Don't like Unity as is? No problem. There are a number of programs you can use to adjust Unity to your liking.
When Ubuntu's new user interface was first released, it had much of its configurability hidden from the user. Not necessarily by design, but simply as a new interface there weren't tools available to dig in and tailor the various settings that determine how Unity behaves. But that's all changed now, and there are a number of useful programs you can use to tailor and tweak Unity to your liking.
MyUnity is one of the newer and perhaps snazzier tools to tailor Unity. It allows you to tweak transparency of the Unity dock, icon size, backlight functionality and whether mounted devices are shown.
As the name implies, MyUnity allows you to tailor Unity more to your own style.
It also provides options for the Dash (including it if should be sized for desktops or notebooks, and the quality of the background blur), the panel, fonts, themes and finally the desktop itself -- such as toggling home, networking, trash and devices icons. It also allows you to set how many virtual desktops are in use, if the standard 2x2 for Ubuntu isn't enough for you.
MyUnity can be found in the Ubuntu repositories, simply search for 'MyUnity' or run 'apt-get install myunity' from a terminal.
Unsettings, much like MyUnity, allows you to tweak the size and opacity of the Unity launcher, when mounted devices are displayed, and how the backlight for apps operates.
Unsettings isn't pretty, but it has the most Unity-specific features to play with.
However it also includes the ability to tweak auto-hide functions, how the launcher is triggered, and notification and launch animations. It also features tabs for configuring the dash, panel, fonts, themes and general desktop functionality. Of note is the ability to enable or disable Unity-specific features, such as the global menu and overlay scrollbars (previously covered in these pages). While not as aesthetically pleasing as MyUnity, it covers more Unity functions in addition to base GNOME functions to allow you to tailor your Ubuntu desktop to taste.
Unsettings isn't included in the Ubuntu repositories, but can be installed as follows:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:diesch/testing
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install unsettings
Ubuntu Tweak is a popular application for tweaking all manner of settings in Ubuntu. The latest release allows you to play with everything from sounds and fonts to themes and Session Indicators.
Ubuntu Tweak is quite comprehensive and now includes some options for tweaking Unity.
It now also sports a Unity sub-category that includes the ability to enable or display the new HUD in Precise Pangolin, the shortcut hints overlay, launcher size and opacity, and the backlight and launcher visibility settings. It also includes basic dash configurability allowing you to play with desktop or laptop sizes, colour, blur type and opacity, much like MyUnity provides. On the whole, it doesn't feature quite as many options as Unsettings, but it includes all the essentials.
Ubuntu Tweak is updated regularly, so while you can install a standard .DEB file from www.ubuntu-tweak.com, it's easier to add a repository and have it automatically updated with new releases like so:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tualatrix/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-tweak
GNOME tweak tool
There's another useful tool for configuring settings that comes with GNOME 3.0, upon which Ubuntu 12.04 is based. However, it's more specific to GNOME Shell and GNOME 3.0 than Ubuntu and Unity, but it nonetheless provides a few useful options to tweak, including setting which desktop icons are visible (such computer, network, trash and so on), fonts, themes and Window actions. For GNOME Shell it includes a number of options as well as the ability to manage GNOME Shell extensions.
Gnome Tweak Tool.
Just note that, given it's primarily designed for GNOME Shell, that Ubuntu will prompt you to install 75MB worth of GNOME 3.0 support libraries which you don't actually need with Precise and Unity in order to use it, but it's good to have options if you need more than the three main programs presented here.
Settings to try
If you haven't so far played with tailoring Unity, here are some settings to try:
Tweaking the Ubuntu Unity desktop to add some classic shortcuts.
- Reduce the size of the launcher to fit more programs before Unity's layering kicks in.
- Set the backlight to be on only for the active application, making it easier to see which programs are running (helpful when using multiple desktops).
- For the panel, change opacity to 100% -- depending on your theme and background, this can create a nice effect.
- For slower systems, change the blur for the dash from 'Active' to 'Static'.
- Add shortcuts for networking, home and computer to your desktop to make it easier to access local and networked filesystems.
- Increase the number of desktops if you're laying too many programs on your desktops.
- Finally, theme options are quite limited with Unity's own options, but the tools listed here allow you to set GTK, Windows and icon themes. Play around for a new look.