Why Many Linux App Builders Don’t Need Distros to Use Themes

You can combine Linux with the freedom to make your desktop look however you want, but GNOME doesn't. At least not without knowing which extensions to install or how to read code. GNOME is designed to have a certain look and feel by default, and many developers would prefer if Linux distributions didn't change the look of their apps through the use of themes.

If you change the subject on your personal computer, is it a problem? No, you know what you're getting into. However, confusion can arise when the custom experience is shown as the default.

Is GTK designed for topics?

GNOME uses the GTK graphical toolkit to manage app interfaces. In the days of GNOME 2.x, almost every GNOME-based distribution came with a custom theme. This helped create a perception among many users that changing themes is easy with no additional effort on the part of app developers.

Also, other Linux desktop environments still make heavy use of themes. KDE Plasma, Xfce, Cinnamon, and others usually have several options for you to choose from.

Many of the above desktop environments also use GTK, but GTK 3 doesn't have a theme API. There are CSS stylesheets that are used by the platform and app developers. The standard GNOME theme "Adwaita" is actually not a theme, but the name of the platform stylesheet. Adwaita is Sanskrit and means "the only one".

When a distribution like Ubuntu ships with a different default theme, it actually comes with a series of manually rewritten, custom style sheets. This is not an easy process. One reason Ubuntu 21.04 didn't come with GNOME 40 is because the Ubuntu desktop team wanted more time to make the theme compatible.

All in all, GNOME is still relatively easy to customize and optimize compared to Microsoft Windows or Apple macOS.

Disadvantages of themes

Sometimes themes break app design. Often there is just a little flaw here or there, such as inverted colors, an icon that has been changed in such a way that a setting no longer makes sense, or additional frames around buttons.

But sometimes the break is bigger if, for example, entire buttons are missing or the distance is shifted so far that elements of the user interface are no longer properly aligned.

Then there is the issue of branding. Many app developers attach great importance to their icons and use a uniform brand on all desktops. Changing this icon gives developers less control over their brand and may cause confusion for some users.

Challenges for theme and app manufacturers alike

In the Linux ecosystem, it is often not immediately clear to whom errors should be reported. Many users report bugs to the app developer thinking that something is wrong with the app, even though the problem was really introduced by a topic that the app developer never wanted to support.

This puts app developers in the frustrating position of having to support themes just because many users come from desktops that have custom themes pre-installed, such as desktop apps. B. Ubuntu and Pop! _OS.

At the same time, theme designers manually optimize their theme for each app. This is a bit manageable with a few desktop apps, but it can quickly become unmanageable when Linux gets more apps.

Aren't topics that big of a deal?

Right now, theming on GNOME may seem relatively straightforward to users as we don't see all of the work put into fixing the bugs that themes cause, either on the developer side or by the theme makers.

Distro maintainers and theme lovers alike can weigh the benefits of having their own look enough that they write off occasional problems as minor inconveniences. However, to other users, the same problems may seem like signs that the Linux desktop is unfinished, unprofessional, and not a capable alternative to proprietary operating systems. It's no surprise that many GNOME developers find this frustrating.

While many GNOME developers have signed their names on the Stop Theming My App website, they do not officially speak for the GNOME community as a whole, which includes members working on the exact distributions that choose to create a custom Deliver design. Different members of the community, as well as GNOME users themselves, have different opinions on this matter.

Make Linux like macOS with these simple tweaks

If you like Linux but want it to look more like macOS, you're in luck! Here's how to make your Linux desktop look like macOS.

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About the author

Bertel King
(326 published articles)

Bertel is a digital minimalist who writes from a laptop with physical privacy switches and an operating system recommended by the Free Software Foundation. He values ​​ethics over functions and helps others take control of their digital lives.

From Bertel King

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