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How to make the Unity 2D launcher transparent in Ubuntu 10.10

Unity 2D users (or rather, ‘testers’ since it’s still very much in development) in Maverick who are bored of the solid bar launcher can, with a bit of jiggery-pokery, make a fully transparent version.

Unity 2D launcher made transparent

Fully transparent

First you need to find a wallpaper that matches your screen resolution. Save two copies of it. From your chosen image you need to crop a rectangle from the far-left with the following dimensions:

  • width: 58px
  • height: resolution’s height minus 24px (the height of the top panel)

E.g. for my 1440×900 monitor I take 900 and subtract -24, giving me 876. Save your cropped image and move it, as root (ALT+F2 > gksu nautilus) to

  • /usr/share/unity/themes/launcher_background_middle.png

Don’t forget to log out and back in to see the change take effect.

The catch(es)

Firstly this involves overwriting the default launcher background, so be sure to make a backup first. Secondly, depending on your design, your launcher may stick out like a sore thumb since the main desktop panel is not ‘configurable’. Finally subsequent updates to Unity 2D will overwrite this again, so keep your created image handy also.

– Update —

Reader Sergey sent in a few tips that may be of use to those attempting this: -

To avoid automatic background replacement on upgrades, run

sudo dpkg-divert /usr/share/unity/themes/launcher_background_middle.png

To change the background back to the default one, run:

sudo dpkg-divert --remove /usr/share/unity/themes/launcher_background_middle.png && sudo apt-get install --reinstall unity-asset-pool

Thanks to Viktor & Sergey