GNOME Desktop Preferences

You can configure different parts of your GNOME interface using tools listed in System | Preferences, where Ubuntu also provides several tools for configuring your GNOME desktop. The GNOME preferences are shown in Table 8-3. Several are discussed in different sections in this and other chapters. The Help button on each preference window will display detailed descriptions and examples. Some of the more important tools are discussed here.

The keyboard shortcuts configuration (Keyboard Shortcuts) lets you map keys to certain tasks, such as mapping multimedia keys on a keyboard to media tasks such as play and pause. Just select the task and then press the key. You'll find tasks for the desktop, multimedia, and window management. With window management, you can also map keys to perform workspace switching. Keys that are already assigned will be shown.

The Windows configuration (Windows) is where you can enable features such as window roll-up, window movement key, and mouse window selection.

The Mouse and Keyboard preferences are the primary tools for configuring your mouse and keyboard (Mouse). The Mouse preferences let you choose a mouse image, and configure its motion and hand orientation. The Keyboard preferences window shows several panels for selecting your keyboard model (Layout), configuring keys (Layout Options), repeat delay (Keyboard), and even enforcing breaks from power typing as a health precaution.

To select a sound driver to use for different tasks, as well as specify the sounds to use for desktop events, you use the Sound Preferences tool (Sound). On the Devices tab, you can select the sound driver to use, if more than one, for the Sound Events, Music and Videos, and conferencing. Defaults will already be chosen. On the Sounds tab you can enable software sound mixing, choosing the sound you want for different desktop events. The System Beep tab lets you turn off the system beep sound and use visual beep instead, such as a flashing window title bar.


Several appearance-related configuration tasks have been combined into the Appearance tool. These include Themes, Background, Fonts, Interfaces, and Visual Effects. To change your theme or background image, or configure your fonts, use the Appearance tool (System | Preferences | Appearance). The Appearance window shows five tabs: Theme, Background, Fonts, Interface, and Visual Effects (see Figure 8-2). The Background tab was discussed in Chapter 3. The Theme and Fonts tabs are covered in the following sections. The Interface tab lets you modify the appearance of toolbar and menu items, whether to display icons and where to display text. A preview section shows how menus and toolbar items will appears depending on your choices. The Visual Effects tab lets you choose the level of desktop effects ranging from just a simple display to full for 3-D effects for windows (wobble, shrink, and explode).

Desktop Themes

Themes control your desktop appearance. Use the Themes tab on the Appearance Preferences dialog to select or customize a theme from a list of icons for currently installed themes (see Figure 8-3). The icons show key aspects or each theme such as window, folder, and button images, in effect previewing the theme for you. The Ubuntu theme is initially selected. You can move through the icons to select a different theme if you wish. If you have



About Me

Set and edit personal information such as image, addresses, and password


Set desktop appearance configuration: themes, fonts, backgrounds, and interface

Assistive Technologies

Enable features such as accessible login and keyboard screen


Set Bluetooth notification icon display

Default Printer

Choose a default printer if more than one

Encryption and Keyrings

Configure Seahorse encryption management


Configure your keyboard: selecting options, models, and typing breaks, as well as accessibility features such as repeating, slow, and sticking, and mouse keys setup

Keyboard Shortcuts

Configure keys for special tasks such as multimedia operations

Main Menu

Add or remove categories and menu items for the Applications and System menus


Configure mouse: select hand orientation, mouse image, and motion

Network Manager Editor

Manage wireless connections

Network Proxy

Configure proxy if needed: manual or automatic

Power Management

Set power management options for battery use and sleep options

Preferred Applications

Set default Web browser, mail application, and terminal window

Remote Desktop

Allow remote users to view or control your desktop; can control access with password

Removable Drives And Media

Set removable drives and media preferences

SCIM Input Method Setup

Specify custom input methods for keyboard

Screen Resolution

Change screen resolution, refresh rate, and screen orientation


Select and manage screen saver

Seahorse Preferences

Manage encryption key

Search And Indexing

Set search and indexing preferences for desktop searches


Manage your session with startup programs and save options (see "Sessions" later in this chapter)


Select sound driver for events, video and music, and conferencing; select sounds to use for desktop events


Enable certain window capabilities such as roll-up on title bar, movement key, window selection

Table 8-3 GNOME Desktop Preferences

Table 8-3 GNOME Desktop Preferences

Figure 8-2 Appearance Visual Effects tab downloaded additional themes from sites such as, you can click the Install button to locate and install them. Once installed, the additional themes will also be displayed in the Theme tab. If you download and install a theme or icon set from the Ubuntu repository, it will be automatically installed for you.

Tip If you are downloading from, you can drag-and-drop the download icon from the Web page directly to the Theme tab, or download first and drop the theme package directly to the Theme tab to install.

The true power of themes is shown in its ability to let users customize any theme. Themes are organized into three components: controls, window border, and icons. Controls covers the appearance of window and dialog controls such as buttons and slider bars. Window border specifies how title bars, borders, window buttons are displayed. Icons specify how all icons used on the desktop are displayed, whether on the file manager, desktop, or the panel. You can actually mix and match components from any installed theme to create your own theme. You can even download and install separate components such as specific icon sets, which you can then use in a customized theme.

Clicking the Customize button opens a Themes Details window with tabs for different theme components. The components used for the current theme are selected by default. An additional Color tab lets you set the background and text colors for windows, input boxes, and selected items. In the Control, Window Border, and Icon tabs you will see listings

Figure 8-3 Selecting GNOME themes of different themes. You can then mix and match different components from those themes, creating your own customized theme. Upon selecting a component, your desktop will automatically change to display your choices. If you have added a component, such as a new icon set, it will also be shown.

One you have created a new customized theme, a Custom Theme icon will appear in the list on the Theme tab. To save the customized theme, click the Save As button. This opens a dialog where you can enter the theme name, any notes, and specify whether you also want to keep the theme background.

Themes and icons installed directly by a user are placed in the .themes and .icons directories in the user's home directory. Should you want these themes made available for all users, you can move them from the .themes and .icons directories to the /usr/share/icons and /usr/share/themes directories. Be sure to log in as the root user. You then need to change ownership of the moved themes and icons to the root user:

chown -R root:root /usr/share/themes/newtheme


Ubuntu uses the fontconfig method for managing fonts ( You can easily change font sizes, add new fonts, and configure features such as anti-aliasing. Both GNOME and KDE provide tools for selecting, resizing, and adding fonts.

Resizing Desktop Fonts With very large monitors and their high resolutions becoming more common, one feature users find helpful is the ability to increase the desktop font sizes. On a large widescreen monitor, resolutions less than the native one tend not to scale well. A monitor always looks best in its native resolution. However, with a large native resolution such as 1900x1200, text sizes become so small they are hard to read. You can overcome this issue by increasing the font size. The default size is 10; increasing it to 12 makes text in all desktop features such as windows and menus much more readable.

To increase the font size, choose System | Preferences | Appearance and select the Fonts tab (Figure 8-4). You can change the existing font itself as well. You can further refine your fonts display by clicking the Details button to open a window where you can set features such as the dots-per-inch, hinting, and smoothing. To examine a font in more detail, click the Go To Fonts Folder button and click the font.

Adding Fonts To add fonts you open the font viewer by entering the fonts:/ URL in any file manager window. Click the Location bar toggle to switch to a text-based location bar. In the Location bar text box you can then enter the fonts:// URL. Once the font viewer is open, you can add a font by simply dragging it to the font viewer window. When you restart, your font will be available for use. Fonts that are Zip archived should first be opened with the Archive manager and can then be dragged from the archive manager to the font viewer. To remove a font, right-click it in the font viewer and select Move To Trash or Delete.

User fonts will be installed to a user's .fonts directory. Fonts to be available to all users must be installed in the /usr/share/fonts directory, which makes them system fonts. Numerous

font packages are available on the Ubuntu repositories. When you install the font packages, the fonts are automatically installed on your system and ready for use. Microsoft TrueType fonts are available from the msttcorefonts package (multiverse repository). Many TrueType font packages begin with ttf- prefix.

You can also manually install fonts yourself by dragging fonts to the font directory. On GNOME, you must copy fonts manually to the /usr/share/fonts directory (with the sudo command). If your system has installed both GNOME and KDE, you can install system fonts using KDE (Konqueror file manager) and they will be available on GNOME as well. For dual-boot systems, where Windows is installed as one of the operating systems, you can copy fonts directly from the Windows font directory on the Windows partition (which is mounted automatically in /media) to the fonts:/System or fonts:/ window (/usr/share/fonts or .fonts).

Configuring Fonts To refine your font display, you can use the font rendering tool. Choose System | Preferences | Appearance, and open the Fonts tab. In the Font Rendering section are basic font rendering features such as Monochrome, Best Contrast, Best Shapes, and Subpixel Smoothing. Choose the one that works best. For LCD monitors, choose Subpixel Smoothing. For detailed configuration, click the Details button. Here you can set Smoothing, Hinting (anti-aliasing), and Subpixel color order features. The sub-pixel color order is hardware dependent.

On GNOME, clicking a font entry in the Fonts Preferences tool will open a Pick A Font dialog that lists all available fonts. You can also generate a list by using the fc-list command. The list will be unsorted, so you should pipe it first to the sort command:

fc-list | sort

You can use fc-list with any font name or name pattern to search for fonts, with options to search by language, family, or styles. See the /etc/share/fontconfig documentation for more details.


You can configure your desktop to restore your previously opened windows and applications as well as specify startup programs. When you log out, you may want the windows you have open and the applications you have running to be automatically started when you log back in. In effect, you are saving your current session so that it can be restored when you log in again. For example, if you are working on a spreadsheet, you can save your work, but not close the file, and then log out. When you log back in, your spreadsheet will open automatically where you left off.

Saving sessions is not turned on by default. To save sessions, choose System | Preferences | Sessions to open the Session Preferences dialog (Figure 8-5) and then open the Session Options tab. You can save your current session manually or have all your sessions saved automatically when you log out, restoring them whenever you log in.

You can also use the Sessions Preferences dialog to select programs that you want started up automatically. Some are already selected, such as the Software Updater and NetworkManager. On the Startup Programs tab, you can select programs you want started and deselect those you don't want.

Figure 8-5 GNOME Sessions Preferences

Continue reading here: The Gnome File Manager Nautilus

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