Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Sunday, August 16, 2015 at 16:36

After our previous article about MATE usage guide, now we come with MATE customization guide. MATE is a descendant of GNOME version 2.x. MATE has what GNOME 2 has. MATE is a simple, widely customizable, yet user friendly desktop environment. If you want a getting started article to customize your MATE, this article is for you. It will cover wallpaper, theme installation, panel, applet, icons, and some more stuffs for your living GNOME 2, MATE. This article is based from MATE 1.8.2 on Ubuntu 15.04. This is our second article (after GNOME one) in desktop customization series.



  1. There are version generations: GNOME 2 and 3, GTK 2 and 3.  
  2. MATE is actually GNOME 2. 
  3. Technically, MATE has GNOME 2 desktop foundations: Metacity (MATE rename it Marco) and GTK 2. 
  4. MATE has same customization workflow with GNOME 2. But it is different with GNOME 3. 
  5. Then, if you ask for MATE desktop theme, search for GTK 2 Theme.
  6. Then, if you ask for MATE window theme, search for Metacity theme.
  7. Basically, any tutorial for GNOME 2 is applicable in MATE.
  8. Theme installation in MATE is by opening the theme file (TAR/ZIP) or copying theme folder into /home/user/.themes/.
  9. Sometimes, a theme file consist of all required things (GTK 2 theme, Metacity theme). Sometimes, it is separated so you need to install them one by one.
  10. Theme installation in MATE is same with GNOME 2. You may install a theme, combine it to use different window theme, use different controls theme, and then save it into a your own custom theme. You do it all by click with Appearance Preferences program.
  11. Any theme installation (GTK 2, Metacity, Icon) is explained in README file in every theme pack. Read it before installing.

MATE Control Panel

MATE, similar with KDE, has System Settings program too. It is also similar with Windows Control Panel. It has management panel for MATE and the whole OS. It gives you comprehensive control starting from users until Software Updates. By using Control Center, you will do anything just by click. In Ubuntu MATE, access it from menu System > Control Center.

MATE Tweak

MATE desktop , just like Ubuntu OS, has both its own tweak program. It is called Mate Tweak. Similar with Ubuntu Tweak but MATE's one is simpler. You can access it from MATE Control Center > MATE Tweak.

Change Wallpaper

To change MATE desktop wallpaper, right-click on desktop > Change Desktop Background > select wallpaper > close.

Change Desktop Theme


To change desktop theme, right-click desktop > Change Desktop Background > open Theme tab > select one theme available.

Change Icon Theme

To change icon theme (it means change all basic icons), right-click desktop > Change Desktop Background > open Theme tab > press Customize > open Icons tab > select one icon. 

Custom A Theme 

To custom a theme, click on the top-left theme > press Customize button > 1) select control theme > 2) select color theme > 3) select window border > 4) select icon theme > 5) select cursor theme > close > press Save As.

Enable Desktop Effects

To enable desktop effects (compositing, including window drop shadow), open MATE Tweak > Windows > check Use compositing. Note: by default, you are using Marco window manager in MATE. You may change into Compiz window manager by selecting Compiz in Window manager section.

Change Default Applications

To change default application, configure a file properties in Caja file manager. For example, you want to associate any PNG picture with Shotwell Photo Viewer. Look for a PNG with Caja > right-click PNG file > Properties > Open With > select Shotwell or program you want > Close.

Adding Applets


To add a widget (applet) on MATE desktop, right-click on panel > Add to Panel > drag one applet from appearing window > drop that applet on panel. Useful applets you probably want are hardware indicator and sticky notes. 

Adding Panels

To add new panel in MATE, right-click on panel > New Panel. To delete panel, right-click > Delete this panel.

Change Panel Position

To change position of a panel, right-click on panel > Properties > select position from Orientation selections > close.

Install Desktop Theme


I give you example Dust Theme. Download theme > right-click on desktop > Change Desktop Background > open Theme tab > press Install button > open theme file (TAR/ZIP).

Resource Reference