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How can I change the behaviour of the launcher icons so that they have their background toggled on only if the application is running?

I want backgrounds or borders highlighted if the application is active, like I have it on Unity 3D.

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I am afraid you can't toggle the backlight of the launcher items in Unity-2D. It apparently is only available for Unity-3D and given the fact that most development has been halted for Unity-2D, I don't see any possibility of this feature being developed upon.

I also stumbled upon bug #753969 and discovered this untested patch that might help you get toggle-able backlight on Unity-2D if you know how to build Unity-2D from source.

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Thanks for the patch. I have seen that bug myself too, but the problem with this bug is that it evolved into "This mode should be default". – Rafał Cieślak Oct 5 '12 at 11:38
I think this will be doable. That path gave me a hint on how to do that, even without building Unit2D on my own. Working on it ;) – Rafał Cieślak Oct 5 '12 at 11:54
Yay! Good luck with that and please do let me know how it goes. :) – jokerdino Oct 5 '12 at 12:04

I got it! Thanks to the patch jokerdino linked, I was able to configure Unity2D so that it behaves the desired way.

enter image description here

I have prepared a script that applies required changes automatically. Therefore all you need to do is to download and run it.

Important notice: This script works only on Ubuntu 12.04. Because it patches Unity's files, use it on your own risk! Especially, do not force it to apply patches if it detects & complains it was unable to do it correctly.

chmod +x

The script will ask you for root password, patch two files and restart Unity2D shell.

To revert changes, simply reinstall package unity-2d-shell.

Note: This change will be lost with updates. You will need to run the script again then.

Here are script contents:

cat > /tmp/IconTile.patch << EOF
--- IconTile.qml    2012-10-05 14:47:31.341845516 +0200
+++ IconTile.qml_new    2012-10-05 14:47:55.757966590 +0200
@@ -32,6 +32,7 @@
     property string selectedTileBackgroundImage: ""
     property string tileBackgroundImage: ""
     property string tileShineImage: ""
+    property alias tileBackgroundVisible: tileBackground.visible

     property color defaultBackgroundColor: "#333333"
     property color selectedBackgroundColor: "#dddddd"
cat > /tmp/LauncherItem.patch << EOF
--- LauncherItem.qml    2012-10-05 14:40:37.267792239 +0200
+++ LauncherItem.qml_new    2012-10-05 14:43:00.136500682 +0200
@@ -210,6 +210,7 @@
                 tileShineImage: (item.isBfb) ? "../launcher/artwork/squircle_shine_54.png" : ""
                 selectedTileBackgroundImage: (item.isBfb) ? "../launcher/artwork/squircle_base_selected_54.png" : ""

+                tileBackgroundVisible: running | launching
                 /* tile background fade in/out animation */
                 SequentialAnimation on backgroundOpacity {
                     NumberAnimation { to: 0.0; duration: 1000; easing.type: Easing.InOutQuad }
sudo patch /usr/share/unity-2d/shell/common/IconTile.qml < /tmp/IconTile.patch
sudo patch /usr/share/unity-2d/shell/launcher/LauncherItem.qml < /tmp/LauncherItem.patch
killall unity-2d-shell
unity-2d-shell > /dev/null 2>&1 &
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Can you guarantee that script will be hosted there for the next 5 years? if not - i would suggest adding it to your answer - or at least include the relevant changes to the unity-2d files so that someone has visibility of what this shell script is supposed to do. – fossfreedom Oct 5 '12 at 14:12
@fossfreedom: Thanks for the tip, fixed that. – Rafał Cieślak Oct 5 '12 at 14:16
ok - cheers for that. I note its a diff - this will break on the next unity-2d update in this area. Do you intend to maintain this script? – fossfreedom Oct 5 '12 at 14:19
@fossfreedom: I doubt it will. The files I change are the ones used to define how user interface looks like. As far as I know no more design changes are going to land in unity-2d, so I expect these files won't be changed anymore. – Rafał Cieślak Oct 5 '12 at 14:22

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