Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Friday, November 24, 2017 at 14:15

This article explains desktop themes installation step-by-step for Ubuntu 17.10. First, you need to distinguish between 3 types of theme: GTK Theme, GNOME Shell Theme, and Icon Theme. Second, you need to know where to download themes: And third, know the steps to install those themes. The examples used here are OSX Arc White, Flat Remix, and macOS iCOns respectively. For those purpose, you will need GNOME Tweaks program on Ubuntu as it eases you to install themes. Enjoy!

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The Basics

To distinguish 3 types of theme you need to keep these in mind.
  • GTK Theme: the specific theme for buttons/scrollbar ("toolkit") of the desktop. This including window border and control-buttons colors. Ubuntu 17.10 uses GTK3 Theme, so you don't need GTK2 Theme.
  • GNOME Shell Theme: the specific theme for global appearance of the desktop (such as the panel, menu and switcher appearances) minus toolkit.
  • Icon Theme: the specific theme for icons of the desktop. This changes all applications' logos.
3 sections of you should know

When to install themes?
  • You may find many GTK themes, many GNOME Shell themes, and many Icon themes.
  • Some of themes are bundled (one file with 3 types of theme), some others are not.
  • You may install a certain GTK theme, and not install the others.
  • You may install a certain GTK theme, plus a certain GNOME Shell theme, plus a certain Icon theme.
  • You may change any theme at any time with the GNOME Tweaks.

Here, I will explain with 3 examples how to install GTK3 Theme: OSX Arc White, GNOME Shell Theme: Flat Remix, and Icon Theme: macOS iCons. All of them are available at

Note: what about GDM Theme? Here I purposely don't mention it, but, GDM theme is the theme for login page look. 

First Things To Do

You need to prepare the GNOME Tweaks so you will be able to install GNOME Shell Theme by click. You also need to create 2 new folders .themes and .icons at your $HOME folder.

Preparing the Tweaks:
  • Install the Tweaks:  $ sudo apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool  
  • Install the extension: visit the User Theme Extension page with Firefox and install it.
  • If the extension failed to install, follow Extension Installation Guide.
  • Now the Tweaks is ready.
See whether the "(None)|[Folder]" icon appears under Themes > Shell

Preparing the folders:
  • Open the file manager
  • Press Ctrl+H to show hidden files.
  • You should see dotted folders (.config, .cache, .mozilla, etc.) there.
  • Create new folder named  .icons  .
  • Create new folder named  .themes .
  • Press Ctrl+H again to hide them.

Creating two folders: .icons and .themes

1. Installing GTK3 Theme

GTK3 theme: OSX Arc White | License: GPLv3 | Download: GNOME-Look | Author: linxgem33

Downloading GTK3 theme:

Downloading a GTK3 Theme

Installing GTK3 theme:
  • Open the file manager.
  • Press Ctrl+H to show hidden folders.
  • Open the  .theme  folder at $HOME.
  • Copy the GTK3 theme file '' into .theme folder.
  • Double-click the file > you see 'OSX Arc White' folder inside > choose the folder > press Extract > press Extract again.
  • IMPORTANT: now in the .theme folder, you should have 'OSX-Arc-White' folder where you should see 'gtk-3.0' folder inside it.

Enabling GTK3 theme:
  • Open the Tweaks.
  • See Theme > Applications section.
  • Change the theme to OSX Arc White.
  • Done!
Enabling GTK3 Theme (notice the buttons, window border, control-buttons colors)

2. Installing GNOME Shell Theme 

G. S. Theme: Flat Remix | License: CC BY-SA 4.0 | Download: | Author: daniruiz06

Downloading GNOME Shell Theme:

Downloading a GNOME Shell Theme

Installing GNOME Shell Theme:
  • Open the Tweaks.
  • See Theme > Shell section.
  • Click the folder button > navigate to Flat file > Open.
  • Now the Theme installed.

Installing a GNOME Shell Theme

Enabling GNOME Shell Theme:
  • Still on the Tweaks.
  • See Theme > Shell section.
  • Change the theme to 'Flat Remix'.
  • Done!
A GNOME Shell Theme (notice the top bar look)

3. Installing Icon Theme 

Icon Theme: macOS iCons | License: GPLv2+ | Download: | Author: umayanga

Downloading Icon Theme:
  • Go to
  • See 'File (1)' tab at middle of page.
  • Download 'macOS.tar.xz' file.
Downloading an Icon Theme

Installing Icon Theme:
  • Open the file manager.
  • Press Ctrl+H to show hidden folders.
  • Open .icons folder at your $HOME.
  • Copy macOS.tar.xz file to .icons folder.
  • Right-click the file > Extract Here.
  • You get macOS folder inside the .icons folder.

Enabling Icon Theme:
  • Open the Tweaks.
  • See Themes > Icons section.
  • Change the icon to 'macOS'.
  • Done!
Installed Icon Theme

Final Result

Combining themes type 1, 2, and 3 resulting in a new appearance to your Ubuntu 17.10 desktop. Congratulation!