I recently installed the i3 Window Manager and have fallen thoroughly in love with it. However, it's rather ugly...

I followed the instructions here for getting started, and one of the points was adding the exec --no-startup-id gnome-settings-daemon line to the ~/.i3/config file that was supposed to make everything look good again. However, after re-logging, nothing seems to have changed.

Now, I'm guessing that those instructions were intended for use with an Ubuntu install that uses GNOME as the default DE and I use Unity.

I also looked at this question, which points to installing lxappearance for this issue in Awesome Window Manager. However, I again doubt this would apply to my case, since I use Unity & it's i3 I'm dealing with.

Does anyone know what I need to do to "de-uglify" i3? I really like it, and I'll probably continue using it even if I don't have the nice GTK themes, but obviously it would be nicer to have things looking pretty again.

  • @DKBose Do you know how I would apply the GTK theme to i3 without gnome-settings-daemon, then? Mar 20, 2015 at 3:10
  • @DKBose That's exactly what's ugly. The window decorations are quite ugly (see here for an example). Looking back at the screenshots I took before starting gnome-settings-daemon it actually did do something - the look of the applications is back to normal. However, I'm curious to see if it's possible to change the window decorations Mar 20, 2015 at 11:42
  • Nice expression "have fallen thoroughly in love with it. However, it's rather ugly..." :) Apr 30, 2020 at 14:57

5 Answers 5


lxapperance will do what you want for i3.

You also want QT, GTK 2.0, and GTK+ to look the same as your chosen theme.


  1. lxappearance
  2. gtk-chtheme
  3. qt4-qtconfig

These applications allow you to configure the theme, QT, and GTK to have the same appearance. (They are good if you don't feel comfortable getting into GTK engines or editing a bunch of config files, and they run independent of Gnome!)

sudo apt-get install lxappearance gtk-chtheme qt4-qtconfig

Start with lxappearance and choose a theme; then choose it in gtk-chtheme. In qt4-config, there is a dropdown menu setting to make qt take the GTK+ settings. That seems to work best for me. (It makes VLC and KeepassX look good.)

As for applets, the Network Manager applet is the most important one. In your i3 config file, add this line to the end:

exec --no-startup-id nm-applet

In your web searching, when you find other applets you'd want to start, you do it exactly the same way:

exec --no-startup-id <applet name>

When you logout and log back in, the Network Manager applet should appear on the lower right.

  • Welcome to Ask Ubuntu! Awesome answer my friend, I'll definitely give this a go! Mar 25, 2015 at 11:40
  • Just tried it out, and everything seems to be working fine! Thanks for posting! +1 and marked as answer Mar 25, 2015 at 12:26
  • Thanks a lot! I am on archlinux and was browsing many websites to just have my GTK and QT applications working well. Installing just the three tools you mention, then selecting a theme in lxappearance, then selecting GTK+ in gtconfig-qt4 solved it all. AWESOME!
    – vvo
    Apr 23, 2016 at 13:26
  • 3
    On ubuntu 16.10 the qt command is actually: qtconfig-qt4 Feb 28, 2017 at 17:26

All of the suggestions that I am giving represent only my opinion and one may or may not agree with them.

  1. One of the best tutorials, on ricing (de-uglifying) your i3 can be found in this youtube video
  2. Further, you should also install i3-gaps, its absolutely beautiful.
  3. You should also checkout the reddit /r/unixporn for amazing ideas for ricing your i3.

I was trying to solve the same issue and found a direct solution to what was being asked about here, namely the i3 window borders.

From a blog post @ http://hndr.me/blog/making-my-new-linux-less-ugly/

client.focused          #3F8AC2 #096BAA #00BAA7 #00DA8E
client.focused_inactive #333333 #5F676A #ffffff #484e50
client.unfocused        #333333 #424242 #888888 #292d2e 
client.urgent           #C10004 #900000 #ffffff #900000

Are lines to append to ~/.config/i3/config that control the foreground and background colors of i3's window titlebars.

Change the font with "font" (it's likely already there). It's recommended to use pango for better font renderings. For example, I use the following:

font pango: Dejavu Sans Mono 14

while the linked blog uses

font pango: Ubuntu Mono 10

Additionally you could add another 'font' line within the 'bar {} ' block to use a different font in the status bar. For example of what that may look like:

bar {

    status_command i3status
    position top
    font pango: sans 12

           background #232323
           statusline #DCDCDC



You can also take help from config files that Manjaro uses for i3. They are highly customized and you can learn a lot from them.

I found the dot files here: https://github.com/Airblader/dotfiles-manjaro

PS: I do not own this repo.


I really like this simple, dark solarized configuration: https://github.com/tobiaszwaszak/i3wm It looks good and has no special dependencies.

Copy the main config file to ~/.config/i3/config and the i3status.conf to ~/.config/i3/config (to be clear, you want to rename the .conf file to config, not create a subfolder under i3status). MOD+Shitft+R reloads i3 and you should see things look much better instantly.

Note that this config uses Alt for the MOD key and does other non-default things you may want to customize.

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