4 Simple Tools for Tweaking Ubuntu’s Look and Feel

Justin Pot 16-11-2011

Do you like Ubuntu, but wish it behaved differently? Don’t worry, there are a variety of ways to change how Ubuntu looks to your liking.


It’s been a key criticism since the launch of Unity, that Ubuntu is now impossible to configure. Ubuntu 11.10, the latest version of Ubuntu 10 Ways to Make Ubuntu 16.04 Feel Like Home Ubuntu 16.04 is an LTS release, so you get five years of updates, and not have to worry about installing a new version for a while. But what do you do once you've installed Ubuntu... Read More , is a mixed bag on this front. Some things, like automated backup, are easier to configure than ever before. Other things, like screensavers, are seemingly completely missing.

Let’s take a look at some tools that give the power back to you, the user. Then let’s have a conversation about other tools for the job in the comments below.

Gnome Tweak

Designed to make Gnome 3 and its Gnome Shell easier to customize, Gnome Tweak gives access to many Ubuntu/Unity tweaks as well.

Those wanting to change Ubuntu’s look will be particularly interested, because Gnome Tweak Tool gives you back the ability to change icon themes and more. Why this disappeared in Gnome 3 I’m not sure, but at least with Gnome Tweak we can do this again.

change how ubuntu looks


Read more about Gnome Tweak 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 or click here to install Gnome Tweak.

Compiz Configuration

Do you want a finer level of control over how Ubuntu behaves? If you’re using the Unity 3D interface, you’re actually using Compiz. In fact, the Unity “desktop” is really just a Compiz plugin. This means the CompizConfig Settings Manager can give you a great deal of power over the Unity Desktop and its behavior.

change ubuntu appearance

Want to know more? Read more about configuring Unity with the CompizConfig Settings Manager How To Change The Settings Of Ubuntu Unity With CompizConfig Settings Manager Ubuntu's latest release, version 11.04, brings with it a completely new desktop interface called Unity. Its release has received mixed reviews, though honestly it comes down to taste. There is never a piece of software... Read More or simply click here to install CompizConfig Settings Manager. You’ll find a wide variety of configuration options:


change ubuntu appearance


Most people probably didn’t notice this, because most people don’t really use screensavers anymore. If you’re a screensaver addict though, you almost certainly cried after installing Ubuntu 11.10, which pretty much completely removed all screensavers in favor of a blank screen.

Don’t worry: Liberian Geek found out how to re-add screensavers to Ubuntu 11.10. The process consists of the following commands:

sudo apt-get remove gnome-screensaver
sudo apt-get install xscreensaver xscreensaver-gl-extra xscreensaver-data-extra

Once you do that, you need to add this program to your startup, in the main Ubuntu settings menu:

xscreensaver -nosplash

change ubuntu appearance

This should give you access, once again, to your screensaver of choice. Need more precise instructions? Read Liberian Geek’s article on xScreenSaver.

Ubuntu Tweak

It is perhaps the single most famous Ubuntu configuration tool, and certainly the one with the most Ubuntu-specific customizations. If you want to make changes to Ubuntu, I highly recommend you check out Ubuntu Tweak.

change how ubuntu looks


Highlights include quick access to programs not found in the repositories, a package cleaner, theming access and the ability to change default programs for various filetypes. Read more about Ubuntu Tweak or Visit the project’s websites for download information.


There you have it – 4 tools for customizing Ubuntu. If one of these don’t work of you, of course, you could always test one of Ubuntu’s many versions Why Are There So Many Versions of Ubuntu? [Technology Explained] Read More in order to replace Unity entirely.

Those of you unwilling to take that leap, however, should join in the comments below. I’d love to discuss other tricks for tweaking Ubuntu, so let me know what you think of.

Related topics: GNOME Shell, Ubuntu.

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  1. GeekLad
    November 16, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Be careful with messing around with CompizConfig.  If you enable any modules that conflict with Unity, all hell can break loose.  When I messed things up, the best way to restore it was to:

    1) Disable Unity in CompizConfig
    2) Log into virtual terminal 1 (ctrl+alt+F1) and run unity --reset
    3) Renable Unity in CompizConfig and ignore all conflicts (i.e. Unity takes them back over)

    • jhpot
      November 17, 2011 at 2:23 am

      Thanks for the tip! I should have included that, but it's good to have backup in the form of a former MUOer.

    • Mac
      November 17, 2011 at 4:35 am

      Write! I've encountered such a disaster! :((

  2. Nvidiathlon
    November 16, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    where can i get that mario wallpaper D:?