(If you want, you may read from the introduction to this series HERE.)

This day is starting early. We are going to a family get together in a few hours (why is the end of the year always to crazy!?) and I want to get something readable for you guys who are following this series before I am Internetless for a few hours.

I have something interesting for you folks – a custom unity launcher…


Yesterday I suggested that it may be possible to skin your unity launcher? Well I was right, you can, and in precisely the manner I described too.

Have a look at the screenshot below…

Custom - ugly - Unity

Check me cool Unity Launcher Folks! (Click To Enlarge)

Looks slightly different, doesn’t it?

Okay, it looks amateurish and horrible – that is not the point. Also note that I have changed the wallpaper.

How does one do it? Actually rather easy. You will need:

  • Root Access to your machine
  • Gimp or other image editor of your choice
  • A terminal
  • Artistic Talent (optional. I have none and I managed this one…)

And here is a step by step:

  1. Go to /usr/share/unity/themes/ and find ‘launcher_background_middle.png’
  2. Make a directory in /home/$user/Pictures for your working files. I named mine ‘unity’
  3. Copy launcher_background_middle.png to this directory as a backup
  4. Now open this file in gimp and edit it to your hearts content. Remember that it is a tiled image, so you will be limited to straight vertical lines, or a pattern. I decided to go for some transparency (I am very glad that Unity Launcher supports images with transparency :-)) and a combo of vertical lines and a custom pattern. If you look closely at my Unity Launcher you will just be able to make out where the tiles meet up, I need to tweak my image a little.
  5. Save this image BUT NOT AS launcher_background_middle.png! Give it a unique name, I usually prepend a number i.e 1_launcher_background_middle.png etc.
  6. Execute the following command in your terminal: cp YOUR_NEW_IMAGE_NAME /usr/share/unity/themes/launcher_background_middle.png
  7. And then once that is done (should be instant) you should execute in your terminal: killall -HUP mutter
  8. This will cause your desktop to blink out, and then once mutter recovers from that you will have your new launcher.

Note that on slower machines you might want to opt for logging out of your session and logging back in, I don’t want you to break your session and needing to hard reset your machine…

The copying of images and resetting of mutter should be doable in a script, I will try and make one over the weekend. If it is any good, and hopes are not high – the horribleness of my coding skills are the stuff of legend – I will share it as part of this series.

Seriously, senior Techs tell stories of my code around campfires to scare noobies. I am thinking of a movie, “Tales From The Script.”

The Best Way?

If you know of any better ways to do things in Unity, like change your wallpaper, for instance, let me know.

Right now I am off to go wash the dishes, and if I am so inclined I might upload my images for Unity Launcher for you to try out…


A theme for you

Okay, so I fiddled around and built myself a little Unity theme. It is basically HoneyComb crazy. I managed to change the Unity Launcher, the Ubuntu Menu Button and even the top Panel to have a honeycomb effect.

Unity Launcher now looks a lot like the launcher did when I previewed Unity in May (You can have a look at the “old” Unity at that post HERE.)

Have a look at my new theme for Unity below:

Unity Honeycomb Theme

My Unity Honeycomb Theme (Click For Full Size)

If you think it is a bit amateurish and too much honeycomb you are probably correct. It is for my personal enjoyment though, and will probably change it again tomorrow.

If you want it you can have it of course, below is the tar archive of the directory.

Unity Theme (tar archive)

Installing the theme should be easy, but here is a disclaimer – if you break your Unity, you are on your own. This needs you to fiddle around in root, and it can be a bit dangerous. I am sure that Unity will be skinnable in future releases.

Here is how you need to install the new Unity Theme:

  1. Open a terminal, and type the following: cp -R /usr/share/unity/themes ~/
    This will copy the current Unity theme to your home directory for a backup, if you tire of my theme you can use this to restore your old Unity Theme.
  2. Download the tar file above and extract it in your Downloads folder.
  3. In terminal type: cd ~/Downloads
    This will take you to where your new theme has been extracted.
  4. Now, type: sudo cp -R themes /usr/share/unity/
    This will replace the current Unity theme with mine.
  5. Type: killall -HUP mutter
    This will reload mutter, and after your screen blinks in and out of your desktop and back in again you will have your new Unity them as active. Alternatively you can log out and login again to activate the theme.

Note that this theme does not include the wallpaper – that comes standard with Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat.


I enjoyed myself fooling around with re-skinning Unity so much that I up and made another theme. This one features a lot of snakeskin.

Have a look

Snake Theme

Unity Snake Theme (Click To Enlarge)

I scrounged the webs to find royalty free images to use for this one, you’d be surprised how many images of snake and reptile skin you can find out there… creative commons search is your friend.

Summary Day 4

I spent most of today at a family gathering, and after getting home entirely knackered from playing with the kids and being nice to family I got to fiddling with Unity to round of the Day 4 post.

I will probably tweak this theme, and finish a few other I am playing with. I will upload them when I finish them.

Thanks for reading so far! Tomorrow, Day 5, and we see how Unity does usability wise when going head to head with the other desktop environments commonly in use. Bye for today.

Day 5 IS UP! Have a look how Unity does in our 25 part test!

Will you switch away from Ubuntu because of Unity?

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Related posts:

  1. Using Unity – Day 7
  2. Using Unity – Day 6
  3. Using Unity – Day 5 How Does It Compare to Gnome Shell?
  4. Using Unity – Day 3
  5. Lightweight Distro Roundup: Day 5 – Dreamlinux