How to install the default GNOME Shell theme (Adwaita) on Ubuntu 20.04, 20.10 and 21.04

This article describes how to install the default GNOME Shell theme Adwaita on Ubuntu 20.04, 20.10, and 21.04 (hint: this is trickier than you think).

GNOME Shell themes are themes for the top panel, activity overview, system dialogs and notifications. GNOME uses Adwaita as the default theme for GTK and GNOME Shell.

You may want to use the default GNOME Shell theme, not only because you don’t like the Yaru GNOME Shell theme, or you are a fan of Adwaita, but also because you may want to use the default GNOME Shell theme for testing (this is why I actually Need this on).

Ubuntu comes with Yaru as the default GTK and GNOME Shell theme. Although the Adwaita GTK theme is pre-installed on Ubuntu, the Adwaita GNOME Shell theme is more troublesome to install, and even if you actually already have it, it will not show up in GNOME Tweaks/unavailable by default.

This is because the GNOME Shell theme called “default” on Ubuntu (for example, in GNOME Tweaks) is Yaru, not Adwaita.

To install the Adwaita GNOME Shell theme on Ubuntu 20.04, 20.10 or 21.04, we need to change it from gnome-shell-theme.gresource Archive and put it in ~/.themes/Adwaita/gnome-shell (This makes it available to your users only; if you want it to be available to all users, copy it to /usr/share/themes instead ~/.themes):

mkdir -p ~/.themes/Adwaita/gnome-shell

gresource extract /usr/share/gnome-shell/gnome-shell-theme.gresource /org/gnome/shell/theme/gnome-shell.css > ~/.themes/Adwaita/gnome-shell/gnome-shell.css

The Adwaita GNOME Shell theme is now installed. To switch to this theme, you will need the GNOME Tweaks application and the User Themes extension. If they are not already installed, you can install both using the following methods:

sudo apt install gnome-tweaks gnome-shell-extensions

After installation gnome-shell-extensions Package, restart GNOME Shell by pressing Alt + F2, Types of r then press Enter Key (If you are using Wayland, please log out and log in again, for example, Ubuntu 21.04 will use Wayland by default).Next, you need to turn on “Adjustments” and enable User themes expand. Close and restart Tweaks, now you will be able to change the GNOME Shell theme to Adwaita (Appearance -> Shell).

Another way to use the default Adwaita GNOME Shell theme on Ubuntu 20.04, 20.10 and 21.04 is to install a vanilla GNOME Shell session (gnome-session Package), and select GNOME (not Ubuntu) on the login screen. But with it, you will lose the Ubuntu Dock, AppIndicators extension, etc., and I don’t think most Ubuntu users want to do this.

You might also like:

  • Orchis is a cool GTK/GNOME theme with round elements
  • WhiteSur: macOS Big Sur for Linux desktops, such as Gtk, Gnome Shell and Icon themes

by AskUbuntu