installing desktop theme ubuntu

Now that Ubuntu carries GNOME as the desktop environment instead of Unity, the premium look of GNOME is already great on Ubuntu 17.10. But, if that’s not enough you can go ahead and refresh the desktop experience by installing new themes. There are hundreds of free themes to choose from.

Customizing Ubuntu 17.10 appearance

In this guide you will know how to customize two aspects of Ubuntu’s GNOME environment:

1. GTK Themes

A GTK theme provides the widgets (menus, buttons, scrollbar etc.) and layout of the programs. GTK+3 is the latest version as of today available from the GNOME environment. GTK +2 was the predecessor that got upgraded about a decade ago. Ubuntu 17.10 uses GTK3, so you need to downloaded GTK3 themes for installing it. Head-over to GNOME official page to download your favorite theme.

2. GNOME Shell Themes

GNOME Shell theme provides the overall appearance of the desktop such as the top panel, menu, task switcher appearance etc. and other fancy graphics effects. Therefore, a Shell theme is a separate theme again to enhance the look of your Ubuntu user interface. You can download your favorite Shell theme from GNOME.

Using these two components, you can greatly customize your Ubuntu’s appearance. Note that some developers bundle shell and GTK3 theme together, while some don’t, and depends on which theme you are downloading.


In order to install themes, you need to install Gnome Tweak tool.

Installing GNOME Tweak Tool

Launch ‘Terminal’ and enter the following commands one at a time.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool

Next, you need to enable GNOME shell extensions.

Installing GNOME extensions

STEP 1: Launch Firefox browser and go to

STEP 2: Click on link “Click here to install browser extensions”.

Installing GNOME extensions
Installing GNOME extensions

STEP 3: Go ahead and add the add-on.

Add Extensions
Add GNOME Shell Integration

STEP 4: Look for ‘user themes’ and click on the first result ‘User Themes by fmueliner’.

Install User Themes
Install User Themes

STEP 5: Turn it ON by moving the slider.Turn ON User Themes

Turn ON User ThemesGNOME Shell integration is now complete and your PC is ready for installation of themes!

Installing GTK and Shell Themes

For the sake of explanation, I have downloaded the following themes for installation:

GNOME OS-X: This theme is a gnome-desktop-interpretation of Mac OSX. The developer tried to implement the feel of OSX on the gnome-applications and has included both GTK3 and Shell Theme in the downloads.

STEP 1: Go to the official downloaded page and download the GTK and shell themes. I have downloaded Gnome-OSX-V-HSierra-1-3-3.tar.xz which is GTK theme and Gnome-OSX-Shell-themes-V.tar.xz which is shell themes pack.

STEP 2: Open File explorer and create a new folder named .themes. Note that after you create it it won’t be visible. You have to turn ON ‘Show Hidden Files’ from the hamburger menu.

Enable Show Hidden Files
Enable Show Hidden Files
.themes folder
.themes folder

STEP 3: Copy and paste the downloaded theme files into the .themes folder and only extract the GTK theme contents. Delete the tar file of the GTK theme after extraction is complete. Don’t extract the shell theme tar file.

.themes folder contents
.themes folder contents

STEP 4: Launch ‘Tweaks’ application.

Launching Tweaks
Launching Tweaks

STEP 5: In the Tweaks app, click on drop-down arrow in ‘Applications’ and select the GTK theme. Then under the ‘Shell’ section, click ‘(None)’ and navigate and select the tar.xz shell file. You will see the new shell theme appear in the drop-down list. Select it and click OK.

Enabling Themes in Tweaks
Enabling Themes in Tweaks

You should immediately see the shiny new theme settings taking into effect. But I suggest to logout and login again for complete theme integration. Enjoy!

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Hi there! I'm Kiran Kumar, founder of I'm an avid Linux lover, and enjoys hands-on with new promising distros. Currently, I'm using Ubuntu as a daily driver and run several other distros such as Fedora, Solus, Manjaro, Debian, and some new ones on my test PC and virtual machines. I have a day job as an Engineer, and this website is one of my favorite past time activities especially during Winter ;). When I'm not writing for FOSSLinux, I'm seen biking and hiking on scenic trails. Hope you enjoy using this website as much as I do writing for it. Feedback from readers is something that inspires me to do more, and spread Linux love!. If you find time, drop me an email or feedback from 'Contact' page. Or simply leave a comment below if you found this article useful. Have a good day!

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