Making GNOME Look Good

GNOME is a desktop environment for Linux. It’s pretty, intuitive, and feature-filled. By default, it’s not as customizable as some Linux desktop environments, but it’s extensible and has a good-sized library of extensions. After years experimenting with its own Unity desktop environment, Ubuntu has decided that GNOME will be the default desktop environment for its upcoming release, Ubuntu 17.10 Artful Aardvark. Here’s how I like to customize GNOME to make it beautiful and functional.

The Basics

I love GNOME. I think it’s a great desktop environment. But it takes a little work to get it looking nice with all the features I like. The first thing I do when getting ready to customize a GNOME desktop is to install the GNOME Tweak Tool. It’s available in the Ubuntu software repositories, so all you have to do to install it is:

  sudo apt install gnome-tweak-tool

Then, I like to install a number of useful GNOME extensions. You can find essentially all the available extensions at Here are some of the ones I can’t live without:

That last one is particularly important if you want to make the GNOME desktop yours; it allows you to use custom GNOME shell themes. There are a couple of different types of themes that you can use to to customize your desktop. We’ll go through them one by one.


These theme the basic elements of the GNOME environment: the top bar and associated menus, the app menu, the overlays, and the dock. Here are some of my favorites.

GTK themes

These theme system-wide application elements, like window borders, buttons, sliders, and progress bars. Here are the ones I like the most.

Icon Themes

Finally, there are icon themes. Icon themes provide the large icons for applications that appear in the dock and app menu. They also provide the small icons that appear in the system panel. They also provide the file and folder icons that appear in the Files app and any system file browser. There are ton of options here, and each adds new flavor to a desktop.