Ubuntu – How to customize the gnome classic panel


First the picture:

enter image description here

As you can see in the image, the colors used for the icons and the words Applications and Places (In spanish in this case) have a different background dark gray color than the rest of the panel. Also the icons look rather bigger in that panel. Now my questions are:

  1. Can the background colors be customized so they look the same all the way through the panel.

  2. Can the icons be somehow minimized a little so they don't look strange (bigger actually)

  3. How to edit the way to add icons to the panel. I have to actually hold the ALT key and right click on it to show the context menu which shows me the option to add something. That extra key press is not friendly at all.

In this particular case I am trying to help an older man start in Ubuntu. Unity is too much for him but Gnome is friendlier for him (Learning curve is not the best for older people.. specially 68+ year old people).

Best Answer

How to get back a "GNOME 2 look and feel" in Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot

1. Install "GNOME Classic" session

sudo apt-get install gnome-session-fallback

You now get the possibility to choose the "GNOME Classic" session when you log in, but there are some problems with this session:

  • The top panel's height and its icons are too large
  • The panel background is inconsistent

GNOME Classic:

With the fixes below:

After turning sound and bluetooth off and on again:

The fixes also work for the Radiance theme:

2. Reduce the size of the icons to 16 pixels

This will also reduce the height of the top panel from 30 to 24 pixels.

2a. Create folder for config files:

mkdir ~/.config/gtk-3.0

2b. Create or edit ~/.config/gtk-3.0/settings.ini and add this:

gtk-icon-sizes = panel-menu=16,16:gtk-large-toolbar=16,16

3. Fix the panel background

Note: Instead of the following solution, the background can also be fixed by using:
(Win-)Alt-rightclick on panel -> Properties -> Background -> Solid color

3a. Create or edit ~/.config/gtk-3.0/gtk.css and add this:

/* Fallback Mode Panel */
/* Fix background color (needed in Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot). */
/* Based on /usr/share/themes/Ambiance/gtk-3.0/apps/gnome-panel.css. */

PanelToplevel {
    background-color: @dark_bg_color;
    background-image: none;

PanelApplet > GtkMenuBar.menubar,
PanelApplet > GtkMenuBar.menubar.menuitem,
PanelMenuBar.menubar.menuitem {
    background-color: @dark_bg_color;
    background-image: none;

PanelAppletFrame {
    background-color: @dark_bg_color;
    background-image: none;

At this point, you should log out and in again using the "GNOME Classic" session in order to see the changes.

4. Further panel configuration

Use (Win-)Alt-middleclick-drag and (Win-)Alt-rightclick to configure the panel further.

Note that the panel items snap to the left/center/right of the panel, so they might need to be dragged some distance before they move at all.

Launchers can easily be added by dragging items directly from the Applications menu to the panel.

5. Fix icon spacing

There seems to be a bug which causes excessive spacing between the icons in the notification area tray:


An easy fix is to change the icons back and forth, e.g. muting/unmuting the sound and disabling/enabling bluetooth. This solution is unfortunately only temporary and must be performed again after each login.


Final remarks

Make a note for future reference that you just added two config files in:


This is nice to know in case the config files mess things up with later Ubuntu releases and need to be removed again.




See also