Thursday, 10 June 2010

How to Make Ubuntu Linux Look Like Windows 7

This post will show you how to modify your Ubuntu linux OS to look like Windows 7.

After displaying some pretty annoying warning messages for the last 3 months, my wife's Win7 eval copy has finally expired.  Now, I'm not spending $100 to upgrade to a new win7 system... apart from the fact that I don't like win7, it's definitely not a necessity when most time on the computer is spent in a browser or word processor.

Enter Ubuntu.  v10.04 (Lucid Lynx) is the most current and easiest-to-use distribution of linux yet.  If you're not yet on the Linux wagon take a look at this post.  But what if you don't want to learn a new operating system?  Or if you've gotten used to the look and feel of Windows?  No problem.  Among ubuntu's many benefits is its ability to customise its appearance - even to the likes of Windows7.

Step 1: Put Your Best Foot Forward

Make sure that your system is fully updated and that you are able to run normal Visual Effects.  You can do this by running:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

You can confirm that you are running normal Visual Effects by right-clicking anywhere on the desktop, selecting Change Desktop Background, selecting the Visual Effects tab and selecting Normal.

Step 2: Install Emerald

Emerald is a handy tool that allows you to install non-standard themes in Ubuntu.  We'll use Emerald to install the Windows7 theme.  Install emerald & libemeraldengine0 via Synaptic Package Manager or terminal:

sudo apt-get install emerald libemeraldengine0

You should now be able to access Emerald via System > Preferences > Emerald Theme Manager or via terminal:

from this link and save to a temp directory.  Run Emerald Theme Manager and load your newly downloaded theme by clicking in the Import button and navigating to the theme file in temp directory.  The theme details and imagery should now be seen in Emerald.  Close Emerald and open a window, say nautilus... you should see changes.  If there are no changes, hit Run Application (alt + F2 by default) and type:

emerald --replace

You should now see new Win7-like windows with transparent borders (as in first image in this post).  If you had to do this, chances are you'll need to do it each time you start your system.  To keep yourself from going insane, add the command to your startup procedure.  Go to System > Preferences > Startup Applications and add the above command.

You can also grab the default Windows 7 desktop wallpaper from below if you so desire (click to open).

Step 3: Install GnoMenu

The Windows Start menu doesn't exist in Ubuntu, but the gnomenu package does a pretty good job of replicating it.  Obviously it's not 100% the same.... probably not even 80% the same but I think it's good enough.

Install the gnomenu dependencies via terminal:

sudo apt-get install python python-xdg python-cairo python-gconf python-xlib deskbar-applet

Download the gnomenu .deb installer from this link and install with Package Installer.  After installation, simply add the menu to your bottom panel by right-clicking a free space on the bottom panel > Add to Panel > GnoMenu.  Note: If GnoMenu does not show up in this list you may need a quick restart.

Step 4: Some Visual Housekeeping

Now, of course you're free to keep your panels and menus however you desire.  But to adopt a truly Windows look and feel a few changes must be made.

Get rid of your top panel altogether by clicking on free space and selecting Delete This Panel.  Remove everything you no longer want on your lower panel (in my case I got rid of everything except GnoMenu, a couple launch icons, the Window List and the Time/Date).

Right-click on the bottom panel, select Properties and change the size to 38 and the background to "solid."  You can also add Window Selector to replace Window List, but this is a matter of personal preference.

Right-click on GnoMenu and select Properties.  Play around with the settings until you get a look and feel that works for you.  I recommend XP for Button Selection and Vista for Menu & Icon Selection. I also made the Windows icon (Super L) as the menu launch button on the Preferences tab.

Lastly, add the Computer, Home and Trash icons to the desktop.  In terminal, run:


Check computer_icon_visible, home_icon_visible, and trash_icon_visible in the apps > nautilus > desktop key.  You should now see all three icons on your desktop.

Whew -- that's it.  As with any customisation, you may need to play around a little bit to make it work for you.  But you should now have a desktop that looks like this:

Note:  I found a particularly good set of Win7 icons that you can download from this link (password: justplainobvious.  You can use these items with any theme by customising the theme under Appearance Preferences. 


Anonymous said...


1. Where to get the window border looks like windows 7 ? Windows 7 window border is transparent and looks really beautiful.... I guess need to have theme.

2. Windows's panel give you a beautiful menu selector grouping multiple window previews together. ( It is a really good UI, while you have a lot of applications working together in a workspace.

I love Ubuntu, so I am looking for how to make my Ubuntu looks like Windows 7 in these features...

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