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Chapter 6. Customizing Your Desktop (or ... > Is That a Theme or a Motif?

Is That a Theme or a Motif?

I'm referring not to a musical theme but to a desktop theme. A theme is a collection of buttons, decorations, colors, backgrounds, and so on, preselected and packaged to give your desktop a finished and coherent look. Some themes even incorporate sounds (for startup, shutdown, opening and closing program windows, etc.) into the whole package. It can be a lot of fun.

Then we have styles, which are sort of like themes but are not as all-encompassing. Styles tend to concentrate on window decorations and behavior as well as widgets. Widgets are things like radio buttons, checkboxes, combo boxes (drop-down lists), sliders, tabs, and so on.

All right, I know you want to get to it and change your theme a time or two, but first I'm going to tell you something rather important. Most (if not all) of the things I've shown you so far on customizing your desktop can be done through the KDE Control Center. You'll find it by clicking on the big K and looking for Control Center. If you are having trouble locating it, remember that you can bring it up by pressing <Alt+F2> and typing in kcontrol, its program name.

As soon as the KDE Control Center loads up, it displays some capsule information about the system, its hostname, and the version of Linux running on it. Over on the left side, an index page covers a number of items that can be either viewed or modified on the system. I say either because some of what you see here is just information and cannot be changed. One of these items is Appearances and Themes. Click the plus sign beside it, and you'll get a list of options for changing your desktop environment's look and feel (Figure 6-4).

Figure 6-4. Changing the look and feel in KDE's control panel with Appearances and Themes.

Almost everything you could possibly ever want to do to alter your desktop experience is here. Change the background, colors, fonts, icons, screensaver . . . you name it. It is all here! That includes your themes and styles. Go ahead: Click on Style and select a style from the Widget Style list. As you click, the preview window will show you how it affects the overall look. If you just want to see it in action but you don't want to commit yet, click Apply. When you know you can live with the changes, click OK.

Let's look at a couple of those look and feel changes and see how they affect what you do and how you work.

Window Decorations

This is also your opportunity to undo something I had you change back in Chapter 4. When you ran kpersonalizer, I had you select the Plastik style so that we could all be on the same page (so to speak) in terms of what you see in your title bar. Figures 6-5 through 6-7 show the KDE2 (Classic), Plastik, and Keramik window decorations, respectively.

Figure 6-5. KDE 2 Classic window decoration.

Figure 6-6. Plastik (KDE 3.4 default) window decoration.

Figure 6-7. Keramik (KDE 3.3 default) window decoration.

If you would like to use something else, you can make that change now. Just remember that things may look a little different than what I show you in the book from here on. With that little disclaimer in place, you may now express your individuality.

Themes and Styles

Themes and styles are essentially collections of look and feel changes. A style is a collection of definitions affecting primarily widgets (buttons, tabs, etc.; see Figure 6-8). A theme, on the other hand, might encompass changes in window decorations, wallpaper, colors, and icons to create a cohesive, integrated desktop experience, whereas a change in window decoration would affect only the window decoration itself.

Figure 6-8. Changing styles are reflected in the KDE Control Center.

The theme manager (Figure 6-9) is similar. Under the heading Choose your visual KDE theme, you'll see a list of the installed themes, with a preview window to the right. Below is a list of buttons that allow you to override the settings that come with a particular theme. If you don't like the theme's default background (but you like everything else), click the Background button and make your changes. You can even create your own themes if you feel the creative urge.

Figure 6-9. Theme manager options in the Control Center.

The fashion slaves among you will quickly grow tired of the themes and styles your system comes with—there are quite a few, but not nearly enough for those surfing the edges of what's hot today. That's why you should keep this little Web site in mind:


This site has tons of themes, styles, alternative wallpapers, and icons—enough to keep you busy for a long, long time. Now, I know we haven't talked about getting on the Net yet; we still have a few things to cover. If you just can't wait, then jump ahead to Chapter 9, “Connecting to the Internet.” Just make sure you come back here. You wouldn't want to miss anything.

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