Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

DesktopBSD day 10 – Customizing the desktop

Recently I saw a message flashing by, explaining that Microsoft had patented a method for the computer to read my mind. If that isn’t a recipe for disaster I don’t know what is. I would settle for a computer than can feel my moods and adjust the visual desktop and the system sounds accordingly. On the other hand, how much good would it do for someone with a bout of depression to see the desktop turn into something that could hang on the wall of the Adams family?

While the more intelligent minds start to wrestle with that problem, we will take care of our own desktops today. Customizing the desktop to your own needs and wants is something you want to do quickly and easily. Just like real candy. If you have to prepare the candy from scratch, you loose you appetite along the way. How easy is it to change the look-N-feel of the KDE desktop?

Changing the theme

The KDE desktop from DesktopBSD is already great. The whole theme, including the NuoveXT icon set, is pleasant to look at.


Changing the theme isn’t difficult. The central hub for today is the control center, to be found at Control Center or lower Settings -> Control Center. We will stick mostly to the submenu Appearance & Settings. The Theme Manager screen has a link called “Get new theme” and that launches the KDE look website. For those that don’t know KDE look: it is packed with eye candy to make your desktop more attractive. The site provides user ratings for the numerous items.


I decided to try out a relatively new theme: A3rialKDE. As you can see it is very, very much inspired by the Windows Vista Aero desktop. You simply download the package and unpack it in you own user folder.


The A3rialKDE package is a good example of what is involved in an almost complete theme set. In Theme Manager you can click on Install New Theme.. and then browse to the A3rialKDE.kth file. *.kth is the extension for the actual theme files. Then click on Colors and repeat the same for the A3rialKDE.kcsrc file. As step number 3 select Background and navigate to the A3rial KDE Wallpaper. The final step is to change the background of the panel (kicker). Go to the Desktop submenu and select Panels. On the tab Appearance you see the options for Panel Background. Just navigate to the A3rialKDE kicker file.

desktopbsd-day10-customizing-05.png desktopbsd-day10-customizing-06.png

The result is something that resembles the Windows Vista desktop.


Changing the icon set

The thing I didn’t like was the size of the desktop icons. Changing that isn’t difficult. Just go to Appearance & Themes -> Icons and select the tab Advanced. Here you can change the size of various subsets of icons.

The tab Theme is used to select the icon set for you KDE desktop. When you select New, you have to navigate to the specific file. There is no direct link to the KDE look website here. Well, I wanted a different icon set and went looked around a bit.

One set attracted my attention. The Dark Glass set. The screenshots are absolutely amazing. Great looking 3D icons. Unfortunately the download was very slow and I had to move on. This one stays on the wish list though.

I downloaded some other packages and installed them. There is no need to unpack the downloaded sets.

And that’s just the start

Compared to GNOME’s theme manager (just dowload-N-drag-N-drop) KDE requires a little more effort. On the plus side, you can adjust every feature of the desktop to your personal liking. Sounds, screensaver, colors, window decorations, fonts, style, it’s just you and your imagination.

Hidden under Utilities -> Desktop there is also Superkaramba to add your favorite widget/gadget to the desktop, Personally, my experience with Superkaramba is very mixed and more negative than positive, but others seem to like it.


Going personal

I kind of like the new face of this weblog. It’s bright, clean, with primary colors. The A3rialKDE desktop is nice, but a bit too dark for my mood.


So, I took the header from the weblog and created a new wallpaper in GIMP. Then I went through the Appearance & Settings submenu and altered the various options to fit the wallpaper. When you wish to change the colors there is a neat dripping tool to get the right color, in this case from the wallpaper. The result isn’t completely what I want, but it is getting close enough. And it took me just a few minutes.



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