Adwaita Theme on Ubuntu

It’s super-duper easy to use the Adwaita theme in Ubuntu 19.04 and above — and in this post we show you just how easy it is.

What makes it so easy is that you don’t need to install anything (well, apart from a tool to change theme). This is because GNOME’s iconic Adwaita theme is included in Ubuntu out-of-the-box, ready to roll.

So if Yaru isn’t quite your thing, and you’re on the hunt for an alternative, why not give the lean, clean, upstream GNOME theme a spin?

All you need is a working mouse (or touchpad) and a spare minute to do a quick GTK switcharoo…

Enable Adwaita on Ubuntu

adwaita refresh mockup
The new Adwaita theme is a top-to-toe refresh

Adwaita is the default theme of the GNOME Shell desktop. It is designed and tailored specifically for use with it (and some distributions, like Fedora, use them together).

It’s not new, having been around since the inception of GNOME 3 – but I’d recommend you forget any past dalliances with it.

An improved version of the Adwaita GTK and icon set were included in GNOME 3.32. These changes dramatically alter the form of the theme, introducing consistent gradients, improved shadowing, and rounder widget elements.

new gnome gtk adwaita theme before and after screenshot
Top: old Adwaita; Bottom: New Adwaita

Is it still a overly “padded” in places? Absolutely, but the spacing doesn’t stand seem to “stand out” as much as it used to (not to my eyes, anyway).

As the stock look for many Linux distributions, including the increasingly popular Fedora, Adwaita is now a solid, highly functional alternative to the Ubuntu Yaru theme.

Change GTK Theme Using Tweak Tool

Tweaks is indispensable

Scratching your head trying to work out how to change theme in Ubuntu? If so, you’re not alone: it’s not exactly obvious.

In fact, to switch GTK theme easily you need to install the (rather essential) ‘GNOME Tweaks’ tool. This app is available to install on Ubuntu from the Ubuntu Software so you won’t need to go on a wild hunt for it.

Either launch Ubuntu Software and search for the Tweaks app by name, or install it from the command line:

sudo apt install gnome-tweaks

Once GNOME Tweaks is installed you can go ahead and launch it via the Applications screen.

In GNOME Tweaks head to the ‘Appearance’ section. Then, in the “Themes” section, click on the drop-down menu next to “Applications”. Select “Adwaita” (or “Adwaita Dark”) from the list of GTK themes and the Ubuntu desktop theme will instantly change from using the Yaru theme to using the Adwaita theme.

Don’t like the change? Just repeat the same steps as above, but this time choose ‘Yaru’ to revert to Ubuntu’s vanilla look.

Try the Adwaita icon theme, too!

Since you’re sampling ‘upstream as intended’ I recommend you try improved GNOME icon set alongside the improved GNOME GTK theme.

You can change icon set in Ubuntu using the GNOME Tweaks app. Just open it, go the Appearance, and click the drop-down menu next to “Icons”. Select “Adwaita” and, et voila: you just changed icon set!

However, you may notice a few icons (like the the Music folder, for instance) don’t quite look right. For the fullest Adwaita experience on Ubuntu 19.04 or above you need to install the following package (thanks Shiba in the comments):

sudo apt install adwaita-icon-theme-full

Finally, refresh your GNOME desktop (or log out and back in) and the full Adwaita icon set will now be in use.

Let me know what you think of Adwaita down in the comments!

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