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Some of the default icon sets that come with Linux distributions are just plain ugly. Have you ever looked at the default icon set for Gnome? While it works, it could look so much better. Thankfully, we can fix this rather easily. Here’s how you can switch icon sets, and which ones I recommend trying out.

How to Install

gnome_tweak_interface
To install an icon set, you’ll first want to install Gnome Tweak Tool, a utility that allows you to access more configurability settings Configure Your Gnome 3 Desktop With Gnome Tweak Tool Configure Your Gnome 3 Desktop With Gnome Tweak Tool There aren't exactly a bazillion different customization options for just about anything, as GNOME 3/Shell is still relatively new. If you're one of those people who can't stand GNOME 3 as long as you cannot... Read More . This will allow you to switch between installed icon sets. Next, find your desired icon set and download it. Extract the contents of the zip folder, and place them in /home/<user>/.icons. Different icon sets should be in their own folders within the .icons folder. If you can’t see the .icons folder, you’ll need to enable visibility of hidden files and folders. In Nautilus, you can do this by simply hitting Ctrl + H on your keyboard.

Then, you can go to the Interface tab in Gnome Tweak Tool and switch to the icon set you want. The change should apply immediately.

If you’re a KDE user, you don’t have to install anything extra. Just go to System Settings > Appearance > Icons and choose the icon set you want.

There are loads of icon sets available, but which ones are good and worth trying out? Take a look at these 9 icon sets.

Moka

linuxicons-moka
Moka is currently the hottest icon set available. It’s clean and very well designed — all icons have the same size and square shape with rounded corners. It’s also one of the more complete icon sets available, with a number of icons made for various third-party applications, and not just for generic items or default applications.

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Faience/Faenza

linuxicons_faience
Faience/Faenza are a pair of icon themes by developer tiheum that are also wildly popular, although their heyday was roughly around the time when Gnome Shell was first released. The design concepts are actually very similar to Moka’s, but this theme also includes darker themes that can fit in well with light desktop themes.

Awoken

linuxicons_awoken
Awoken follows a completely different design concept that doesn’t use square icons for everything. Instead, Awoken first gained popularity from its original mono mode of icons. It has since evolved to include colored icons as well as dark and white themes. I think they look a little cartoony, but it’s not a bad thing — the icons are still cleanly designed.

Numix

linuxicons_numix-square

Numix goes back to the square icon concept, and offers some of the flattest icons around. The colors used in this one are also a bit brighter — sometimes intentional to add exaggerated effects. However, its simplicity is attractive.

linuxicons_numix-circle
Unlike other icon sets, you have a choice between square or circle icons. They look the same; only the shape is different. I welcome this option since (as you might already be able to tell) there’s an abundance of square icon sets.

Nitrux

linuxicons-nitrux
The icons found in the Nitrux set also follow square design principles, but these look much more three-dimensional and glossy. Yet again, this set also has its own style that works great and gels well among itself.

Candy

linuxicons-candy
If you like the type of icons that come with most distributions, but just don’t like their style, the Candy icon set is for you. Icons here aren’t all squares or circles, but rather just in the shape of whatever the icon depicts. It’s straightforward and not too fancy.

Elementary

linuxicons_elementary
Elementary OS has been getting a ton of attention from my colleague Akshata Why I Switched From Windows 7 To Elementary OS Luna Why I Switched From Windows 7 To Elementary OS Luna Bye bye, Windows. Hello, Linux! Here's what convinced me that eOS Luna is a better bet than Windows 7. Read More , and the broader Linux community, over recent months. Part of the reason: it looks fantastic. The distribution’s icon set has something to do with that, so thankfully you can get it for your own Linux system without having to install Elementary OS. This one is similar in style to Candy, but it does come off as slightly more elegant. Or maybe that’s just the prestige talking.

Mac

linuxicons-mac
You can’t deny that the icons in Mac OS X look pretty nice, so it’s no surprise that someone made an icon set based off of Apple’s operating system. This isn’t a perfect copy of the icons used in Mac OS X, but the inspiration is clear enough. If you like Apple’s icons, then this is a good icon set for you.

There you go! Those were nine great icon sets that you can try out with ease. Be sure to check out the installation instructions for the icon sets above — while my instructions at the beginning of this article apply to all Linux distributions, there are some icon sets that provide Ubuntu PPAs that make installation easier What Is An Ubuntu PPA & Why Would I Want To Use One? [Technology Explained] What Is An Ubuntu PPA & Why Would I Want To Use One? [Technology Explained] Read More .

What’s your favorite icon set? What do you like most about it? Let us know in the comments!

  1. Slobodan
    October 5, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    Great article.
    I use dark theme on Kubuntu and am having problem because most icon packs have dark actions icons. I believe one of the packs You mentioned will solve problem for us with dark themes.
    Thanks.

  2. sam
    June 23, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Nuvola (an old KDE icon set) is cool too, and i believe it's on the ubuntu repositories.

  3. sam
    June 23, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    ACYL (AnyColorYouLike) is a nice theme too, it comes with scripts to change color and other preferences (for example, it has various options for the folder icon). Search for it at gnome-look.org

  4. David Darr
    May 9, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    I really like the FlatWoken icon set .

  5. David Darr
    May 9, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    I really like the FlatWoken icon set .

  6. me
    April 24, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    if it's not broken why fix it

  7. BJ
    April 24, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Other than the fact that the author generalized GNOME to be the whole of linux on the article title, it is really nice to see so many great looking and complete icon sets.

  8. donespo
    April 24, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    I've been using Faience for a few years now in conjunction with the Adwaita Cupertino windows theme. Makes for a very clean, Mac-like UI.

    Just a couple of (hopefully helpful) notes.

    1. If you use the Faience icon set, you also have to download and install the Faenza set as well because Faience has several symbolic links to Faenza icons so if it's not there you get no icon at all. Latest versions are at deviantart.com.
    2. Adwaita Cupertino theme has been updated for Gnome 3.6.x The developer has renamed it to Gnome Cupertino. You'll find it at gnome-look.org.

  9. KT
    April 24, 2014 at 1:13 am

    Those are some pretty sweet preferences. I usually just use one of the choices that come with the distro and tweak it with Compiz Fusion. I'm gonna try a few of these for kicks.

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