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I would like to change the default icon set and wallpaper so when a new user is created they have them automatically.

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Create a new dummy user, modify its settings to your liking and cherry-pick the changes from .config and .gconf, place them into /etc/skel. Keep the directory structure intact, e.g. copy: /home/dummyuser/.gconf/desktop/gnome/background/%gconf.xml to: /etc/skel/.gconf/desktop/gnome/background/%gconf.xml


  • Install gconf-editor and try to locate the settings that interest you. The tree structure maps directly to the files involved.
  • Be proficient in XML-editing, e.g. a syntax-highlighting editor like geany may show you common typos (In case you want to impose only a subset of the keys in the XML-file, you need to delete the remainder correctly)
  • Less is better, too much branding may cause eye-fatigue ;)
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Changes here only seem to affect an account on second logon..? – Lewis Goddard Oct 1 '11 at 9:54

While I haven't tested this with more recent versions of Ubuntu, I believe that Sabayon is what you are looking for.

It allows you to tweak all kinds of defaults: panels, background, templates, etc. It is often paired with Pessulus for restricting access to certain features, though is probably more than you need.

Update: It does work in 11.10, and it has been renamed to "User Profile Editor".

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You could edit /usr/share/gconf/defaults/16_ubuntu-artwork and /usr/share/gconf/defaults/16_ubuntu-wallpapers for setting the default theme/icon set and wallpaper respectively. The file structure is pretty simple. For example, to change the default wallpaper you have to edit the line:

/desktop/gnome/background/picture_filename "/usr/share/backgrounds/warty-final-ubuntu.png"


/desktop/gnome/background/picture_filename "/PATH/TO/CUSTOM_WALLPAPER"

Make sure that the custom wallpaper can be read by everyone and be extra cautious when editing these files as you may damage your system.

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Changing "/desktop/gnome/interface/icon_theme Eustasy" doesn't seem to have effected it. – Lewis Goddard Oct 1 '11 at 9:43

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