In October 2010, Otto Greenslade of the Canonical Design Team has published the so called Ubuntu emoticons in a post on the Design Blog.

In a post on OMG! Ubuntu! it was explained how you could set them for Pidgin, which is not the default IM client in Ubuntu 11.04 at least.

How can I do the same for Empathy so that the program uses this set of emoticons?


First, download the .png version of the Ubuntu emoticons from the first link you have provided. Save them wherever you want, though here I will assume they will be in your Downloads folder. Extract after downloading by right-clicking the tar.gz you downloaded and selecting "Extract here".

Next, hit Alt+F2 and type in gksudo nautilus. You will need to provide your password at the prompt. Once Nautilus starts, navigate to the /usr/share/icons/gnome/16x16/emotes directory. You should see all of the default emoticons if you go to the right place.

Open your extracted Ubuntu emoticons in another tab or window, and create a backup of the originals (right-clicking to copy and then pasting back into the same folder should create .png's renamed as copies, which should be enough). Delete the original icons you want to replace, then copy and paste the new icons into the emotes directory. Lastly, rename them so that they have the names of the original icons. To test, start an Empathy chat window and try typing in your new emotes!

Note that the Ubuntu emoticons provided in that blog post are not a complete replacement for all of the default GNOME icons. You will have to pick and choose which ones you want to use, or you can create additional ones on your own as needed.


In addition to the above reply, you can override empathy icon theme on a per user basis by installing the similarly named .png icons into ~/.local/share/icons/gnome/16x16/emotes

When I tried this (using the android set of emoticons) I just closed the current chat window and the next time I used it the new theme was used, though a restart of empathy / gnome / ubuntu would ensure that they are picked up.

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