When the Ubuntu 19.10 release arrives in the middle of next month it’s going to look a bit different.

This decision has since been reverted; the new light theme will now only ship as an option in 19.10, not as the default.

The de-facto Ubuntu artwork team, made up of community enthusiasts hacking on the Yaru GTK theme, have been given the nod to invert the light Yaru theme’s header bar colour.

It means that windows which which currently looks like this:

Nautilus file manager
Yaru GTK theme introduced in Ubuntu 18.10

Will now look like this:

a screenshot of windows open on a desktop
And lo there was light: Yaru GTK in 19.10

Think it looks a lot like Adwaita, the upstream GNOME GTK theme? That’s because in a roundabout way the Yaru theme is the Adwaita theme, just with a batch of medications.

Dark header bars and positive accent colours were used to give the Adwaita base an Ubuntu flavoured topping.

But no more.

The design crew concede that choosing to “…rely on the upstream look for the header […] drops a lot of distinctive previous yaru/ubuntu design/look”, but add that it improves the overall ‘usability’ of the theme.

In fact the whole theme inversion is the result of tackling a bug report taking issue with header bar button contrast in dark window toppers.

Alongside the new “full” Yaru light theme — which was always a light theme, just with an dark header bar — is a refined full Yaru dark theme:

desktop screenshot
A full dark Yaru theme is included too

In all, this is a pretty big change to come about so late in the Ubuntu development cycle. It’s also a change that a lot of users are going to have very strong and vocal opinions (it’s their desktop too) — but feel free to be creative with your hot take safe in the knowledge that it’ll be this site that gets the blame, however people choose to react 💁🏻‍♂️.

The design team concede that the new look lacks distinctiveness, but say it improves the overall ‘usability’ of the Yaru theme

Historically, Ubuntu has used a dark “windows” in some form or another for almost as long as it’s been around. The look was cemented with the introduction of the Ambiance GTK theme in 2010, which was part of entire Ubuntu brand revamp.

For me a dash of brown (okay, Yaru is more black than brown, but indulge me) and non-negotiable elements of the Ubuntu identity (hey, and bring back that drum sound on login while you’re at it).

Adopting a lighter, greyer, and colder look is perhaps best for integrating the wider community’s wishes — theming in GNOME is consider a hack, remember — and for improving overall usability — but at what cost?

As I understand it the plan is to re-introduce a “mixed” Yaru GTK with a dark header bar, i.e. like the Yaru theme that’s included in 19.04, in time for Ubuntu 20.04 LTS next year.

Big thanks to Alex

Dev News light-themes Ubuntu 19.10 yaru