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Technical Information
 Trick Out Your KDE Desktop

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Posted: 16 Mar 2005

Though Linux has often been known as a platform for programmers, it has the ability to adapt to the tastes of almost everyone. Sure, you can bury your face in the command line all the time, but many people choose not to take that route. They like the window manager, the mouse cursor, and 'point-and-click' to get things done. If you work in the same environment all day long every day, though, it might get a bit monotonous.

So, why not spice up your life a little? With this article, I'd like to share some great ways to customize KDE. We'll look at changing window themes, widget themes, system icons, and even the mouse cursor. By the time we're done, we'll have a tricked out desktop.

Window Theme

The first thing let's do is to make sure the 'kdeartwork3' package is installed in YAST. Open up YAST and select 'Install and Remove Software' from the pane on the right:

When the new window appears, in the 'Search' box, type in 'kdeartwork3' and click SEARCH. When the results come up, check the box next to the package, and click ACCEPT in the lower right corner of the window:

YAST will then install the package. When done, click FINISH.

Now, we need to apply the theme. Go into the K Menu, and select CONTROL CENTER:

When the CONTROL CENTER window appears, click on APPEARANCE & THEMES in the left pane:

Click STYLE in the left pane. In the WIDGET STYLE drop-down box in the right pane, select PLASTIK. Then, click APPLY in the lower right corner of the window:

In the left pane, select WINDOW DECORATIONS.

Then, in the right pane, in the WINDOW DECORATION tab, there is a drop-down box. From this box, select PLASTIK. Then, click APPLY in the lower right corner of the window:

You'll notice that your titlebar changes to the PLASTIK theme.

You can now close the CONTROL CENTER. The window theme is now in place.

System Icons

The next step is to upgrade the system icon theme. We'll check out the NUVOLA icon theme for this exercise.

To get it, head over to http://www.icon-king.com/goodies.php.en. It is the first theme at the top left of the list. Click on the KDE icon to begin your download. I'd recommend saving it to your desktop.

When it's done downloading, head back into the CONTROL CENTER (K Menu => CONTROL CENTER). In the left pane click APPEARANCE & THEMES, and then ICONS:

In the right pane, click INSTALL NEW THEME. A small window comes up. Drag the nuvola archive right from the desktop into this window:

With the path to the nuvola archive in the LOCATION field, click OK:

KDE then installs the theme, and makes it available for selection from the list. Select it and then click APPLY in the lower right corner:

Close the window. All of the icons on your desktop and Kicker panel have changed to the Nuvola theme:

Sweet, the icons are set. Now, for the final step: changing the mouse cursor.

Mouse Cursor

The mouse cursor is pretty simple to set up. Let's go grab the theme from http://www.kde-look.org/index.php?xsortmode=high&page=0. The one we're looking for is called "Grounation." Click it to go to its download page. A ways down the download page is the actual download link. I'd recommend downloading this to your desktop.

Once you have downloaded it, right-click on it, select EXTRACT, and then EXTRACT HERE:

Next, click on the HOME icon in your Kicker panel. Konqueror pops open, browsing your user's home folder. In the VIEW menu, click SHOW HIDDEN FILES:

We need to create a folder called '.icons'. So click on the EDIT menu, select CREATE NEW, and then FOLDER:

In the NEW FOLDER window, type '.icons' without the quotes, and click OK. You should now see a folder called '.icons' in the list. You may have to press F5 to refresh the list:

Go into the .icon folder. Now we need to make a folder called 'default' inside of this one. Follow the same procedure. Click on the EDIT menu, then CREATE NEW, and then FOLDER:

Type in 'default' without the quotes, and press OK. When you've created that folder, go into it.

You should now see file:/home/user/.icons/default (where 'user' is your username) in the LOCATION bar of your window:

Now, we just need to copy some files into this folder. Leave this window open, and head to your desktop (or wherever you extracted the theme). Go into the 'Grounation-0.3' folder. Then go into the 'Grounation' folder inside of that folder. You'll see these files:

Drag and drop the 'cursors' folder and the 'index.theme' file into the window opened to /home/user/.icons/default (from the previous step).

When this is done, you can close both of these windows.

Now, we have to go back into the CONTROL CENTER. Select PERIPHERALS from the left pane, and then MOUSE from the same:

From the pane on the right, select the CURSOR THEME tab. You should see Grounation available from the list. Select it and click APPLY:

When you're finished, close the window. As you will see, you have to log out of KDE and log back in for the changes to take effect. Go ahead and do that, now.


If you like to change your desktop environment to suite your own tastes, these are a few of the possible ways to do this. We've changed the window decorations, the widgets, the icon theme, and the mouse cursor theme. There are many hundreds of other possibilities for customizing your desktop. Isn't SUSE great?

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