Something about the color scheme changed in 11.04, and now it's very difficult for me to tell which tab is the selected one.

enter image description here

On my screen, the colors look more similar the further down I slouch in my chair (i.e. angle of view).

If I change the color scheme the problem is solved, but that solution is too extreme for me. Is there a way to just change the color of the selected tab in terminal, or otherwise make it more prominent?

UPDATE: In 12.10 the accepted solution doesn't work. Can anyone fix it?


5 Answers 5


For 12.10–15.04 you can create a CSS theme for GTK 3.0 as explained in this comment by Kees (kees-vanveen) on the bug report posted above by Alessio.

  1. Create the file ~/.config/gtk-3.0/gtk.css

  2. Paste this as the contents using your desired color:

    TerminalWindow .notebook tab:active {
        background-color: #def;
  3. Close all Terminal windows and relaunch the application to see the change.

  • 4
    Works great -- thanks! As a reminder to anyone trying this solution, you'll need to log out and log back in before changes take effect.
    – Sam King
    Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 5:56
  • 6
    Just closing all terminal windows and reopening a new session worked for me.
    – sunew
    Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 11:22
  • 3
    Confirming this works through 14.10. As long as gnome-terminal uses gtk-3, unless they change the spec this should always be a solution.
    – balloons
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 19:00
  • 1
    Ah; you just lop off :active, but you still need to style the :active pseudoclass as there doesn't seem to be any rules there by default.
    – Nick T
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 22:24
  • 7
    You can test the change without closing all terminal windows by starting a new terminal with gnome-terminal --disable-factory Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 9:49

I'm not that much of a theme hacker, but here's a quick fix:

Create or edit the file ~/.gtkrc-2.0 to include the following:

style "gnome_terminal_notebook"
  fg[NORMAL] = "#00ff00"

widget "*TerminalWindow.*.GtkNotebook*" style "gnome_terminal_notebook"

This will turn the text color of the active tab green. Not very beautiful, but should give you a start.

You could also lighten up the highlighted tab by replacing the fg line with:

bg[NORMAL] = shade (1.25, "#3c3b37")

The downside: this will also make the inner borders brighter.

Note: This will influence every theme you choose in the appearance properties, so don't forget to undo those changes when using another theme.

  • This workaround works perfectly! You can use #4c4b47 for an even brighter background. Commented May 31, 2011 at 14:35
  • This suggestion does not work on 12.10 Can anyone confirm it does ? Commented Feb 28, 2013 at 20:21
  • @ScottStensland - See my answer for a solution that works on 12.10. Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 6:52
  • Works for gtk-2.0 based terminal, like my: MATE Terminal 1.8.1 / MATE Desktop Environment 1.8.2 / Ubuntu 14.04 / Kernel Linux 4.2.0-27-generic. Also refer to this for bg[ACTIVE] fg[ACTIVE] etc.
    – Weekend
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 8:27

Using Ubuntu's warm grey in https://design.ubuntu.com/brand/colour-palette, this is a small variation of David's:

TerminalWindow .notebook tab {
    background-color: #e2e0dd;

TerminalWindow .notebook tab:active {
    background-color: #f2f1f0;

The color of other tabs here is slightly darker.


You can hack the theme and change colors that way. I did that years ago when a theme I otherwise liked didn't have enough contrast.

Themes installed system-wide live in /usr/share/themes, while your own themes live in ~/.themes. If the theme you're modifying is a system-wide theme, I suggest copying it to ~/.themes and renaming it before making changes. Otherwise, your changes will get overwritten the next time the package responsible for those files gets upgraded.


For Ubuntu 16.04, create a file named ~/.config/gtk-3.0/gtk.css, and place the following into it:

TerminalWindow .notebook tab:active {
    background-color: #b0c0f0;

Credit: http://eli.thegreenplace.net/2014/highlighting-the-active-tab-in-gnome-terminal/

  • 2
    This is the same as the accepted answer.
    – itsadok
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 7:02

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