A slick looking desktop is possible on Ubuntu!

Yeah, your probably already knew that it’s possible, but for the first time I can honestly say I succeeded in achieving that goal myself. At last I’ve got a clean desktop that can compete with and even defeat the RC of Windows 7 that’s busy taking way too much space on my hard-disk at the moment.

Looking good is important for an OS — Mac OS would be a lot less cool if it wouldn’t be considered so well designed — and I think that this is where Linux stays behind. There are a lot of terribly awesome pieces of art out there on the Internet, but they aren’t always that easy to find. For example: the place to be for a good wallpaper is of course deviantART, but you have to know about it’s existence. If you want a good looking theme, go to GNOME-Look.org. There are loads and loads of elements, window borders and, the hardest part to make, icons.

I hope the promised focus on design for the next two Ubuntu releases is going to pay off. Because in my eyes Ubuntu cannot succeed on the desktop without looking good.

Enough chatter, bring on my desktop!

A quick overview of the used components:

Conky

As you can see on the screenshot I’m using the wonderful program Conky. This program writes text on your desktop/wallpaper and can be used for all sorts of interesting things. With scripts you could even let it display the status of your coffee maker!

The configuration syntax is rich and although not that complex, takes time to learn. I wanted quick and beautiful results, so I used the CONKY-colors script — unexpectedly written in C — to generate my .conkyrc file. Have a look at it’s description for the installation instructions and make sure you read them carefully.

I used this command to generate my configuration file:

./conky-colors -c brave –cpu 1 –hd –network –weather –weathercode NLXX0012

Please keep in mind that both the resulting file and the required .scripts folder are all hidden by default. Press Ctrl+H in Nautilus to see them or copy the folder and file with terminal commands.

The translation to Dutch are done by myself, although the script does support localisation to some extend, the number of languages supported is limited. (Don’t mind the large amount of English left, that’s normal nowadays in Dutch, unfortunately.)

A lot of people add the command conky -c ‘path/to/conkyrc’ directly to GNOME’s Start-up Applications. although letting Conky start right away might work flawlessly on XFCE, it does give troubles in GNOME and KDE. Therefore you should use a script like the following one to start Conky:

#!/bin/bash
sleep 20 &&
conky -c ~/.conky/conkymain &

Dock

The dock at the bottom of my screen is Avant Window Navigator, right from the repositories. I chose this dock because its appearance is easier to configure and it’s lighter than equivalents like GNOME Do.
Install AWN

The background colours are completely transparant, the only colour is the grey in the border. Doesn’t it look great?

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3 Comments

  1. When I saw you could also display the weather in Conky I decided to give it a try, and I like it, only… Weather doesn’t work 🙁 The area code is correct (NLXX0018) but it shows just some whitespace below “Weather”…

  2. @Vincent: The area code I used is for the city that’s the closest to me: Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. You’ll need to follow the instructions here: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=869328 to get it work for you, which means: getting your own IDs for the weather service and looking up your area code.

    @Nick HS: I uploaded uncompressed screenshots, which — since it was the last day of the month — quickly consumed the remaining bandwidth. It went down for the hours remaining in the month and only the management interface and FTP server remained reachable. I uploaded new screenshots in JPG, but didn’t get a change to update the post until now.

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