fluent icons for linux

Windows 11 (and indeed many Microsoft products) now use the ‘Fluent’ design system — but you don’t have to switch to Windows or lock into its ecosystem to enjoy it.

Prolific Linux design champ Vince Liuice — his portfolio is impressive — has made an icon set for Linux desktops that draws inspiration from Redmond’s fancy ‘acrylic’ aesthetic.

The result is ‘Fluent‘, a striking Linux icon set that looks quite unlike anything else currently available. It won’t appeal to everyone’s tastes but Fluent is an interesting alternative to increasingly 2D, flat icons.

Layering, opacity, colour, and shadow are used to create glyphs that are eminently recognisable and also somewhat physical in look, with dimension and a sense of materialness.

screenshot of the fluent icon theme for linux
Fluent icon set has good app coverage

Fluent’s icon coverage is nowhere near as expansive as the Papirus icon set (but no wonder; Papirus has been around for a long time). Still, all of Ubuntu’s core apps (ones not installed as Snaps) use restyled Fluent icons, as do a handful of third party apps I have installed (though again, not Snap apps).

I particularly like this theme’s symbolic icons. These thin, line-art pictographs perfectly compliment the fuller, richer, and more colourful icons used for apps. Fluent offers two symbolic styles are available regular and a rounder variant.

Fluent’s symbolic icons look much sharper to my eyes than Yaru or Adwaita’s equivalents. And against a lighter background (yes, light themes still exist 🤭) they look especially effective.

To see just how well the thin symbolic icons match the intricate acrylic ones here’s a a screenshot from my desktop (which also features Dash to Dock and Arc Menu extensions and Vince Liuice’s WIP ‘Colloid’ GTK and Shell theme, if anyone is wondering):

screenshot of the fluent icon theme on ubuntu 20.04 LTS
Fluent icons, Dash to Dock, and Arc Menu

On to the “controversy” aspect.

I’m aware as I write this post that some folks will take issue with me for highlighting an icon set inspired (however interpretively) from a proprietary OS. GTK themes and icon packs that mimic the look of Windows, Android, iOS, et al divide opinion. While I don’t agree with all of them, I can appreciate the arguments against them.

However, I want to emphasis that I’m not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be using. Me writing a post about anything isn’t the same as me saying “you MUST use it”. I simply spotlight options. Things you can choose to use, or not — and if not, at least you’re aware the option exists.

So if an icon set inspired by Microsoft’s OS is not for you, you don’t have to install it. There are plenty of other great icon sets for Linux to choose from. Just keep in mind that other folks aren’t partisan about their eye candy, while others find familiar icons, themes, and layouts help them to adapt to using open source technologies.

Back to Fluent.

If you want to try this set out on your own desktop you download the Fluent icon theme from GitHub. I recommend GitHub mainly because it always ensures you get the latest version, direct from source. Plus, the .zip available from here includes an installer script, which is handy (though don’t run scripts blindly; always give them a quick read through to understand what they do).

Finally, you can use the Tweaks tool to change icon theme in Ubuntu.

If you give it a go, feel free to share your screenshots of it down in the comments. I’m particularly interested to see how the set works on non-GNOME desktops.

Themes Eye Candy fluent design icon theme Icons Microsoft windows 11