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How to enable desired gnome shell theme?

Gnome Shell is the user interface that you see while using Gnome 3.x on various GNU/Linux distributions. Gnome Shell is highly themable, and a wide variety of themes are available on the Internet (see http://gnome-shell.deviantart.com/ for a list of good themes). Fedora 16 comes with Adwaita as the default theme, which many of you would like to replace with other good looking themes. Discussed here is how to replace Adwaita with a different gnome-shell theme using Gnome Tweak Tool, the problem in its current version and its temporary workaround.

Installing and using new gnome-shell theme

  • Create a .themes directory in your home.
mkdir ~/.themes/
  • Download the desired theme, extract it, and put the resulting directory into ~/.themes/. Note that you can put any number of theme sub-directories into the ~/.themes directory.
  • Install User Theme gnome shell extension.
sudo yum -y install gnome-shell-extension-user-theme
  • Now install Gnome Tweak Tool.
sudo yum -y install gnome-tweak-tool
  • Open Gnome Tweak Tool, and click on the Shell Extensions item in the left pane. On the right pane click on the toggle button next to User Themes Extension to enable the extension. Close the window.
  • Reload Gnome Shell. Press [Alt]+[F2], type r, and press [Enter].
  • Open Gnome Tweak Tool again, and click on the Theme item in the left pane. On the right page, you’ll see a list of available gnome-shell themes in a drop down box. Select the theme that you want to activate.
  • Enjoy the theme that you applied.

The problem with the current version

System Overview

OS: Fedora 16 (Kernel 3.1.6-1.fc16.x86_64)
Gnome Shell 3.2.1-2
Gnome Tweak Tool 3.2.1-1
User Theme Extension 3.2.3-1

With the current setup, gnome tweak tool will report “Shell user-theme extension not enabled.” This might be due to version mismatch between gnome shell (3.2.1) and user theme extension (3.2.3). See the screenshot below (you need to hover on the orange notification icon to see that message).

Gnome Tweak Tool Theme Problem

Gnome Tweak Tool Theme Problem

Temporary Fix

To fix this problem, you’ll have to change the dconf settings manually. This requires you to know the name of the theme folder in advance. As of example, if you want to set Faience as your default gnome shell theme, and there is a directory named Faience in ~/.themes/ (e.g. ~/.themes/faince), then you need to remeber the name faince (remember that you need to remember the name of the directory and it’s case sensitive).

  • Install DConf Editor.
sudo yum -y install dconf-editor
  • Open DConf Editor. You’ll see a list of hierarchical controls (in a tree-view) in the left pane, and relevant settings of the selected node on the right pane.
  • Expand to org > gnome > shell > extensions > user-theme on the left pane. On the right pane you’ll see a key-value pair field with the key named “name”. Double click on the value field for that key, and type the name of the theme directory (e.g. faience in this case).
  • After you set the value, close the editor. You’ll now see the required gnome shell theme.


8 Responses to “How to enable desired gnome shell theme?”

  1. Thanks mate, worked like a charm :>

    Have a happy new year!

    Posted by maltray | December 30, 2011, 5:54 am
  2. Jesus! Thanks dude!

    Since I updated my Fedora 15 to 16… I wasnt able to change gnome-shell theme, i googled this issue for weeks with no success, always finding different problems… And now, after all this time, I thought “maybe now someone had the same problem and shared a workaround” lol…

    Finally 😀 Thanks!

    Posted by Reoba | December 31, 2011, 7:41 am
  3. hey I installed linux fedora 16 kde but in fedora 16 kde i updated but the gnome shell not enabled how to enable the gnome shell and cube desktop for fedora 16 kde

    Posted by mohan | January 26, 2012, 12:37 pm
    • Hi Mohan,
      First thing first – KDE and GNOME are two different desktop environments. KDE does not use gnome shell, rather KDE uses its own plasma desktop. You can NOT use gnome shell within KDE. To use gnome shell, you’ll have to configure your display manager to use GNOME instead of KDE when you log in. If you want to make a switch to GNOME 3.x, you can follow the following instructions:

      1. Make sure you have GNOME installed. You can install gnome and its related components using the following command in your terminal:

        sudo yum -y groupinstall "GNOME Desktop Environment"
      2. Install Desktop switcher tool by executing the following command:

        sudo yum -y install switchdesk-gui
      3. Start switchdesk tool. A dialog window will open in which KDE would be selected. Check the radio button before GNOME and click OK.
      4. Restart your computer.
      5. Now when you click on the user name on the login screen, you’ll see an expandable item called Session under the password field. Expand that item and select GNOME from there. Enter the password and click on OK.
      6. Now you should be seeing gnome shell instead of KDE plasma desktop.

      Hope this helps.

      Posted by Abhishek Singh | January 27, 2012, 9:17 am
  4. Still not working on Fedora 16. Any ideas why. I still get an orange triangle in the tweak-tool for “shell theme”. Some package missing? I think I have all the relevant ones,

    Posted by Jonathan Fletcher | January 28, 2012, 5:10 am
    • Hi Jonathan,
      The current versions of Gnome Shell, Gnome Tweak Tool, and User-Theme extension does not seem to work very well and hence you’ll see that orange bubble/triangle saying that the user theme extension is not enabled. This post talks about how to circumvent through this situation and enable your custom gnome-shell theme without using the Gnome Tweak Tool.

      Gnome Shell uses dconf to store it settings, and the tweak tool essentially changes the dconf settings to make various configurations. You can easily use the dconf-editor to directly manipulate the dconf settings if you know which settings relate to what configuration changes. Most of the dconf settings are like key-value pairs. For changing the theme, you’re required to have the theme folder in ~/.themes and have dconf-editor installed. Using dconf-editor, navigate to org > gnome > shell > extensions > user-theme and change the value for the key called “name” and you’re done.

      Posted by Abhishek Singh | January 29, 2012, 9:18 am
  5. How do you add the theme so that all users on the computer can access it, not just “you”

    Posted by karl | April 10, 2014, 11:51 pm

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