Customising Ubuntu 18.04

Shubhomoy Biswas
May 12, 2018 · 7 min read

With Canonical releasing the latest version of their Ubuntu LTS version, Ubuntu 18.04 codenamed “Bionic Beaver” is packed with Gnome 3.28 desktop environment pre-installed.

Gnome environment can be customised in a variety of ways which can suit your desired workspace. Here, I’ve shared some of the essential areas of customisation you can add for a minimal clean look.

The background

The memory canvas

First thing first, we need a clean and minimal background. I’ve chosen this as this has a perfect color balance and also does not interfere with foreground windows or top bar text.

The Tweak tool

The first thing you want to do is install the Gnome Tweak Tool. This allows you to customise your Gnome environment. Type the following in your terminal to install the same.

$ sudo apt install gnome-tweak-tool

After installation, Tweak Tool will be available in your applications or you can also open with

$ gnome-tweaks

After installing Tweak Tool, the first thing you want to do before going forward is to make sure the “User Themes” extension in enabled in the Extensions section.

Gnome Theme

I’m using the Arc Theme. Arc Theme lets your environment a flat and minimal look and also gives a slight transparency to various areas which looks elegant. You can install the Arch Theme from here.

After installation, open Tweak Tool -> Appearance Section, select “Arc-Dark” as the application theme and the “Shell”

The next thing you want to is to have a decent cursor theme. Go for the “Breeze” cursor theme. Type the following to install

sudo apt-get install breeze-cursor-theme

and then select “Breeze_cursors” in Cursor section under the “Themes” section in Tweak Tool.

For icons, I prefer Paper pack as it gives a unified flat and minimal look to all of your application icons. Check it out

sudo apt-get install paper-icon-theme

Here is a snapshot of my “Appearance” section (make sure to turn ON Animations).

Tweak Tool Appearance section

The other thing you want to do is to not have any icons in your desktop. Turn OFF the “Icons on Desktop” option in Desktop section in Tweak Tool.

Fonts

For the fonts, I’m sticking with the default ubuntu style. But I prefer my fonts to be of smaller and a low scale factor as it provides me ample of space and gives more of everything in 21inch monitor. Here’s my Font settings.

Tweak tool fonts settings

Extensions

There are many extensions out there for Gnome. I’m listing the best and important ones which will meet most of your need.

Clipboard Indicator — this extension saves your clipboard history and make them available from the top bar. This saves you from copying an item multiple times. You can select any of your past copied items which will make it the latest item to paste.

Dash to Panel — This extension moves your dash into the main top panel so that the application launcher and system tray can be combined into a single panel. This conserves your worspace area to a great extend! I’ve positioned my panel at the bottom.

Mconnect — This is an extension to KDE connect application which I’ve described it in later section of this article.

Panel OSD — You can customise the position of notification popup. Since we’re going for dark theme, the notification popup can easily be ignored when it appears at the default position, ie. centre top. This is because every window top bar will contain a dark color similar to the notification popup. I’ve set the position to bottom right.

Refresh Wifi Connections — One important feature gnome lacks is the refresh button to the wifi connection selection dialog. This extension adds that to your dialog.

Removable Drive Menu — This extension adds a status menu for accessing and unmounting removable devices.

Todo.txt — Forget day to day tasks? With this extension, you can add todo list which is directly accessible from the dash.

Little more Tweaks

After upgrading to Ubuntu 18.04, I faced an issue with my laptop’s touchpad. The 2 finger horizontal scroll seems to be inverted for me. If this is also your case, open the terminal and do the following steps.

Use xinput list to find the device id of your touchpad. For example, mine is 15

xinput list
DELL07B7:00 044E:120A Touchpad id=15 [slave pointer (2)]

The next thing you want to know is the properties of your input device. Type

xinput list-props yourdeviceid

Replace the “yourdeviceid” with the device ID from above. (which is 15 for my case). You’ll get a long list of properties. The thing you want to know is “Synaptics Scrolling Distance”. Look for the property in the list and note down it’s ID (value in brackets and the values). It should have 2 values, example -28, 28 (vertical distance, horizontal distance). You want to set a negative horizontal value (or positive depending on which value is being shown). Type

xinput set-prop yourdeviceid ID -28, -28

Where “yourdeviceid” is the touchpad ID, “ID” is the ID of the Synaptics Scrolling Distance property. Replace the “28” values to what you have initially, only change the sign of the second value, which will give you the desired result.

Keep in mind, this setting will not persist after system restarts, so you do want to write a startup script to this task for you!

After Ubuntu 17.10, the type-to-seek functionality was removed and a type-ahead-find feature is introduced which I disliked it. Well, if I needed to find something in my nautilus window, I was happy to press “Ctrl + F” and find what I was looking for. Now since it is removed, seeking to a file inside the same folder takes time. You can now wake the discarded feature from the dead by installing the “nautilus-typeahead” package.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:lubomir-brindza/nautilus-typeahead
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Apps

Ubuntu 18.04 comes with loads of Gnome apps to install. I’ve listed a few important ones

  1. Gnome Clock — Install this if you want to quick check the time of any part of the world from the dash calendar.
  2. Kazam — A good app for screen recording
  3. Mailspring — A minimal mail client (MacOS inspired) email client tool. You can setup multiple account in a common inbox.
  4. KDE Connect and KDE Connect Indicator — If you want to seamlessly integrate your Android device with Ubuntu. Make sure to download the KDE app from the PlayStore as well. KDE lets all your mobile notification be accessible in Ubuntu notification tray. You can seamlessly transfer files to and fro. Also, the copied text from Ubuntu can be pasted in mobile and vice-versa which makes KDE one of my favourite app!

Why Bash when you got ZSH?

Bash is old school. Make your terminal to use zsh instead, especially when your work requires use of git.

Follow these steps to install ZSH.

Make sure you have git installed.

sudo apt install git

Download and install Oh-My-Zsh for themes and fonts.

sh -c "$(wget https://raw.github.com/robbyrussell/oh-my-zsh/master/tools/install.sh -O -)"

Make zsh your default shell.

chsh -s $(which zsh)

Logout and then log back in.

Install Powerline font for cool icons in ZSH.

sudo apt install fonts-powerline

Change theme to agnoster.

nano ~/.zshrc

Find the ZSH_THEME variable and change it:ZSH_THEME="agnoster"

Usually I don’t like having the username@host, to get rid of that, update the theme file.

nano ~/.oh-my-zsh/themes/agnoster.zsh-theme

Comment out the prompt_context line at the bottom of the file.

Some Screenshot of my Workspace

Let me know down in the comment section how you see this setup and also suggest/ask new ways to customise the workspace for your work environment.

Shubhomoy Biswas

Written by

Artist | Software Developer | DevOps

More From Medium

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade