I don’t really like the way Ubuntu’s default Gnome setup looks. Primarily because I have my tablet, which has a small 12.1 inch screen. I also like to change the theme. Since I have such a small screen, I will do almost anything to increase how much information I can see at the same time (short of getting a laptop with a bigger screen, or an external monitor, of course.) So, many of these tips are inspired or taken from Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

To illustrate the changes I make, here are before and after screenshots of my computer’s look.

Original Final

First step is to install window picker applet: a window picker in your title bar that also has a window close button, and maximus: a program that removes the title bar (the bar with the maximize, minimize, and close buttons) or “un-decorates” maximized windows.

sudo apt-get install window-picker-applet maximus

now the default behavior of maximus is to force all window to be maximized, to change this, add the argument “-m” when running it. It automatically runs on boot, so to change this, go to System > Preferences > Startup Applications, find “Maximus Window Management” in the list, choose it, and click “edit”. Then, change the command to “maximus -m”.

Now, you need to add the window-picker-applet to your Gnome Panel in order to be able to close the open window easily. Right-click on the top middle part of the top Gnome Panel (the bar at the top of the screen), go to “Add To Panel” and add “Window Picker”.

Removing Useless Panel Things:
Remove the following panel applets by right-clicking on them and selecting “Remove From Panel”:

  • User Switcher Applet (top right corner) (also remove the seperator [line] to the left of it).
  • Menu Bar (top left corner, its the equivelent of the “start menu”
  • The three shortcuts next to the menu bar (Firefox, Mail, and Help)  (if you are using Gnome-do, you don’t need them)

Now, remove the ENTIRE BOTTOM PANEL by right-clicking in a blank area, and selecting “Delete this panel”

Add the following panel applets to the top panel in this order (left to right) If you don’t know what the applets you already have on the panel are called, then just remove all the applets and start from a blank top panel.

  1. Main Menu
  2. Drawer (optional: use this if you want some program shortcuts in the menu bar still.)
  3. Window Picker
  4. CPU Frequency Scaling Monitor (go to Preferences and set this to be the icon to take up less space)
  5. Notification Area
  6. Indicator Applet
  7. Volume Control
  8. Workplace Switcher
  9. Clock
  10. Trash
  11. Shut Down

You should configure the clock by adding your location (right-click > preferences > location) and removing the date so it is smaller.  This way you get the date on mouseover, and the weather to the left of the clock at all times.

You also may want to shrink or grow the panel size by a few pixels, the icons in window-picker are cut off a bit at the default 24 pixels, if that  bothers you increase it to 26,  but you can actually decrease it all the way to 23 px and it still be usable.

Now, to change Ubuntu to a darker colour theme (I don’t like my screen to burn my eyes), right-click on the desktop (get to the desktop by hitting crl-alt-d now), go to properties, and “change Desktop Bakcground”, then you can go to the “Themes” tab and select Dust.  I also go to the “Fonts” tab, and change the font rendering to “Best Contrast” instead of “subpixel smoothing”.

Removing Menu Items

When I installed all those programs, I also installed all of the suggested programs.  These ensure that more features of the programs will work, and more smoothly, but it also clutters up my programs menu with a bunch of stuff that I will never use, things like dolphin and konsole are unnecessary when you are using Gnome.

Unfortunately, editing the Gnome menu is not as easy as it is in Windows (this has to be one of the only things I think windows does wayy better)  You must use the slow and clunky and buggy Menu Editor program. (significantly improved from the last version, but still not great)

Click your new Menu Button (top left corner) go to System > Preferences > Main Menu.

Now you can go through, reorganize, and remove the icons you don’t want.

Here is a list of changes I made in no particular order:

  • move cellwriter from Universal Access to Acessories (drag to copy, then uncheck in the original location)
  • In Accessories, uncheck kwrite
  • In graphics, uncheck Hugin Batch Stitcher (its a terminal app used by the panorama creator…)
  • Move Bluefish Editor from Programming to Office (drag to copy, then uncheck in the original location)
  • Move Fusion-Icon from System Tools to Accessories (drag to copy, then uncheck in the original location)
  • In System Tools, uncheck Dolphin and Konsole
  • Uncheck everything in “Other” (this is all repeated in the Preferences menu)
  • In Preferences, Create the following new menus: “Display”, and “Input”.
  • Move “Appearance”, “Compiz Config Settings Manager”, “Main Menu”, “QT4 Settings”, “Screensaver”, and “Windows” from Preferences  into Preferences > Display  (you have to drag it to the display folder in the left sidebar, then uncheck the originals)
  • Move “Ketboard”, “Keyboard Shortcuts”, “Mouse”,  “On Board” and “On Board Settings (check these), and “SCIM Input Method Setup” from Preferences in to Preferences > Input. (you have to drag it to the display folder in the left sidebar, then uncheck the originals)