., then click OK when done. This will add your theme to the list of available themes and save your settings in a KDE Theme. A KDE Theme (.kth file) instructs KDE on what window decoration, style, or color scheme to use for that particular theme. To add a KDE Theme from an outside source, Click on Install New Theme and locate the KDE Theme file. Removing a theme is easily done by click on Remove Theme. If you made changes to your theme, you have to either create a new theme name for it, or remove the previous version first to be able to use the same theme name.

The following are the settings that are saved and indicated in a KDE Theme:

  • Background
  • Screen Saver
  • Theme
  • System Notifications
  • Color Scheme
  • Cursor Theme
  • Window Decoration
  • Konqueror background (File Management)
  • Panel background
  • Style
  • Fonts

One very important thing to consider when using or installing a KDE Theme is that it only indicates what settings to use for the above. A KDE Theme includes only system notifications, desktop background, panel background, Konqueror background, and the color scheme in its package. The other components must be installed separately if they do not already come with KDE.

KDE Themes can be downloaded from the Theme-Manager subsection of KDE-Look.org, under the Themes/Styles section.

KDM Theme

KDM, or the KDE Display Manager, allows you to have a graphical interface to login to your Kubuntu session. Normally, the KDM login screen displays a background and a dialog box to type in the username and password. The settings for KDM can be found in the Login Manager module of Kubuntu's System Settings under the Advanced section. Kubuntu, however, makes use of a KDM Theme by default. A KDM Theme controls the visual appearance of the login screen. This guide will explain the easiest way to add and manage KDM themes, using the KDM Theme Manager.

In order to get the KDM Theme Manager, you need to install the kdmtheme package. For instructions on how to install packages, please see the Kubuntu Desktop Guide. Once installed, you can run the KDE Control Center to reach the KDM Theme Manager module. Click on the K Menu and select Run Command (alternatively, you could also press Alt+F2). In the Run Command dialog box, enter the text kcontrol and click on the Run button or press the Enter key. The KDM Theme Manager module can be found under the System Administration group in the KDE Control Center.</p>

You will be presented with an interface that will allow you to enable or disable the use of KDM Themes, add new themes are remove existing ones. You will need Administrator (root) privileges to make any changes, so click on the Administrator Mode button and enter your password. To enable for disable the use of KDM themes, toggle the Enable KDM Themes checkbox. Note that as long as KDM themes are enabled, some of the settings in the Login Manager will not be visible. You can easily add new KDM themes by clicking on Install New Theme and pointing it to a KDM theme archive. There is no need to extract the archive beforehand. Removing themes is also easily done by selecting the theme and clicking Remove Theme. You can't remove a KDM Theme is currently being used. To change to a different KDM theme, select the theme you want and click on Apply. You need to either logout or start a new session to see the changes.

More KDM Themes are available in the KDM Themes section of KDE-Look.org.

Glossary

Background

Background/wallpaper image or color for the desktop

Color Scheme

Configuration file that indicates what colors to use for certain widgets

Icons

Images representing applications, files, devices, etc

Splash Screen

Animated image or screen that displays while KDE loads after logging in

Window Decoration

Plugins or small programs that instruct the window manager how to display window frames

Style

Plugin or a small program that instructs KDE how widgets are displayed

KDE Theme

(.kth) A file that contains instructions on what settings to use for different GUI components

KDM Theme

A theme that controls the visual appearance of the login screen

Widgets

Basic elements that build up a graphical user interface: buttons, scrollbars, menus, tabs, etc.


CustomizeKubuntu (last edited 2012-01-31 07:54:06 by roel-van-os)