There are lots of cursor, icon, window and GTK themes on the web and I downloaded some of them, but I do not know how to figure out if they are compatible with Ubuntu 14.04.1 64-bit Unity? Furthermore, in the beginning I used Ubuntu Tweak Tool to change the cursor, icon, window and GTK themes; however, I noticed that when I changed the cursor theme and hovered the cursor from one window to another its appearance changed. I was able to fix this by running the following command to set the cursor theme after setting it from Ubuntu Tweak Tool.

sudo update-alternatives --config x-cursor-theme

The output of the command was as follows: 

$ sudo update-alternatives --config x-cursor-theme
There are 7 choices for the alternative x-cursor-theme (providing /usr/share/icons/default/index.theme).

  Selection    Path                                       Priority   Status
  0            /usr/share/icons/DMZ-White/cursor.theme     100       auto mode
  1            /etc/X11/cursors/core.theme                 30        manual mode
  2            /etc/X11/cursors/handhelds.theme            20        manual mode
  3            /etc/X11/cursors/redglass.theme             20        manual mode
  4            /etc/X11/cursors/whiteglass.theme           20        manual mode
  5            /usr/share/icons/DMZ-Black/cursor.theme     30        manual mode
  6            /usr/share/icons/DMZ-White/cursor.theme     100       manual mode
* 7            /usr/share/icons/mac-cursors/cursor.theme   90        manual mode

Press enter to keep the current choice[*], or type selection number:

And this made me wonder where to put the cursor themes, why the priority of each one is different and what the manual vs. auto mode standed for. Moreover, I was not sure where to put the GTK or icon theme files and I preferred to put them under ~/.icons and I also have an unhidden ~/icons directory containing tar.gz versions of various themes together with a themes directory (also containing themes in tar.gz format) in my home folder. I do not remember as of now if I put them myself or the system created them. I would be grateful and appreciate it if someone could explain how update-alternatives work and where are the various themes stored usually? Also in my opinion Ubuntu Tweak Tool is not that successful at changing themes, is there an alternative for that?

3 Answers 3


To install a new theme it would suffice to copy it to ~/.local/share/themes, and activate it using Unity Tweak Tool. Running update-alternatives won't be necessary.

Some themes are available via PPAs. Numix for example.

PPAs usually install them in /usr/share/themes and /usr/share/icons/, so it seems to me that your ~/icons folder is one created by yourself

Furthermore .$HOME/themes and $HOME/icons paths are deprecated and will not be read in future releases.

  • Thanks I am actually using the global file and do not have an icons file under my home directory. Gsettings commands also work while setting the theme. I also answered my own question let me know if it needs editing I did not remember the step of changing the .theme file.
    – Vesnog
    Nov 7, 2015 at 20:57

It install a theme here is what you need to do:

> tar xf package.tar.gz
> sudo mv package /usr/share/themes

to activate, open Unity Tweak Tool (UTT), and go to Appearance and then Theme. And select your desired theme (package)!

  • In order to get a consistent mouse cursor over all the open windows the following settings are necessary: 1 sudo update-alternatives --config x-cursor-theme 2 gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface cursor-theme "desired_theme" After copying the theme under /usr/share/icons for global usage or under home directory as depicted by @reversiblean.
    – Vesnog
    Nov 7, 2015 at 20:57
  • Thank you for this information... That never came up in my research, but now that I know.. thank you
    – Viraj Shah
    Nov 9, 2015 at 0:14

In order to get a consistent mouse cursor over all the open windows the following settings are necessary:

  1. Make sure that you copied the theme under /usr/share/icons/desired_theme

  2. Under this directory there should be an cursor.theme file and it should contain the following(The Inherits line is the most important):

    [Icon Theme]

Name = Hackneyed Comment = Windows 3.x-inspired cursors Example = default Inherits = Hackneyed

  1. Then the following commands should be run:

    sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/share/icons/default/index.theme x-cursor-theme /usr/share/icons/desired_theme/cursor.theme 50

    sudo update-alternatives --config x-cursor-theme

    gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface cursor-theme "desired_theme"

Assuming the theme is already copied under /usr/share/icons for global usage or under home directory as depicted by @reversiblean.

EDIT Ubuntu Tweak Tools can also be used to accomplish the second step. However, first step can only be done on the CLI. I could not make some of the parts in coding format.

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