Problems with GTK2 themes (such as human-theme) on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS MATE + poll

I'm testing Ubuntu 18.04 LTS MATE.
I like old-fashioned Human-Clearlooks theme, so I installed human-theme package.

But it has strange silver background color in window titlebar:

In 16.04 LTS it has normal Ubuntu orange color - see screenshot for comparison below:

I have already reported bug 1721955 to LaunchPad, it confirmed by other user. I tried to ask question on AskUbuntu.

I did some research and I have interesting findings.
It seems that colors from gtkrc file are ignored, so gtk_color_scheme variable (or /org/mate/desktop/interface/gtk-color-scheme key in dconf) are ignored.

In Ubuntu 16.04 LTS I can select themes by writing directly to /org/mate/desktop/interface/gtk-color-scheme key:

  • Human-Clearlooks -> dconf write /org/mate/desktop/interface/gtk-color-scheme "'fg_color:#101010\nbg_color:#EFEBE7\nbase_color:#FFF\ntext_color:#1A1A1A\nselected_bg_color:#FFBE6B\nselected_fg_color:#1A1A1A\ntooltip_bg_color:#F5F5B5\ntooltip_fg_color:#000'"
  • Human -> dconf write /org/mate/desktop/interface/gtk-color-scheme "'fg_color:#101010\nbg_color:#E6DDD5\nbase_color:#FFF\ntext_color:#1A1A1A\nselected_bg_color:#8F5F4A\nselected_fg_color:#FFF\ntooltip_bg_color:#F5F5B5\ntooltip_fg_color:#000'"

This commands do nothing on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS MATE.
Manually executing marco-message reload-theme does not help.
Modern mate-appearance-properties does not have Colors customization (Theme tab, Customize button, Colors tab is missed here, but exists in 16.04 LTS).

What am I missing?
How to get normal Ubuntu orange color (#FFBE6B) in window titlebar using Human-Clearlooks theme?
And how to get brown (#8F5F4A) in Human theme?

Which theme do you use (as in mate-appearance-properties)?

  • Ambiance or Ambiant-MATE
  • BlackMATE
  • BlueMenta
  • Blue-Submarine
  • DarkRoom
  • Dust or Dust Sand
  • GreenLaguna
  • Green-Submarine
  • Hanso
  • Homosapien
  • Human or Human-Clearlooks
  • Impression
  • Kin or Sorbet
  • Menta
  • New Wave
  • Night-Impression
  • Radiance or Radiant-MATE
  • TraditionalGreen or TraditionalOk
  • Turrican
  • Wasp-Murrine

0 voters

As a standard user, when I noticed that basically all the old gtk themes come up broken sometime after the switch to GTK3, and that after all this time none were really fixed to work but new ones were ported it was because there was no easy way to do so. It would be great if the old themes were compatible with new MATE.


Hi Norbert,

have you tried to customise the top panel at all? (Window Border):


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Thank you for idea! But of course I tried your suggestion before.
Now I tried it again and discovered, that not only Human and Human-Clearlooks are affected but also:

  • BlueMenta (gtk2+gtk3, from mate-themes package, installed by default);
  • ClearlooksRe (gtk2, from marco-common package, installed by default);
  • ContrastHighInverse (gtk2+gtk3, from mate-themes package, installed by default);
  • DarkRoom (gtk2, from human-theme package);
  • Dopple (gtk2, from marco-common package, installed by default);
  • Dopple-Left (gtk2, from marco-common package, installed by default);
  • Homosapien (gtk2, from community-themes package);
  • Impression (gtk2, from community-themes package);
  • Menta (gtk2+gtk3, from mate-themes package, installed by default);
  • Night-Impression (gtk2, from community-themes package);
  • Shiny (gtk2, from mate-themes package, installed by default);
  • Spidey (gtk2, from marco-common package, installed by default);
  • Spidey-Left (gtk2, from marco-common package, installed by default);
  • Splint (gtk2, from marco-common package);
  • Splint-Left (gtk2, from marco-common package);
  • Turrican (gtk2, from community-themes package).

See screenshot.

So aforementioned themes (and packages human-theme, marco-common, mate-themes, community-themes) are affected too.
Some have gray/silver background, some have low-contrast, some have wrong colors.

But problem is likely with GTK, it seems that some color defaults are hardcoded and changed since 16.04 LTS.

I tried other methods to set gtk-color-scheme for Human theme:

  • gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface gtk-color-scheme 'fg_color:#101010\nbg_color:#E6DDD5\nbase_color:#FFF\ntext_color:#1A1A1A\nselected_bg_color:#8F5F4A\nselected_fg_color:#FFF\ntooltip_bg_color:#F5F5B5\ntooltip_fg_color:#000'
  • gsettings set org.mate.interface gtk-color-scheme 'fg_color:#101010\nbg_color:#E6DDD5\nbase_color:#FFF\ntext_color:#1A1A1A\nselected_bg_color:#8F5F4A\nselected_fg_color:#FFF\ntooltip_bg_color:#F5F5B5\ntooltip_fg_color:#000'

- both do not work.

For some users "traditional desktop experience" should be supported by traditional theming (is it correct assumption, @Wimpy ? ).

How should I check that Marco honors my ~/.gtkrc, ~/.config/gtk-2.0/gtkrc and ~/.config/gtk-3.0/settings.ini? It seems that it ignores them even in clean Ubuntu 16.04 LTS MATE and Ubuntu 18.04 LTS MATE.

If I specify theme by environment variable as

GTK2_RC_FILES=/usr/share/themes/Human/gtk-2.0/gtkrc gtk-demo


GTK_THEME=Human gtk-demo # just testing, I understand that this command is for GTK 3 only

it does not change window border too. What is wrong?

If I select GTK 3 based theme such as Menta the command GTK_THEME=Menta gtk3-demo works as expected. And other GTK 3 themes too (Ambiant-MATE-Dark, Ambiant-MATE, BlackMATE, BlueMenta, Blue-Submarine, ContrastHighInverse, GreenLaguna, Green-Submarine, Radiant-MATE, TraditionalGreen, TraditionalOk).

So the question remains - is it possible to use old GTK2 themes in 18.04 LTS?

Hi Norbert,

did you per chance install the Mate packages on top of stock Ubuntu?, if you did, this would explain why you are having problems if you didn’t install the Mate Artwork packages!.

sudo apt install mate-themes ubuntu-mate-artwork

I hope it helps. :smiley:

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Dear @wolfman!

I did this experiments on clean installation of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS MATE beta2 (it has these packages preinstalled).
So it is the most reproducible way without side-effects.
But really problem exists since Ubuntu 17.10. I write this post from Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and does not have problems with Human-themes.

And other launchpad user confirmed such behavior.

Joined up to say I also have this issue, I’d say most (80%) of the themes I have tried in 18.04 either don’t work or are broken. If someone knows of a way to revert to the older version of Mate with GTK2 I would be interested so I can use Crux again.


Hi Norbert,

you may have a broken system file or two somewhere?, try the following terminal command (Ctrl + Alt + t) to see if it fixes things for you:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade -f

You can also try changing your software sources download location and updating again!:

Dear @wolfman !

Thank you for your answer and recommendations :slight_smile:

I have 20 years of linux experience, I known all these commands. And if I say about clean installation I mean installation of ISO to empty virtual (or real) hard disk without partition table.
The problem persists with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS final release too.

$ cat /etc/apt/sources.list | head -n1
#deb cdrom:[Ubuntu-MATE 18.04 LTS _Bionic Beaver_ - Release amd64 (20180426)]/ bionic main multiverse restricted universe

Moreover system integrity checking with debsums do not show any issues (sudo debsums --all --changed returns nothing).

I have downloaded Fedora 28 MATE remix and it has the same problems with some themes. So it is GTK-oriented problem.

And please read my deep analysis above again. I do not know how to debug this, I have no more ideas (even with all my experience).
But I hope to continue to use Ubuntu MATE with Gtk2-based (or styled) themes after 16.04 LTS will become EOL.

Hi Norbert,

I don’t know how to mess around with themes (GTK or otherwise) sorry. :smiley:

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Same here, not having an alternative to the green theme is a show-stopper for me.

Looks like it’s not just gtk2, the gtk3 themes i was using with previous versions are broken in 18.04 too. Uneagerly contemplating rewriting them, again… I could imagine a future where you’d be able to switch to a new version of mate without having to dig into gtk themes, figuring out what changed the hard way. That’d be pretty cool actually.

Maybe a good start would be to do something about the almost complete absence of communication & documentation on mate & gtk themes (if there is something please point me there). That would encourage themes contributions from the community, and maybe one day we can reach a point where mate ships with more than one working theme. Even just having different color versions of the same theme would be a big plus. I wonder how many people run away just because they want nothing to do with a green desktop.


In case some of you are not aware of this site (link below), you can add themes to your “.themes” folder (create the folder in home if you don’t already have it and press Ctrl + h to display hidden folders). :smiley:

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Ubuntu MATE 18.10 and upcoming 19.04 are affected too.
So I raised this question on AskUbuntu with 50 points bounty.

I use Ambiant-MATE-HoverlayScrollbars: