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 Configuring the Mate Desktop to Make it More Visually Appealing

Configuring the Mate Desktop to Make it More Visually Appealing

Edit: These instructions were written for LM 15/MATE but should mostly apply to later editions.

For anyone new to Linux Mint's MATE desktop who wants to make it more visually appealing overall, the following is a checklist of initial configuration settings that I perform either after installing Linux Mint or when booting into its liveCD (say, in preparation for screencasting).  Of course, the settings I find "appealing" might not "do it" for you; but this is intended only as a guide for those who might not be aware of some of the quick and easy customizations that can be applied when using this desktop environment.

- Configure panel.
  - Increase its size.
    - Right-click on panel.
    - Click "Properties".
    - Set "Size" to 29 pixels.

- Configure the Mint menu.
  - Right-click on "Menu" / click "Preferences".
  - Remove "Menu" from "Button text".
  - Change "Button Icon" to "mintMenu.png".

- Delete "Show Desktop" panel applet (next to Mint menu).
  - Right-click on the applet / click "Lock to Panel" to unlock it.
  - Click "Remove from Panel" to remove it.  The "Window List" applet
    to the right should now shift over to occupy the space freed-up
    by the deleted applet.

- Install "Window Selector" applet on panel.
  - Right-click on "Window List" panel applet / click "Lock to Panel" to unlock it.
  - Right-click on "Window List" panel applet / click "Move" and drag it to the right
    just enough to allow the new "Window Selector" applet to sit to its left.
  - Right-click on the panel just to the left of the "Window List" applet / click
    "Add to Panel".
  - Scroll to bottom of list.
  - Click "Window Selector" applet.
  - Click "Add" and then "Close".
  - Right-click the "Window Selector" applet / click "Move" to adjust its position
    to the left if needed.
  - Right-click the "Window Selector" applet / click "Lock to Panel" to lock it.
  - Right-click the "Window List" applet / click "Move" to adjust its position to
    the left if needed.
  - Right-click the "Window List" applet again / click "Lock to Panel" to lock it.
- Install "Workspace Switcher" applet on panel.
  - Right-click on panel where you want to add applet.
  - Click "Add to Panel".
  - Scroll to bottom of list.
  - Click "Workspace Switcher" applet.
  - Click "Add" and then "Close".
  - Right-click on the installed "Workspace Switcher" applet on panel / click
  - Set to "Show all workspaces in" 2 "rows".
  - Set "Number of workspaces" to 8.

- Install MATE themes.
  - Open "Terminal".
  - Enter/run the following:
    - sudo apt-get install mate-themes

- Change appearance of desktop.
  - Right-click on desktop.
  - Click "Change Desktop Background".
  - Choose background.
    - Click "Background" tab.
    - Click a background.  
  - Choose theme.
    - Click "Theme" tab.
    - Click "GreenLaguna" (Note that it'll complain that the "required icon
      theme" isn't installed but we're gonna fix that...)
    - Click "Customize".
    - Click "Icons" tab.
    - Click "Menta".
  - Decrease all default font sizes.
    - Click "Fonts" tab.
    - Set each font size to 8.

- Change "Desktop Settings".
  - From Menu, choose "Preferences" / "Desktop Settings".
  - Click "Desktop".
  - Select/deselect whatever "Desktop icons" you wish.
  - Click "Windows".
  - Click "Use compositing".

- Configure Caja (Nautilus).
  - Click "Edit" menu, "Preferences".
  - Change "Icon View Defaults" / "Default Zoom Level" to 66%.
  - Change "Compact View Defaults" / "Default Zoom Level" to 66%.
  - Click "Close".
  - Click "Edit" menu, "Backgrounds and Emblems".
  - Drag "Moss Ridge" pattern to Nautilus background (unfortunately
    this particular pattern doesn't quite work as it's hue is more
    bluish than green patternand so I had to create a pattern based on this

- Configure Terminal.
  - Click "Edit" menu, "Profile Preferences".
  - Click "Colors" tab.
  - Uncheck "Use colors from system theme".
  - Change "Text color" to "#FFFF00".
  - Change "Background color" to "#000000".
  - Click "Background" tab.
  - Click "Transparent background".
  - Move slider as needed.

- Configure Notifications.
  - From Menu, choose "Pop-Up Notifications".
  - Set theme to "Nodoka" or "Standard Theme".

- Set the displayed time/date.
  - Right-click the "Clock" panel applet / click "Preferences".
  - Select "12 hour format".
  - De-select "Show the date".

- Log out / back in to update changes to the desktop and Mint menu.

Enjoy your desktop!

Tags: mate, appearance, configuration, configure, desktop
Created: 5 years ago.
Last edited: 4 years ago.
Reviewed: 5 years ago.

4 years ago

Thanks to those of you who commented recently (sorry I don't check back here as often as I should). @ben2talk: thanks for the in-depth suggestions. I'll have to try some of them out (on a live CD of course). I also have a computer that doubles as a desktop and an HTPC (my old Dell Dimension 2400 is set up running XBMC on LM 17.1/MATE). And of course, I'm using the same Logitec K400 w/mousepad (which I like a lot).  
4 years ago

Good option to modify Mint Menu. Panel options size 29 is good - it allows icons to be seen clearly (28 makes a couple vanish!).

Using notifications on that panel means leave it visible... but for my most common shortcuts (websites saved from Chromium via menu/tools/save as application shortcut) I create new panels until I have one on the left side, delete others I don't want, then make it 29 pixels, Autohide with hide buttons showing... I also drag a few folders there (Desktop/TidyUp and "Computer') which now leaves me a clean desktop.

My most beautiful addition is a program called VARIETY which puts a lovely digital clock/day/date display and can be configured to change wallpaper from sources including net and folders.

Useability means Easystroke (mouse gestures) as well as a mouse with 2 extra keys mapped to 'ctrl' and 'alt' to enable a rake of extra options... mouse-only navigation means all frequently launched apps/webs hide on a hidden side panel.

The only theme that has ever really impressed me (and I'm still working to find another I can use for simple variety... but I cannot) is BLACKmate.
and I don't even LIKE dark themes!!!!

BlackMATE Controls
Menta-Black Window border
MATE-Faenza-Dark icons
Chameleon SkyBlue (beautiful but simple pointer...)

Synapse launcher ftw - though I'm looking at alternatives as I hear development might fall behind...

Compiz gives shortcut options too, as well as Super (for mint menu) and ctrl-space taken up by Synapse, I added Caja to my keyboard 'Homepage', Chromium to my 'Mail', Alt-F2 for 'mate-run' as F2 stopped working..., Alt-F3 = 'terminator' but 'mate-terminal'works too-though I also installed Guake (dropdown terminal shortcut F12).

The wallpapers (mostly autumn leaves and macro shots at the moment) really bring life to the desktop, and the clock is sweet...

Sure, everyone's styling sucks for other people - and even perfect styling isn't 'My Own' style...

Mine surely is by far the most beautiful ;)
The point is that we can share ideas on how to tweak and tidy and personalise... which is the beauty we loved in Gnome2 and the reason we choose Mate over Cinnamon surely?

Tiny view
Tiny bit more
Mouse gestures with Easystroke

Other than that - don't be scared of keyboards and mice. Now I have an E-Blue with sidebuttons, easy to hold with one hand and use on the wall outside when I'm smoking.... easy to zoom (button 'ctrl' plus scroll zooms web page, button 'alt' with scroll for a magnifier window...

Preferring a keyboard (and when I'm playing music I need a few extra multimedia keys) brings out the Logitech K400 with mousepad, just an oversized remote control really... but okay for typing.

As far as 'appearance' is concerned, my computer now disappeared into a dark corner, and my monitor is not visible as I use the HDTV mostly. It helps reduce time taken up by the computer - mostly only essential maintenance, check mail/latest material to add to my downloads which will appear on my TV via the Plex server. The 'VARIETY' desktop makes decent enough wallpaper to leave the TV on when not watching TV.

Personally I put Compiz on my desktop to reveal my windows (both minimised and on other worktops) so I don't use the window menu, just remove that...
Install Docky to give the windows a nicer place to zoom to than the panel...

Definitely using a HDTV as my most frequent monitor I enjoy slightly oversized fonts... but with compiz (zoom) mapped to my mouse sidebutton/scroll I can afford some unreadable 8 pixel fonts too ;)

4 years ago

Thank you made me love linux  
4 years ago

Thank you for sharing this with me. As a newbie Linux User (a refugee from Windows XP) I have been finding my around the interface, and although have managed to find out many ways to change things this article showed me even more. I realise it is a personal 'recipe' but it has enabled me to create my own. Many thanks.  
5 years ago

Ok, I've now *emphasized* the notice at the top of the tutorial which I had originally thought was more than adequate in making clear that this tutorial is just a "guide" and that, in fact, it isn't intended merely to instruct others on how to configure their systems to look... exactly like mine!  
5 years ago

everyone doesn't think like you..what stated above is your personal preference.  
5 years ago

Great Tutorial.  
5 years ago

As I stated up-front, the settings that I find "appealing" might not do it for you, and this tutorial is intended to help others realize some of the basic configuration options that are available in Mate. That said, I'm sure that my "desktop appearance" choices will be pretty revolting to others. After all, most people like overly-large text fonts in applications and on their desktop overall; they like dialog windows to consume half the real estate on their display and for unnecessary text such as "Menu" to do likewise on their panel; they prefer glow in the dark, high-contrast themes, background images that they themselves hadn't chosen, as few configured workspaces as possible, a useless "Show Desktop" icon on the panel, useless icons on the desktop, unbearably large icons on both the desktop and in the file manager, a stone-age lack of compositing... Silly me for ever thinking that others could be unsatisfied with the default settings!  
5 years ago

This makes the desktop less appealing :-)  

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