Ubuntu – How to configure Unity


Are there any configuration options for the Unity desktop?

There are multiple valid answers for this question spanning over several versions of Ubuntu. For your convenience an index of each below (How can I tell which Ubuntu release I'm using?):

If you're looking to configure Unity 2D, look here.

Best Answer

  • Ubuntu 11.04

    There are two options to edit the settings. Either using the CompizConfig Settings Manager (ccsm) or the Configuration Editor (gconf-editor). I'll describe both ways.

    CompizConfig Settings Manager

    1. Warning: CCSM is in universe and not shipped by default for a reason, it can be flaky, so be careful in there, it can break things, if you find yourself with a broken window manager, see this question to reset your configuration.
    2. Install the CompizConfig Settings Manager (CCSM).

    3. Hit Alt-F2 and input about:config and hit enter.

    You can now configure quite a few different settings. Like key shortcuts, the launcher behavior and appearance of the Launcher.

    On the Behaviour tab you can configure:

    Behaviour tab

    1. The Hide Launcher sets the launchers hide behavior.

      • Never - The launcher will never hide.
      • Autohide - The launcher will hide automatically based on time.
      • Dodge Windows - The launcher will hide when a window would overlay it.
      • Dodge Active Window - The launcher will hide only when an active window would overlay it.
    2. The key to show the launcher which by default is the Super key. This will also affect the key used to show the dash (if tapped) and the shortcuts shown when keeping Super pressed.

    3. The key to put keyboard-focus o the launcher so you can navigate using your keyboard (default Alt + F1).

    4. The key to open a Search Command dash where you can enter a command name you want to execute. (dafault Alt + F2).

    5. The key to open the first panel menu (default F10).

    On the Experimental tab (might change hence the name):

    Experimental tab

    1. The Backlight Mode sets how the icons are back-lit.

      1. Backlight Always On - the icon back light will always be on.

      Backlight Always On

      1. Backlight Toggles - the icon back light will be on as long as the application is running.

      Backlight Toggles

      1. Backlight Always Off - pretty much the opposite of the first option.

      Backlight Always Off

      1. The Launch Animation sets how the icons are animation.

        • None - no animation will be shown.
        • Pulse Until Running - the icon's back light will pulse till it loads up.
        • Blink - the icon's back light will blink.
      2. The Urgent Animation sets how an icon will inform you of something important.

        • None - no animation.
        • Pulse - it will pulse.
        • Wiggle - it will wiggle.
      3. The Panel Opacity sets the opacity of the panel.

      4. The Launcher icon size sets the size of the launcher in pixels.

      5. The Hide Animation sets how the launcher hide and unhide.

        • Fade on bfb and Slide - fades based on the position of your cursor in the bfb (big funny button - the one in the top left of your panel with the Ubuntu circle of friends on it) and slides.
        • Slide only - it will only slide.
        • Fade only - it will only fade.
      6. The Dash Blur sets the level of blur in the dash

        • No Blur
        • Static - snapshot of the desktop that doesn't get updated (in cases where the drivers can't handle it)
        • Realtime - Updating of things behind the dash in real time (Not implemented yet)

    Configuration Editor (gconf-editor)

    1. Open up the Configuration Editor by Pressing Alt + F2 and typing gconf-editor

    2. Navigate to apps -> compiz-1 -> plugins -> unityshell -> screen0 -> options.

    Now you can set settings described above. Clicking on an item will show a short description in the Key Documentation panel.

    Configuration Editor (dconf-editor)

    There are also some options you can edit using dconf-editor (needs to be installed first by installing dconf-tools at Ubuntu Software Center or by clicking here):

    1. Open up the Configuration Editor by pressing Alt + F2 and typing dconf-editor

    2. Navigate to Desktop -> Unity to find the first two options:

      • form-factor: The form factor chosen will affect the size of the Dash. Desktop uses a fixed sized Dash, Netbook will always maximize the Dash to screen size, Automatic decides whether to use Desktop or Netbook based on the screen resolution.
      • home-expanded: Whether the home screen of the Dash should be expanded (Expanded) or not (Not Expanded).
    3. Navigate to Desktop -> Unity -> Devices

      • devices-option: Key for setting the devices that will be shown on the launcher. Never -> never show devices on the launcher, OnlyMounted -> only show devices that are mounted, Always -> also show unmounted devices.
    4. Navigate to Desktop -> Unity -> Launcher
      • favorites-migration: This is a detection key for the favorite migration script to know whether the needed migration is done or not. You don't want to change that.
      • favorites: This is a list of desktop files that show up in the launcher.
    5. Navigate to Desktop -> Unity -> Panel
      • systray-whitelist: List of programs that are allowed to put icons in the panel's tray area: [''] -> none , ['all'] -> all programs, or a list of program names.

    Launcher & Menus (unity-preferences)

    There is another option to configure how to show the launcher then it is hidden.

    1. Open the Launcher & Menus configuration utility by pressing Alt + F2 and typing unity-preferences.


      • Pushes the left edge of the screen will make the launcher appear about one second after pushing the cursor to the left edge of the screen.

      • Touches the top left corner of the screen will make the launcher appear immediately when the cursor touches the top left corner of the screen.

    2. Select the desired option.