Is That a Theme or a Motif?

Not a musical theme, but a desktop theme. A theme is a collection of buttons, decorations, colors, backgrounds, and so on, preselected and packaged to give your desktop a finished and coherent look. Some themes even incorporate sounds (for startup, shutdown, opening and closing program windows, etc.) into the whole package. It can be a lot of fun.

Then we have styles, which are sort of like themes but not as all-encompassing. Styles tend to concentrate on window decorations and behavior, as well as widgets. Widgets are things like radio buttons, check boxes, combo boxes (drop-down lists), sliders, tabs, and so on.

All right, I know you want to get to it and change your theme a time or two, but first I'm going to tell you something rather important. Most (if not all) of the things I've shown you so far on customizing your desktop can be done through the KDE Control Center. You'll find it by clicking on the big K and looking for Control Center. If you are having trouble locating it, remember that you can bring it up by pressing <Alt+F2> and typing in kcontrol, its program name.

Quick Tip


You may recall a friendly little warning I gave you earlier. Different Linux distributions will arrange the menus in different ways. You may also find a Preferences menu (or it may also be called Look and Feel) in your K menu. As you will hear again and again, there's more than one way to do it.

Incidentally, when you bring up a submenu from the main (big K) menu, notice the dashed line under that menu. This is a "tear-off" line. Clicking here on a submenu will detach it and let you have constant access to it from your desktop. This is extremely handy when you are using the same functions over and over again (like when you are playing with themes and colors). When you are through with the submenu, simply close it by clicking the x in the corner.

As soon as the KDE Control Center loads up, it displays some capsule information about the system, its hostname, and the version of Linux running on it. Over on the left side, an index page covers a number of items that can be either viewed or modified on the system. I say either because some of what you see here is just information and cannot be changed. One of the modifiable items is Look and Feel. Click the plus sign beside it, and you'll get a list of options for changing your desktop environment's look and feel (Figure 6-4).

Figure 6-4. Changing the look and feel in KDE's control panel.


Almost everything you could possibly ever want to do to alter your desktop experience is here. Change the background, colors, fonts, icons, screensaver . . . you name it. It is all here! That includes your themes and styles. Go ahead. Click on Style and select a style from the Widget Style list. As you click, the preview window will show you how it affects the overall look. If you just want to see it in action but you don't want to commit yet, click Apply. When you know you can live with the changes, click OK.

Let's look at a couple of those Look and Feel changes and how they affect what you do and how you work.

Window Decorations

This is also your opportunity to undo something I had you change back in Chapter 4. When you ran kpersonalizer, I had you select the KDE Classic style so that we could all be on the same page (so to speak) in terms of what you see in your title bar. With the introduction of KDE 3.1, the default theme is called Keramik, a slick, modern-looking theme that changes a number of things related to your desktop experience. Figures 6-5 through 6-7 show the KDE2 (Classic), ModSystem, and Keramik window decorations, respectively.

Figure 6-5. KDE 2 Classic window decoration.


Figure 6-7. Keramik (KDE 3.1 default) window decoration.


If you would like to use something different, you can make that change now. Just remember that things may look a little different than what I show you in the book from here on in. With that little disclaimer in place, you may now express your individuality.

Figure 6-6. ModSystem window decoration.


Themes and Styles

Themes and styles are essentially collections of look and feel changes. A style is a collection of definitions affecting primarily widgets (buttons, tabs, etc., see Figure 6-8).

Figure 6-8. Changing styles are reflected in the KDE Control Center.


A theme, on the other hand, might encompass changes in window decorations, wallpaper, colors, and icons to create a cohesive, integrated desktop experience, whereas a change in window decoration would affect only the window decoration itself.

The theme manager (Figure 6-9) is similar. Under the Installer tab, it lists the installed themes and provides a preview window. The Contents tab is interesting, in that you can limit what changes the theme manager will apply to your system. For instance (and I know this will sound like sacrilege to some), I hate sound themes?honestly, I can't stand having little tunes play each time I start a program or minimize a window. That's why I personally uncheck the Sound effects check box.

Figure 6-9. Theme manager options in the Control Center.


The fashion slaves among you will quickly grow tired of the themes and styles your system comes with?there are quite a few but not nearly enough for those surfing the edges of what's hot today. That's why you should keep this little Web site in mind:

This site has tons of themes, styles, alternative wallpapers, and icons?enough to keep you busy for a long, long time. Now I know we haven't talked about getting on the Net yet; we still have a few things to cover. If you just can't wait, you could jump over to Chapter 9, "Connecting to the Internet." Just make sure you come back here. You wouldn't want to miss anything.