If you’re on the pursuit of eye-candy, perhaps a Mac OS X flavour or even want to pretend you’re still in Windows-land then with enough tweaking and the right resources you can.
The following tools and resources are all free (as usual) and should hopefully transform your drab GNOME desktop into a pimped-out play area.
Compiz Settings Manager
Compiz is responsible for all those pretty animations, fades and window-wobbles that your Ubuntu install can already do. If you want to pick and choose, however, you’re going to need to install the Compiz Settings Manager.
Open up a new Terminal window (Applications, Accessories then Terminal) and type:
sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager
Input your password when asked and once the download and installation is complete you will find a new entry in System, Preferences called CompizConfig Settings Manager. Open her up and behold at the treasure-trove of effects and eye-candy.
Then it’s up to you – but I’d recommend you enable Desktop Cube and Rotate Cube which provides 3D goodness when switching between desktops.
Emerald Window Decorator
Easily the best of all the window decorators, Emerald provides elegance and advanced behaviour customization all in one package. There’s a startling amount of themes available, most of which are beautifully put together, with lashings of transparency.
I personally didn’t like GNOME’s default (GTK) window decorator all that much, so when I found this I breathed a sigh of relief. To install Emerald (and everything it needs to work) simply open a new Terminal window and type:
sudo apt-get install compiz compiz-plugins compiz-gnome compiz-core emerald compiz-fusion-plugins-main compiz-fusion-plugins-extra fusion-icon compizconfig-settings-manager
This will also install the Compiz Fusion Icon, a useful system tray icon that allows you to switch window decorators, change themes and access configuration settings with ease. Once installed you’ll find it in Applications, System Tools then Compiz-Fusion Icon.
This package (despite being slightly outdated) attempts to bring the OS X interface to a variety of non-Mac platforms. This will work on Linux, FreeBSD, openSolaris and any OS that takes advantage of GTK.
To install the package simply download the .ZIP file from the downloads page and unzip it to a directory of your choice. You’ll then need to find the Mac4Lin_Install_v1.0.sh file, right click it and choose Properties then the Persmissions tab. Check Allow executing file as a program and then OK Double click it, choose Run in Terminal and you’ll then be guided through the installation.
Once complete you should notice some familiar Apple icons, be able to choose the Mac4Lin Aqua or Graphite themes, as well as OS X fonts and wallpapers. Ideal if you’re already running Ubuntu on your Mac and just can’t let go of that OS X look.
There’s also a Mac4Lin_Uninstall_v1.0.sh file, which (you guessed it) removes the OS X look. Just remember to make it executable first.
Get The Windows Look
If you’re particularly fond of the way Windows dresses itself up then it is possible to imitate the environment with GNOME. For a Windows XP look then try XPGnome which does a startlingly good job and will fool most of your pals.
If you’ve recently come from Windows 7 and find yourself missing the interface then there’s also theto transform Ubuntu’s interface into that of Microsoft’s latest offering.
It is worth mentioning that there’s a chance something might go wrong, and neither author takes responsibility for this. But you probably knew that, so tweak away.
There’s a number of great resources for downloading Emerald (and other) themes, icons, wallpapers and dock skins, and you won’t have to spend a penny!
Gnome Look – An exhaustive collection of user-contributed themes for a huge variety of applications. Probably the best place to find that theme you’re after.
GNOME Art – The official repository for GNOME skins and customization. There’s a fair few themes and backgrounds, plus the chance to contribute and submit your own efforts. You can even add an awesome tool that connects to the site and allows you to peruse from the comfort of your desktop.
ubuntu.hamdi.web.id – A nice blog with a decent collection of downloads for customizing your Linux install.
DevinantArt – You’ve probably heard of DeviantArt before and if you can get past the mounds of pretentious crap then there’s a wealth of skins and themes for pretty much any OS, window manager or application you happen to be using. Make sure you choose to view submissions from All Time when browsing for the best of the bunch.
There’s bound to be something here for everyone. I was going to mention Linux docks, but we’ve already got an excellent article all about them. If you’re sick of GNOME and fancy giving KDE a try (Kubuntu, essentially) then you can do that too. There’s also a few other desktop environments you might want to take a look at if you’re really bored.
Have you got any other tips and tricks to a sexier Ubuntu desktop? Perhaps you’d like to share your desktop with the rest of us and let us know how you achieved it – post away in the comments!