Linux is known for being customizable, and the Ubuntu desktop is no exception. But that doesn’t mean you can adjust everything you want out of the box. That requires the installation of additional software.
Fortunately, GNOME Tweaks is a free, one-stop shop for making many of the, well, tweaks you wish to make. Here’s a look at the ways you can use it to configure much of your Ubuntu experience.
1. Change Application Theme
Newcomers may not know this, but most of Ubuntu’s interface isn’t unique to Ubuntu. Much of what you see comes courtesy of the GNOME desktop environment (hence the name GNOME Tweaks). Part of what Ubuntu does to differentiate itself is use its own custom theme, known as Yaru.
If you don’t want to use Ubuntu’s theme, GNOME Tweaks offers the easiest way to change it without opening a terminal. You can change the look of many applications by opening GNOME Tweaks and selecting a new theme. Look under Appearance > Themes > Legacy Applications.
As the name of the setting suggests, this won’t impact all applications. Many newer GNOME apps require a different process to go about changing their appearance which is more than GNOME Tweaks can handle.
2. Change the GNOME Shell Theme
What we describe as the “theme” is broken up into multiple parts. The desktop theme alters applications, but it doesn’t touch the toolbar across the top or change the look of the overview that you see when you click on Activities or press the Super key.
To change this part of your desktop, you need to select a new GNOME Shell theme. That’s because this aspect of what you see on screen is known as GNOME Shell, GNOME’s shell or interface for interacting with your apps. You can do this under Appearance > Themes > Shell. But first, you must install the User Themes GNOME extension.
3. Change Icon Theme
What about the icons that show up when you open the Files app? Those icons that appear in toolbars within applications? You can change those too, and yes, they also require their own separate theme.
Many desktop themes come with a companion icon theme, but you are welcome to mix and match. Or you can switch out Ubuntu’s Yaru theme for GNOME Adwaita icons if you want to see GNOME apps the way GNOME designers envisioned them.
4. Tweak Lock Screen
The lock screen probably isn’t something you spend much time looking at, but it is something you see often. It’s the first impression many of us get when we sit down at our machines. On computers that aren’t set to fall asleep, the lock screen may serve as a defacto screensaver.
People looking to complete their Ubuntu theme renovation eventually find that they may need to swap out the lock screen background too. You can find that setting under Appearance > Lock Screen.
5. Tweak Clock Appearance
The clock is an ever-present part of most computer interfaces. In Ubuntu, it sits at the top of the screen, directly in the center. The Settings app gives you the option to switch between 12-hour or 24-hour time, which is as much configuration as most of us want. But if you want to tweak the clock further, that’s where GNOME Tweaks comes in.
Under Top Bar > Clock, you can toggle whether to display the weekday, the date, or even seconds.
6. Adjust Fonts
When you spend hours a day reading a text on a screen, how that text looks can matter a great deal. Is the text too small? Does it look blurry? Do you wish to use a different font? These are things you can address in GNOME Tweaks.
Head to Fonts, where you can change your font, adjust the size, tweak hinting, change antialiasing, and alter scaling.
7. Add or Remove Titlebar Buttons
Windows, macOS, and ChromeOS all have minimize, maximize, and close buttons in their title bars. GNOME has a different workflow, so there’s only a close button in the top-right of each window. Ubuntu, on the other hand, has minimize and maximize buttons as well.
If you think apps look better with just a close button, you can make this adjustment using GNOME Tweaks. Or if you prefer to have all of your buttons on the left, like on a MacBook (or previous versions of Ubuntu), then you can make that tweak as well. Just look under Window Titlebars > Titlebar Buttons.
8. Keep Laptop Awake When Closed
Sometimes you may want to use a laptop as a desktop. You have an external keyboard and mouse. You have an external monitor. You’re all set. Or maybe you want to turn your laptop into a home media server.
Either way, you don’t need the laptop’s built-in display, so how do you prevent the laptop from going to sleep when closed? Open GNOME Tweaks, then go to General. There you can decide whether to suspend the laptop when closed.
9. Alter Keyboard, Mouse, or Touchpad Settings
You might not think there’s much to configure when it comes to a touchpad. You move the cursor around, and you click. What more is there?
But say you want to click by tapping in the bottom left of your touchpad or right-click by tapping in the bottom right.
Or maybe you don’t like the layout of your keyboard, and you wish for the location of your Alt key to function as your Ctrl key instead.
If you want to tweak your mouse or touchpad or remap your keyboard, these are the kind of settings you can change by opening GNOME Tweaks and navigating to Keyboard & Mouse.
10. Tweak Window Behavior
There is a standard way of interacting with our desktops that most of us don’t even think about. You click on a window to switch to it, for example. But you could say that click is actually superfluous. Linux has long supported allowing you to focus on a window simply by hovering your cursor over it. In Ubuntu, you just need to install GNOME Tweaks and head to Windows > Window Focus to do it.
Alternatively, what if you don’t want a window to maximize when you double-click on a title bar? Say you prefer having the window roll up like on Mac computers in the pre-Mac OS X days. That functionally is called shade, and you can find that option and more under Window Titlebars.
Tweak Ubuntu to Your Heart’s Content
On Linux, where there is a will, there’s a way, and the same is true of Ubuntu. If you aren’t quite pleased with the default experience, GNOME Tweaks is one of the most essential tools to help make the Ubuntu desktop your own.
Yet if you really can’t get the interface to feel comfortable, you may have an easier time swapping out the GNOME desktop environment for an alternative that better suits you.