To improve visibility of what Launcher-Applications I have running (instead of relying solely on that small right-facing triangle), is it possible to make Launcher-icons default to a black&white/dark/dim state? And then when a launcher-icon is clicked (or the super+# shortcut used) that icon would gain color and backlight signifying the app is running?

If the Launcher icon's app is not running, it is dimmed out. If the icon's app is running, it is showing in color and backlit.

I'd prefer an "inhouse" solution as opposed to having to install additional software, but I'm interested in hearing all options for if this is possible.

4 Answers 4


Give Ubuntu Tweak a try, I find the settings included improve the Unity launcher greatly (Including the back light option).

Here is the web page for download Ubuntu Tweak


Unfortunately you can't. You can customize just a few standard options for unity launcher, as Unity and Compiz are using GConf to store their settings, and not a .css file like gnome-shell does.

The configuration data is saved under ~/.gconf, but modifications should only be made through the GConf daemon.

You can modify the Unity settings directly using gconf-editor and browsing to /apps/compiz-1/plugins/unityshell/screen0/options. You will notice that Unity responds to changes instantly, the same as CCSM.

If you want a command line tool to modify these settings, use gconftool-2. For example, to reduce the launcher icon size I can do:

gconftool-2 --set /apps/compiz-1/plugins/unityshell/screen0/options/icon_size --type int 32

Although you can't make them greyed out (unless there is a plugin I do not know about), you can make it so they only show the background (called the backlight) if they are open. This provides a similar function.

The easiest way to enable this is to install MyUnity, which is just a program that makes these tweaks more accessible:

sudo apt-get install myunity

Then open it up and on the launcher tab, you will see a dropdown for Backlights. Just set that to "Active icons On". You will instantly notice the change.

To do it from the gconf-editor, simply fire up the editor, navigate to /apps/compiz-1/plugins/unityshell/screen0/options/backlight_mode and set it to 1. 0 is the default.

The command to do it using gconftool-2 would be:

gconftool-2 --set /apps/compiz-1/plugins/unityshell/screen0/options/backlight_mode --type int 1

to set it back:

gconftool-2 --set /apps/compiz-1/plugins/unityshell/screen0/options/backlight_mode --type int 0
  • reverendj1, is there a backlight command available in dconf-editor? or is it only available (per your answer) in gconf-editor?
    – Greg
    May 30, 2012 at 16:42
  • I do not see a way to do it in dconf-editor. That's not to say it isn't possible, but I don't see how.
    – reverendj1
    May 30, 2012 at 16:49

I just install the CompizConfig Settings Manager (CCSM). Open it, select Ubuntu Unity Plugin, go to the "Experimental" tab. Under backlight mode set "backlight toggles". On launch animation select "Pulse until running".

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