Thursday, 20 November 2008

Theme Considerations

Here are my preferences:
I like my desktop to be bright and stimulating. I love a certain kind of blueish gray (or grayish blue as you like). The RGBs are #6B73A9.

I also like the aluminium decoration of the mac. It's clear, its clean and it does not distract from the task at hand. So probably brushed metal look will be nice.

I am not one to have a wild wallpaper desktop image. I prefer calm and quite abstract patterns. I get a kick out of mathematically motivated images.

Lets translate this into requirements:
  • Windows are white or very light gray
  • Borders are medium gray
  • Menus and tool bars are same medium gray
  • No separation lines between window title, menu bar and tool bars
  • Windows in the background are darker than windows in the front
  • Selections are my favorite gray-blue
  • Information windows, tool tips and hints are a faint yellow
  • Text is dark gray, not black (black is to hard on the eye)
  • Window corners are rounded
  • Tabs and panels should look like they are extruded a bit
  • Firefox and Thunderbird have corresponding themes
  • Icons are more photo realistic (however, harddrives do not have to look like the naked bare metal)
  • Prefer XML definition to images (slower loading)
I know that not everyone shares my taste. I think that there should be two themes, one bright and one dark.

I also consider positioning the window buttons (max, min, close) on the top left side. This minimizes the way, you have to move the mouse.

Creating a theme for Ubuntu

Let's face it: Linux themes are pretty ugly. Ubuntu's default theme beats most of them. The brown and orange might remind Mark Shuttleworth of his origins. I will spare you the details of what it reminds ME of.

Tangerine, ClearLooks and all the other prepacked themes are no better.

Ubuntu 8.10 comes with a new theme: DarkRoom. It makes one increasingly sucidal.

I've tried some stock themes from and The results are sobering (On the right is the most appealing window decoration I found so far. It's called Almond and was last updated in 2006).

I envy Mac users for their simple, visually appealing and intuitive interface. It seems that neither Microsoft nor the whole Linux community can come up with something that can compare to Apples GUI.

Is it really so hard? To find out will create my own theme.

... the Austrian Ubuntu Theme (AUT) ...

Here is my plan:
  1. Read into the subject: I have to understand how Gnome uses Metacity and rendering engines to draw the GUI.
  2. Define how the theme should look like
  3. Modify an existing theme to learn how things interact
  4. Create raw minimal theme: I have to figure out what is minimally required
  5. Resolve extras (Panels, awn)
  6. Learn how icons work
  7. Create a customized set of icons
  8. Make a .deb installer to install the theme on any machine
  9. Test on several machines runing Ubuntu (8.04.1 LTS and 8.10) and possibly Debian
  10. Write a HOW-TO that covers more than the bare Gnome tutorial
  11. Start a SourceForge project
I will post here regularly. Your recommendations are welcome.