Chapter 4. Customizing Your Desktop

Both GNOME and KDE offer you plenty of ways to add your own personality to your workspace. Each environment provides powerful control centers, that let you change the way your workspace looks, sounds, and behaves.

Both control centers offer quite a few options for you to modify. For more detailed instructions on using them, you should click on their Help buttons or read the related documentation from the environments' help browsers.

Customizing with the GNOME Control Center

You can start the GNOME Control Center by clicking on the Start Here icon (there's one on the panel and the desktop). This opens the main Nautilus screen. Click on Preferences to open the GNOME Control Center.

Figure 4-1. The GNOME Control Center

The GNOME Control Center contains several icons that open screens for customizing the desktop, multimedia preferences, and more. Click on Desktop to configure the look of your workspace.

TipPreview Your Changes

Not sure if you will be happy with your selections? Click on the Try button to see what your desktop will look like with your changes. If you do not like it, just click on the Revert button to return to your original settings.

Changing the Background

To change your desktop's background, click on the Background icon. You will see your current desktop background in the preview screen of the main panel.

Figure 4-2. The Background Category in the GNOME Control Center

In the Color section of the Background screen, you can determine whether your desktop has a solid or gradient (blended colors) background.

For a solid background, click on the dropdown menu and choose Solid. Click on Primary Color and the Pick A Color palette appears (see Figure 4-3). Choose a color by clicking on it in the color palette. You can move the slider bars on the right side of the screen to make choices and adjustments as well. Once you find a color you like, click on OK.

Figure 4-3. The Background Settings Color Palette

If you choose Horizontal or Vertical Gradient from the dropdown menu, you need to choose a Primary and Secondary Color.

If you want something a little more expressive, try adding wallpaper to your desktop.

By default, there are no wallpaper choices available when you click on the dropdown menu under Wallpaper. Click on Browse and choose the directory that contains saved wallpaper images to view your wallpaper options. Select one of these files and click on OK, or just double-click on the file name, to add the file to the dropdown menu.

You can arrange the wallpaper on your desktop in the following ways:

  • Tiled — The image is repeated across the desktop.

  • Centered — The image is centered on the desktop, surrounded by your chosen background color or gradient.

  • Scaled (keep aspect) — The image is scaled to fit as much of the screen as possible without distorting the image.

  • Scaled — The image is stretched to fit the entire screen.

  • Embossed Logo — The background image is the default Red Hat logo.

You can deselect the option to Use GNOME to set background if you would prefer to set the background in another way (such as through your window manager's configuration program).

Changing the Theme

You can change the look and feel of your workspace with themes. The appearance of your panel, text boxes, buttons, and other visual elements will be coordinated with the theme you select.

To change your current theme, click on the Theme Selector icon.

Figure 4-4. The Theme Selector Category

The Theme Selector panel has sections where you can select a new theme, preview its effect, and modify the default font that theme will use (see Figure 4-4).

If you select the Auto Preview option, you can see how the theme will look like in the Preview section. If the option is not selected, you can still preview the theme by clicking on the Preview button.

TipMore Themes Are Available

If you do not see a theme you like, you can find more themes at, a repository for themes. To install a theme, download a theme from the website, then select the Install new theme button. In the dialog which opens, scroll to the name of the file you downloaded (which will probably be in your login directory, named something like New_theme.tar.gz). Left-click on the file name, then click the OK button. Your new theme will appear in the Available Themes section.

You can select a font other than the default in the User Font section. Click on Use custom font, then click on the activated font box. A new dialog box opens where you select a different font to appear on such desktop items as the menu and Tasklist.

You can also customize the panel and select a screensaver here. Click on the applicable topic on the left of the screen and make the choices you want. Customizing the panel and the screensaver is simple and the icons and dialog boxes explain the necessary steps clearly.