Software & Apps Linux How to Customize Ubuntu With the Unity Tweak Tool Personalize your Linux desktop environment Share Pin Email Print Linux Switching from Windows By Gary Newell Writer Gary Newell was a freelance contributor, application developer, and software tester with 20+ years in IT, working on Linux, UNIX, and Windows. our editorial process Gary Newell Updated February 11, 2020 While Unity isn't the most customizable of Linux desktop environments there are still a large number of tweaks that can be performed to make your Ubuntu experience as good as it can be. This guide introduces you to the Unity Tweak Tool. You will learn how to customize the launcher, window styles, and settings and general system behavior. This article encompasses item 12 in the list of 33 things to do after installing Ubuntu. Ubuntu After reading this guide you might consider checking out how to customize your Ubuntu desktop wallpaper, or how to install Chrome, Skype, or Dropbox. 01 of 22 Install the Unity Tweak Tool To install the Unity Tweak Tool open the Ubuntu Software Centre, by clicking on the suitcase icon on the launcher, and search for Unity Tweak. Click the Install button in the top right corner and enter your password when it is requested. To open the Tweak Tool open the Dash and search for Tweak. Click on the icon when it appears. 02 of 22 The Unity Tweak Tool User Interface The Tweak Tool has a series of icons split into the following categories: UnityWindow ManagerAppearanceSystem The Unity category allows you to tweak the launcher, the search tool, the top panel, the switcher, web applications and a few miscellaneous items to do with Unity. The Window Manager category allows you to tweak the general Window Manager, Workspace Settings, Window Spread, Window Snapping, Hot Corners and other miscellaneous Window Manager items. The Appearance category allows you to tweak the theme, icons, cursors, fonts and window controls. The System category allows you to tweak the desktop icons, security, and scrolling. 03 of 22 Customize Unity Launcher Behavior Within Ubuntu To customize the launcher behavior click on the launcher icon in the Unity tool. The launcher behavior screen is split into three sections: BehaviorAppearanceIcons By default, the launcher is always visible. You can, however, maximize screen real estate by making the launcher hide until the mouse pointer is moved to either the left side or the top corner. To do this simply slide the auto-hide to On. You can then choose a fade transition theme and choose whether the user should move the mouse to the left or the top corner for the launcher to appear. There is a slider control which lets you adjust the sensitivity. Also in the behavior section is a checkbox which allows you to minimize applications when you click on them. The appearance section lets you adjust the background of the launcher. There is a slider to adjust the transparency level and you can set the background based on the wallpaper or a solid color. Finally, the icons section lets you change the icon sizes within the launcher. You can also amend the animation when an urgent action is required or when an application is launched via the launcher. The options are wiggle, pulse or no animation. By default icons only have a colored background when the application is open. You can adjust this behavior so that icons have a background in the following circumstances: All applicationsOpen applications onlyNo coloringColored edgesAlternated for each workspace Last but not least, you can choose to have a show desktop icon in the launcher. By default, this is turned off but you can change the slider to turn it On. 04 of 22 Customize the Search Tool Within Unity To adjust the search settings either click the search tab or from the overview screen click on the search icon. The search tab is split into four categories: GeneralApplicationsFilesRun Command The first option within the general section lets you determine how the general background looks during a search. You can choose to turn background blur on or off by using the slider. By default, blur is set to On. You can also tweak how the blur looks. The options are active or static. A more interesting option is the ability to search online sources or not. If you just want searches to look at locally installed software and files uncheck the box. Under the applications section there are two checkboxes: Show "More Suggestions"Show "Recently Used" applications By default, both of these options are checked. The files section has a single checkbox: Enable search of your files Again, by default, this option is turned On. The Run Command section has buttons to clear the history. You also have the option to restore defaults. 05 of 22 Customize the Panel at the Top To customize the panel click on the panel tab or from the overview screen click on the panel icon. The screen is split into two sections: GeneralIndicators The general section provides the ability to determine how long the menu appears in seconds. Increase or decrease this as you wish. You can also change the transparency of the panel by moving the slider left or right. For maximized windows, you can choose whether to make the panel opaque by checking the box. The indicators section deals with the items in the top right corner of the screen. There are four main items that can be tweaked: Date & TimeBluetoothPower SettingsVolume You can adjust the way the date and time is displayed to show a 24 or 12-hour clock, show the seconds, date, weekday and calendar. Bluetooth can merely be set to be shown or not shown. The power settings can be set to be displayed all the time when the battery is charging or indeed discharging. The Volume can be set to be shown or not and you can choose whether to show the default audio player. Finally, there is an option to show your name in the top right corner. 06 of 22 Customize the Switcher Most people know that if you press Alt + Tab on the keyboard you can switch applications. You can tweak the way the switcher works by clicking on the Switcher tab or by clicking on the Switcher icon on the overview screen. The screen is split into three categories: GeneralWindow switching shortcutsLauncher switching shortcuts The general section has four checkboxes: Display "Show Desktop" iconSwitch between windows on all workspacesSwitch between minimized windowsAutomatically expose windows The window switching shortcuts show the current key combinations for switching applications. The shortcuts are for: Start switcher (Alt + Tab)Start switcher in reverse (Shift + Alt + Tab)Start switcher for all workspaces (CTRL + Alt + Tab)Start switcher for all workspaces in reverse (Shift + CTRL, Alt + Tab)Flip through windows in the switcher (not set)Flip through windows in the switcher in reverse (not set) You can change the shortcuts by clicking on the shortcut and using the key combination you wish to use. The launcher switching shortcuts section has two shortcuts: Start Switcher (super + Tab)Start Switcher in reverse (Shift + super + Tab) Again you can change the shortcuts by clicking on the shortcut and using the key combination you wish to use. 07 of 22 Customize Web Applications Within Unity To customize the default web applications in Unity click on the web apps tab or click the web apps icon in the overview screen. The screen is split into two sections: GeneralPreauthorized Domains The general tab has an On/Off switch for integration prompts. By default, it is On. The pre-authorized domains have options for Amazon and Ubuntu One (which can be removed). If you don't want web results in Unity uncheck both of these results. 08 of 22 Customize Additional Settings Within Unity To customize the HUD and Keyboard Shortcuts, click on the additional tab or choose the additional icon under the Unity section within the overview screen. The HUD can be customized to remember or forget previous commands by checking or unchecking the box. The keyboard shortcuts section has a list of the following shortcuts: Invoke HUDShow the launcherExecute commandPut keyboard focus on the launcherOpen the first panel menu You can change the keyboard shortcuts by clicking on them and using the shortcut you wish to use. 09 of 22 Change General Window Manager Settings You can change some general window manager settings by clicking the general icon under window manager on the overview screen within the Tweak tool. The screen is split into four sections: GeneralHardware accelerationAnimationsKeyboard shortcuts Under the general section, you can determine whether desktop magnification is switched On or Off and you can choose keyboard shortcuts for zooming in or out. The hardware acceleration section has a single dropdown for determining texture quality. The options are fast, good, or best. The animations section lets you turn animations on and off. You can also choose the animation effects for minimize and unminimize. The animation options are as follows: NoneRandomCurved FoldFadeGlide 1Glide 2Horizontal FoldsMagic LampMagic Lamp WavySidekickZoom Finally, the keyboard shortcuts section has shortcuts for the following actions: Close window (Alt + F4)Move window (Alt + F7)Show desktop (not set) 10 of 22 Customise Workspace Settings Within Unity To adjust the workspace settings click on the workspace settings tab or click the workspace settings icon in the overview screen. The screen is split into two sections: GeneralWorkspace shortcuts The general tab lets you turn workspaces on or off and you can determine how many vertical and how many horizontal workspaces there are. You can also set the current workspace color. In the workspace shortcuts section, you can set the keyboard shortcut to show the workspace switcher (default is super + s). 11 of 22 Customize the Window Spread in Unity The window spread shows a list of open windows. You can tweak how this screen appears by clicking the window spread tab or by clicking the window spread icon on the overview screen. The screen is split into two sections: GeneralWindow Spread Shortcuts The general tab lets you decide whether it is turned on or off. You can also choose how spread out the windows are by increasing or decreasing the number. There are two checkboxes: Icons on previewsClick to access desktop The shortcuts provided are as follows: Start windows spread (super + w)Start windows spread for all windows (super + shift + w) 12 of 22 Customize Window Snapping in Ubuntu To customize the Window Snapping functionality in Ubuntu click the window snapping tab or click the window snapping icon on the overview screen. The screen is split into two sections: GeneralBehavior The general lets you turn snapping on and off and also to change the colors for the outline color and fill color as the snap takes place. The behavior section lets you determine where a window snaps when you drag it to either of the corners of the screen or the top or bottom middle. The options are as follows: Do Nothing Bottom LeftBottom HalfBottom RightLeft HalfFill ScreenRight HalfTop LeftTop HalfTop RightMaximize 13 of 22 Customize Hot Corners Within Ubuntu You can adjust what happens when you click in any of the corners within Ubuntu. Click on the hot corners tab or choose the hot corners icon on the overview screen. The screen is split into two sections: GeneralBehavior The general section simply lets you turn hot corners on or off. The behavior section lets you determine what happens when you click in each corner. The options are as follows: DisabledToggle desktopShow workspacesWindow spreadSpread all windows 14 of 22 Customize Additional Windows Settings Within Ubuntu The final tab in the Unity Tweak tool dealing with the window manager deals with miscellaneous options. Click the additional tab or choose the additional icon under the window manager on the overview screen. The screen is split into three tabs: Focus behaviorTitlebar actionsResizing The Focus behavior deals with auto-raise. You can turn it on or off and set how long the delay is before the window raises. Finally, you can choose the mode out of the following: ClickSloppyMouse Basically, if one window is slightly hidden from another you can click on it to bring it forward, move your mouse closer to it or hover with the mouse over the window. The titlebar actions section has three dropdowns: Double clickMiddle clickRight click These options determine what happen when you perform these actions. The options for each dropdown are as follows: Toggle shadeMaximizeHorizontal expandVertical expandMinimizeNo actionLowerMenu The resizing section lets you determine the colors for the outline and fill when resizing a window. 15 of 22 How to Change the Theme Within Ubuntu You can change the default theme in Ubuntu by clicking on the theme icon under appearance on the overview screen of the Tweak tool. A single list appears showing the available themes. You can select a theme simply by clicking on it. 16 of 22 How to Choose an Icon Set Within Ubuntu As well as changing the theme within Ubuntu you can also change the icon set. Click on the icons tab or choose the icons icon from the overview tab. Again there is simply just a list of themes. Clicking on a set makes it active. 17 of 22 How to Change Default Cursors in Ubuntu To change the cursors within Ubuntu click the cursors tab or click on the cursors icon on the overview screen. As with the icons and themes, a list of available cursors will appear. Click on the set that you wish to use. 18 of 22 How to Change the Font Text Within Unity You can change the fonts for windows and panels within Unity by clicking on the fonts tab or by choosing the fonts icon on the overview screen. There are two sections: GeneralAppearance The general section lets you set the default fonts and sizes for: Default fontDocument fontMonospace fontWindowspace font The appearance section lets you set the options for antialiasing, hinting and the text scaling factor. 19 of 22 How to Customize the Window Controls Within Ubuntu To customize the window controls click the window controls tab or click the window controls icon on the overview screen. The screen is split into two sections: LayoutPreferences The layout section lets you determine where the controls are shown (maximize, minimize etc). The options are left and right. You can also choose to add the show menu button. The preferences section simply lets you restore the defaults. 20 of 22 How to Add Desktop Icons Within Ubuntu To add and remove the desktop icons within Ubuntu click the desktop icons icon within the Unity Tweak tool. The items you can display are as follows: Home folderNetwork folderRubbish binDevices You can select an icon simply by clicking it. 21 of 22 Customize Unity Security Settings Within Ubuntu To customize the security settings click on the security tab or choose the security icon on the overview screen. You can disable or enable the following items by checking or unchecking their boxes: desktop lockprintinguser logoutuser switching 22 of 22 Customize the Scrollbars in Ubuntu You can customize the way Ubuntu scrolling works by clicking on the scrolling tab or by clicking the scrolling icon on the overview screen. The screen is split into two sections: ScrollbarsTouch scrolling The scrollbars have two options: overlaylegacy If you choose overlay you can choose the default behavior for the overlay from one of the following: DefaultOverlay with mouseNo overlay The touch scrolling section lets you choose the edge or two finger scrolling.