How to Install themes on Xubuntu and Other Distros Using Xfce Desktop Environment

Brief: This is a step-by-step beginner’s tutorial to show how to install themes and icons in Xubuntu and other Linux distributions that use Xfce desktop environment.

Installing themes on Xubuntu is similar to Ubuntu or any other Linux distribution. You put the theme files in the ~/.themes folder and then use a tool to change it.

However, some options or the user interface will look different considering Xubuntu uses the Xfce desktop environment. This is why I created this specific tutorial to show the steps with proper screenshots.

Install new themes in Xubuntu (Xfce)

To get started, you need to create a .themes folder in the home directory. Mind the dot (.) before the folder name. It’s important and hides the folder from normal view.

To check if you already have it, you can enable viewing hidden files and then create it if it isn’t present.

xubuntu hidden files

Once done, you need to download a theme.

1. You can browse for XFCE themes on the Xfce-look portal. All you have to do is download the archive (compressed) file.

2. Next, you need to extract the zip file, as shown in the screenshot below.

extract xubuntu theme

3. Once you extract it, you will notice a folder appear, and you will have to copy it.

extracted xubuntu theme

4. You will have to then paste this folder into the .themes directory that you created initially.

copy theme xubuntu

5. Finally, you need to head to the Appearance setting to find it listed and select it/apply it for it to take effect.

appearance xfce

As you notice in the screenshot below, the new theme has been added and applied:

xpro xubuntu theme

In addition to the theme, if you need to customize the icons of your Xubuntu desktop, you need to create another .icons folder in the home directory.

Like you installed the theme, you will have to follow a similar process to apply the icon themes.

To give you an example, let me highlight those steps here:

Adding icon themes in Xubuntu (Xfce)

You can browse through the same xfce-look portal to look for complete icon themes.

Or, you can explore some of the best icon themes available for Ubuntu that should work for Xubuntu as well.

Once you find the one you like, download it, and extract it as shown below.

xubuntu icon theme

Next, you will have to copy and paste the folder into the .icons folder.

xubuntu icon theme selection

Now, you can head back to the Appearance settings and find the icon listed under the “Icons” available.

To show you the difference, I changed the default Xubuntu theme to adwaita-dark, as you can see here:

xubuntu icon theme change

Note: Some icon or theme files may contain nested folders with different variants in it. You’ll notice that they do not appear in the appearance tool. If that’s the case, copy the inner folder directly in ~/.themes or ~/.icons folder.

Wrapping Up

With both the style and icons tweaked, you can customize your Xubuntu experience to blend in with your taste.

Do you prefer the default Xubuntu look or customize the look of it using different themes/icons? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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  • hey how to update themes? lets assume i download a theme.zip on github, how to make em stay up to date with latest release?

    as for icon im using papirus and they have ppa that can be add but what about themes? i dont see any way to automatically update them

    • You won’t get automatic updates if you download a zip folder and unzip it. Some themes and icons have their PPA but that’s rare these days.

      You have to either download it again or see if there is GitHub repository available for the icons and themes. You can clone the repo, create a link to the directory and when there is an update, just git pull it.

  • This tutorial seems to be incomplete… What about borders and window-controls?
    The other thing is: You only have to put the zipped files to the Appearance-tool by drag’n-drop, Xfce will do the rest for you. ;o)