The Linux Moderate

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Transforming Xubuntu into DBCOS

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Part 7: Finishing Up Our New Theme

We’ve done all we can by editing the default.theme text file. Now it’s time to mess with the actual graphics a bit. But we won’t really have to draw anything. As I said before, we’ll get almost everything done by cheating.

The first thing I want to do is get rid of the background in the taskbar. That’s easy enough. In the theme Milked.Expresso-altered theme folder is a folder called taskbar, and in that folder is a file called taskbarbg.xpm.

This little graphic is the taskbar background. Delete it, and the background goes away.
This little graphic is the taskbar background. Delete it, and the background goes away.

That’s the taskbar background. I could open it in the GIMP and draw a new background, but if I just delete it, the background goes away, and the taskbar is a solid color governed by the line “ColorDefaultTaskBar=” in our default.theme file. That’s what I’ve done.

While I’m fiddling with the taskbar, I want to darken the active button, so that the active desktop and the active window stand out a little more. I open the file called taskbuttonactive.xpm in the GIMP and magnify it to 800% so I can see it. Then, from the Colors menu, I choose Brightness-Contrast, and I darken the brightness a little. Finally, I save the file. That was so easy even I could do it.

I also want a different menu button. In this case, I’m actually going to change the graphic a little. This requires a tiny bit of GIMP skill, though not much, so I’m just going to describe the steps in outline and assume that you know how to do them in the GIMP.

In the taskbar folder is a file called linux.xpm. I open that in the GIMP and use the eraser to erase it completely. Then I set the opacity to 0, so it’s completely transparent. Now I make a new layer and write the word “MENU” on it in clear bold type. When I save it, I have my new menu button.

Done with the taskbar. Now I want to change the shape of the rollup button so it matches the other buttons. This is going to be criminally easy.

There are four versions of the rollup button in our Milked.Expresso-altered folder: rollupA.xpm, rollupI.xpm, rolldownA.xpm, and rolldownI.xpm. “A” stands for “Active” window and “I” for “Inactive,” and the difference between “up” and “down” isn’t too hard to figure out.

These four files are the rollup button in its various states.
These four files are the rollup button in its various states.

In this theme, the four versions are identical, so we’ll just delete them all.

Now we find a plain round button. Any one will do, but the original author of “Milked Expresso” has helpfully left us a generic button called anybutton.xpm. Right-click on that file and choose “Copy.”

Right-click on the graphic file and choose Copy. Note that closeI.xpm would work just as well, since it's exactly the same.
Right-click on the graphic file and choose “Copy.” Note that “closeI.xpm” would work just as well, since it’s exactly the same.

Now right-click on a black space in the Milked.Expresso-altered folder and choose “Paste.” The file manager will prompt you to rename the file; call it rollupA.xpm.

Paste and rename the file.
Paste and rename the file.

Paste again, and call it rollupI.xpm; again, and call it rolldownA.xpm; again, and call it rolldownI.xpm. We’re done.

Our new rollup button, created without a lick of drawing.
Our new rollup button, created without a lick of drawing.

There’s one more change I’d like to make. In the menu, the submenus have a folder icon in front of their names. It lives in a folder called icons in your .icewm folder. I’m going to open the file called folder_16x16.xpm in the GIMP and change that icon from a diamond to something else. I could draw a folder or something prosaic like that, but for the sake of whimsy I’ve chosen an 18th-century index–a pointing finger–from a type font full of them that I happen to have installed on my hard drive. You could choose any symbol from any font of symbols or dingbats, or you could draw something original. Just as with the menu button, I erase the background and make it transparent, then put the pointing finger on a new layer.

Now let’s see if it all worked. From the main menu, choose “Settings,” and then “Themes,” and then “Milked.Expresso-altered.” We see the taskbar with no background, a new menu button, and slightly darker active buttons. The rollup button is the same shape as the other three buttons on the right. In the menu, each submenu has a finger pointing at it. It worked!

I'm especially proud of the pointing fingers.
I’m especially proud of the pointing fingers.

One more refinement, which you can see I’ve already made but didn’t tell you about. To make the application menus match the IceWM menu, I went back into XFCE for a bit, and in the Settings Manager chose User Interface. From there I chose the same font that I chose for the IceWM menu. When I logged back into IceWM, because I’d put xfce-mcs-manager in the startup file, it picked up the alterations I’d made to the User Interface.

Once you’ve started fiddling with themes, it’s hard to stop. You could go on to the next level and do some actual drawing. For example, the corners in this theme are round. Would you prefer them square? Just find the corner graphics (they have names that begin with “frame” for windows and “dframe” for dialog boxes), open them in the GIMP, and square off the corners. Do you want new window buttons? Use your imagination. There’s nothing hard about it.

But I’m satisfied with what I’ve got. Many thanks to “hfjdksla,” the original author of Milked.Expresso. Our theme is different enough that I’m going to give the theme a new name now: something like “Clouds.” All I have to do is rename the folder, and the theme will appear under the new name in the “Themes” menu.

And there we are. Starting with stock Xubuntu, we’ve made what feels like a whole new operating system. It’s still Xubuntu Linux at the base, but the user interface and the programs we use to get work done are almost entirely different. Even the look of the windows and desktop is our own design. And it all runs well on a nine-year-old computer built for Windows 98. In fact, it’s faster than a new computer with Vista.

Just two or three more refinements, and we should be finished.


Written by cbaile19

August 16, 2008 at 8:14 am

Posted in DBCOS, Xubuntu

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