I want to change my wallpaper in Ubuntu 11.10 (with Unity) in a small Python script. I found the possibility to change it via the gconf-editor in /desktop/gnome/background/picture_filename. With python-gconf, I'm able to change the necessary values.

Apparently, the gconf string is not read out. If I change it (either via a script or via gconf-editor), the wallpaper remains and in the menu of "Change wallpaper", the old wallpaper is shown.

How am I able to change the wallpaper for Unity via a Python script?

The following code does work.

# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
from gi.repository import Gio

class BackgroundChanger():
        SCHEMA = 'org.gnome.desktop.background'
        KEY = 'picture-uri'

        def change_background(self, filename):
                gsettings = Gio.Settings.new(self.SCHEMA)
                print(gsettings.set_string(self.KEY, "file://" + filename))

if __name__ == "__main__":

Unfortunately, gconf doesn't really clean up after itself very well. That's and old setting. With GNOME3 and Unity in 11.10, the desktop background setting is now stored in dconf. With dconf-editor you can find the setting at org.gnome.desktop.background.picture-uri

Here's a quick example showing how to change the background with python, GTK, and GObject Introspection:

#! /usr/bin/python

from gi.repository import Gtk, Gio

class BackgroundChanger(Gtk.Window):

    SCHEMA = 'org.gnome.desktop.background'
    KEY = 'picture-uri'

    def __init__(self):
        Gtk.Window.__init__(self, title="Background Changer")

        box = Gtk.Box(spacing=6)

        button1 = Gtk.Button("Set Background Image")
        button1.connect("clicked", self.on_file_clicked)

    def on_file_clicked(self, widget):
        gsettings = Gio.Settings.new(self.SCHEMA)

        dialog = Gtk.FileChooserDialog("Please choose a file", self,
            (Gtk.STOCK_CANCEL, Gtk.ResponseType.CANCEL,
             Gtk.STOCK_OPEN, Gtk.ResponseType.OK))


        response = dialog.run()
        if response == Gtk.ResponseType.OK:
            background = dialog.get_filename()
            gsettings.set_string(self.KEY, "file://" + background)
        elif response == Gtk.ResponseType.CANCEL:


    def add_filters(self, dialog):
        filter_image = Gtk.FileFilter()
        filter_image.set_name("Image files")

        filter_any = Gtk.FileFilter()
        filter_any.set_name("Any files")

win = BackgroundChanger()
win.connect("delete-event", Gtk.main_quit)

Here are two helpful blog posts on GSettings and Python:



  • Thank you for the hint. It seems correct, but unfortunately, the settings are not updated. If I set the new URI, the function returns true for success, but in dconf-editor or a get-string call, the old value is returned. Therefore, the wallpaper is not updated. Am I doing this wrong? – guerda Dec 14 '11 at 12:11
  • Hmmm... The above code certainly updates the wallpaper. Maybe if you posted some of your code on a pastebin somewhere I'd have a better idea what's going on in your case. – andrewsomething Dec 14 '11 at 17:34
  • Hi andrewsomething! Thanks for coming back to me! I updated my question with my code example. Would be great if you could help me. – guerda Dec 15 '11 at 18:14
  • Your code works for me... Thank you for your help! I will post a minimal working example, too. – guerda Dec 15 '11 at 19:34

Here you go

#! /usr/bin/python

import os

os.system("gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background picture-uri file:///home/user/Pictures/wallpaper/Stairslwallpaper.png")

Maybe not the best but the easiest solution:

import commands
command = 'gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background picture-uri "file:///home/user/test.png"'
status, output = commands.getstatusoutput(command)
  • 2
    This is the terminal command only. Maybe you should include how to invoke it via Python to fully answer the question? – N.N. Jan 4 '12 at 14:46
  • no, this is a python script that works exactly that way. – dirkk0 Jan 1 '17 at 19:58
  • 1
    Just saw that 'commands' is deprecated. w = "/usr/share/backgrounds/warty-final-ubuntu.png"; c = 'gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background picture-uri "file://%s"' % w; import subprocess; subprocess.call(c.split()) – dirkk0 Jan 2 '17 at 6:38

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