KDE Theme-Building Tutorial

This new KDE tutorial on IBM developerWorks is designed to teach you about KDE themes: Learn how to create, save, load, and share the fundamental look and feel of the KDE environment. After completing this tutorial, you should feel confident in your ability to customize KDE to fit your personal working style. (free registration required). Update: 04/11 18:34 by D: Shailendra wrote in to inform us of a KDE Theme Contest currently sponsored by IBM developerWorks in conjunction with the tutorial, with a bounty of $2,000, $1,500 and $500 for the top three submissions. The contest runs until May 1, 2001, and submissions must be of original, previously unpublished themes (one entry per person). Note that only KDE 1 themes are eligible. Update: 04/11 19:54 by D: After a closer look at the rules I discovered that by submitting your theme you assign your copyright in the theme to IBM developerWorks. Also, the contest is only open to US residents.

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by Wilhelm Schlegel (not verified)

The tutorial is nice but, IBM also sponsors a theme contest - that is IMHO even more important and deserves some advertisement.


by richie123 (not verified)

Ya the lack of good kde 2 themes is one of the few complaints I have with kde. You can easily make themes that make gnome/sawfish look like crap, but themers have just been slow on the uptake. Maybe I'll have a look at the tutorial and see if I can get anything going.

by Thorsten Schnebeck (not verified)

Hmmm, maybe someone should talk to IBM that KDE 1.x is history and this article is not really interesting.

1) Yes, I logged in with Konq, not with Netscape or IE and it worked (surprise, surprise!)

2) This "tutorial" has six section. KDE-2 themes start at section 5 (section 6 is feedback) and has no info.

3) From the contest page:
"Themes must be original, previously unpublished, and compliant with KDE 1.1.x or 1.2 and the KDE Theme Manager; non-compliant themes will not be judged."

Thank you IBM, this tutorial is too late.

by Jelmer Feenstra (not verified)

Unbelievable, we're way beyond the 2.0 release already and they start a contest for KDE 1.

Well, I couldn't have entered myself anyway, as you have to be a US citizen in order to enter the contest.

by KDE1.x user (not verified)

I use KDE 1 because my computer is slow(no I can't upgrade my computer, I live in a poor country) it's good to see that KDE 1 is still somewhat supported. The latter KDEs are almost usable though, it'll be good if KDE 2.2 will run good in 16 megs of memory.

by Macka (not verified)

With only 16MB of memory, you're better off sticking to a char-cell only environment. You can't seriously expect a modern GUI to run effectively in just that. Even if it did there would be no memory left for apps.

I'm surprised you even find KDE 1.x usable.

There are a whole range of good char-cell apps you can use for email, editing, browsing the web (w3m), reading newsgroups, etc, etc. You don't have to use a GUI to be productive when using a GUI clearly doesn't make much sense. At least with Linux you have the choice.

by Tick (not verified)

1.2? Was there ever a 1.2 release?

I know there was a 1.1.2. Maybe that is what they mean?

Either way, it is a worthless contest if they do not accept kde2 themes.


by Thorsten Schnebeck (not verified)

I looked at kdebase cvs-tags:

There is no 1.2-tag! Quite hard being compatible ;-)


by Stuart (not verified)

I get a crash trying to use the Legacy Theme Importer with the marble3D GTK theme (search for it on gtk.t.o if you're interested). The error message says something like "GTKCurve: unknown object" (sorry, not in front of the relevant computer atm) and KControl crashes. I had to delete my .kde/share/config/kstylerc (or something, again this is from memory) to be able to get into KControl again.

Does anyone know what I can do, if anything, to get this theme working with klegacyimport? Also, it would be nice if trying to use a broken/unsupported legacy theme resulted in graceful degradation, rather than a sudden and unrecoverable crash that requires configuration editing to recover...


by David Walser (not verified)

Why are you trying to use Gtk's Marble theme when KDE comes with one? I use KDE's marble theme, and I have Marble3D selected as my Gtk theme. I wouldn't want to use Gtk's Marble theme in KDE because it has less intuitive widgets and would be slower.

by BnW (not verified)

So true... Yet you are completely missing the point.

by Otter (not verified)

...and if you make anything you even suspect other uses might enjoy, submit it to themes.org!

by Justin (not verified)

"You will need Netscape 4.x or higher, or Internet Explorer 4.x or higher, with JavaScript enabled."

I hate to nitpick, but aren't messages like these getting a little old? It's especially strange since it's a page about KDE. They should at least have the decency to mention Konqueror. :P

In contrast, I absolutely *love* what our site designer put on our company's website (affinix.com) in the "About" section:

"This page is best viewed with a monitor."


by Spark (not verified)


First thought: Yeah, finally KDE will look nice!

Second thought: What? KDE 1?

This is... weird. :)
One of the reason, I don't like KDE 2 currently, is the lack of a really nice theme. Some month ago I thought there would be a lot of new and great themes too... no... nothing. Disappointing. :(
This contest would be a great opportunity and it's for KDE 1... would be amusing, if it wouldn't be so sad. :)

by dee (not verified)

Yeah, right... and nowhere in the deep spaces of the internet is a good tutorial for making themes... but if you're interested to design your own theme, i can help you! i worked a lot on this stuff and believe me, it's so great... there is near to nothing you cannot change.
got you? - write me

by KDE User (not verified)

But only at the end, read the last pages for more information. Still, pretty nice effort by IBM.

by Spark (not verified)

I was mostly speaking of the contest. I'm sure it will produce some great themes. But for KDE 1. D'oh! :)

by Antialias (not verified)

Nothing special. It is good for newbies, but for serious themeing it lacks a lot of crucial informations. And it is written more for KDE 1xx than for KDE 2xx.
First, Theme manager module in Kcontrol doesn't have all functions it had in KDE 1xx. Colours? Not a big deal. Colours can easily be changed through Colours module in Kcontrol. Wallpapers? Same story: Background module in Kcontrol. Icons? Very few themers have time and skills to create a set of original icons. Those I've seen in some KDE themes are ugly. And now we come to Window decorations. Hm, here we have a problem.
I've seen nice portings of iceWM and Sawfish decorations, but Maximize/Minimize button sucks. When you click on Maximize button your themed button disappear and you get a square button like in kde 1xx.
And if you've chosen a pixmap for your titlebar when resizing the window the pixmap change form and becomes ugly (you have to resize it again to fix it).
That is a little bit about *.ktheme format.

Another story is Styles. Themeing of Toolbars in kde is pain in the arxx. That's because position of toolbar icons is on toolbar buttons and not on the toolbar. If you choose a pixmap for a toolbar, and you want to select the same pixmap for toolbar buttons, the pixmap has to be plain (no gradient, and no complex pixmaps), otherwise pixmap applied on toolbar and pixmap applied on toolbar button wont match (and you also get stripes around toolbar buttons, so you are forced to apply highlight to avoid that).
And since kde 1.98 (I really don't remember, it was before kde 2.0 was released), choosing background for your style sucks. Why? Because it draws the same background on your windows and inside your windows, so you can't use anymore Konqueror menu > View > Background image for Konqueror. So option is simply this: don't use background image in your styles! Why? Performance. Konqueror simply slows down a lot, and on not fast machine it could be a problem (it is problem here on Pentium 200, but my Athlon 800 can live with it).

Some said here that there are not many themes on kde.themes.org. As you probably know kde.themes.org
haven't had people to maintain the site and that happend at that time KDE 2.0 was released. So, I remember, I uploaded an theme in august 2000 and it showed up on kde.themes.org 3 months after. I also noticed that guys on kde.themes.org changed some things this week, and some themes pople posted there last few months can't be downloaded anymore (it says those themes have 0 bytes). I mailed maintainers (and asked them about changes) and they don't answer at all.

What to say? To theme or not to theme?

by Andy (not verified)

On a related note, I was supposed to become the maintainer for mozilla.themes.org about six months ago and I still have no username/password to get in and set up the site.

If the maintainers of kde.themes.org are in the same situation, there is little hope of much being updated on the site.

by Justin Cook (not verified)

If you would like to email everything you want to know/have questions with directly to me([email protected]), i will get on it and answer your questions, I dont remember seeing your mail, but i get quite a few, and i would be more then happy do deal with your thoughts/ideas.


Justin Cook
http://kde.themes.org admin

by Carbon (not verified)

Most of the things you mention fit under the catagory of "fixable bugs". Please, when you find a bug, if you have some spare time and C++ experience, fix it yourself! Even if you don't, a bug will much more likely be fixed if you report it to bugs.kde.org, which provides the developers some very effective bug organizing tools.

With Windows, you resinstall about every 6 months. With Linux, you reinstall about every 6 months.
The difference is, with Linux, the version numbers change

by Steven Hatfield (not verified)

The one thing that really distresses me about KDE2 theming is the complete lack of a central theme manager. Do I use the decorations? Do I change it in Style? What about in Colors? Or do I use the theme manager? How about I use Gnome, where it's all in one spot, like it *should* be.

The decoration idea was a good idea, but very VERY poorly implemented, imho. There should be one entry in KControl that controls the entire look and feel of your desktop environment, right down to the last pixel. Right clicking on the title bar and choosing a "decoration" style should affect only that window, not the entire window manager!

And who's friggin idea was it to make title bar configuration an exercise in C++ coding, and not something that theme artists can do themselves? There are about a dozen themes for KDE2.x on kde.themes.org, and guess how many of them have original title bars? None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Good idea... NOT.

So please, get this whole "theme" engine together in one spot, and make it so that the theme artists themselves can change the title bars and frames of the windows, like on other (and vastly more popular to themers) window managers. And please allow me to move the buttons (min/max/close/stick/icon) to where *I* want them to be.

Thanks for listening, sorry for the rant.

by gallium (not verified)

Please note that I'm making an icewm theme importer for kde, and a titlebar button position selector - fully integrated with kwin, kde and kcontrol. It has customisable button positions, and other nifty features that artists really want.

The kcontrol module I'm making allows customisation of button title positions via dnd. Similarly, all compatible decorations will be able to have their custom options and other specific decoration settings fully customisable in the one kcontrol place.

See my site http://gallium.n3.net/ for a preview. Hope this is what you were asking about :)


by Steven Hatfield (not verified)

This is *exactly* what I'm talking about! You have hit the proverbial nail on the head!

If you need a beta tester, I'm your man!


([email protected])

by thil (not verified)

Yes, I use your themes until some weeks
I hope this is in Kde 2.2

If you want to try :
go to apps.kde.com
and search 'kwix'


by Al_trent (not verified)

A theme contest for KDE1?! Only for US residents?

That sure is going to help A LOT KDE2...

by Malte (not verified)

Yeah, a contest about themes for such a highly internationalized software as KDE is and that on the internet only for US residents. Guess someone missed something here. I wouldn't participate anyway, but this is discriminating, thanks IBM!

by Antialias (not verified)

I agree Malte, and the contest shouldn't be called KDE Theme Contest but KDE Theme Contest For US Citizens :(

by Malte (not verified)

Okay, an international contest seems to be rather expensive and difficult wrt. legal issues.
As for the version numbers, that's a mistake, the contest _is_ about 2.x

by Asif Ali Rizwaan (not verified)

It's insane to:
1. Organize a Theme contest for KDE 1 instead of KDE 2.
2. And only for Americans when The KDE is mostly develops at Europe.

Anyway, Why can't Mandrake, SuSE, Caldera, etc., think of KDE 2.2 Themes Contest? It will promote their Distro and also encourage people. Who cares :(!?

by Filipe (not verified)

That one with the distributions is a good idea.
The distributors would have a chance to gain
the heart of gimmick fans out there, while
promoting their selfs.
By the way, why didn't IBM organise a Theme contest for finnisch people (dedicating it to
Linus Torvald) ?

About the IBM contest, i think such kind of ideas
are ALLWAYS welcome, but this one shows once
again that Big Blue did never understand how to
keep a OS actual and modern.

Did you already realise that neither http://www.kde.org nor http://kde.themes.org
do have a tutorial on themes for KDE 2.X ? Even the installation of a theme can become an adventure!
I was already about to make some themes, but i
gave up, because i just can do it on my free hours
and don´t have time to try to find how does it
works my self.


by Loranga (not verified)

Core KDE developers seems to be engineers, core Gnome developers artists.

IF you want a product made by engineers, choose KDE. If you want a product made by (visual) designers and artists, choose Gnome.

If unsure, why not compare with choosing a car or a house. A car made by engineers or artists. Or a house made by engineers or artists.

I work on GNOME, I have a degree is chemical engineering from UT and I can't draw at all.

by Waldo Bastian (not verified)

Thanks to "Divide by Zero" you will now also be able to import themes made for MS Windows in the theme manager.

Check out KDE 2.2alpha1 next week!


by me (smk) (not verified)

BullShit !

KDE 1 is too old. i dont care about it.
and there are a lot of theme for it, already.

thats sux, we want more theme for KDE 2.1

we need more theme for KDE 2.x

also, if i've well understand, any submitted theme will become the propriarity of IBM.

they will be able to build and sell complete GUI from an artist idea.

dont submit your theme, keep it for a free contest.

by Kevin Puetz (not verified)

IBM appears to have changed (or just clarified) the rules, you don't assign sole ownership to them or any such, you're just required to release under an opensource.org approved license.

They are accepting themes for both kde1.1.x and kde 2.x.

Nobody panic, just read the linked-to-article :-)

by Wilhelm Schlegel (not verified)

Another thing they should probably change is the deadline. I imagine that a really good theme needs more time than 2 weeks to make. This way they will limit the number of possible participants (who doesn't have the time right now to do this) and make do with an assemblage of relatively hurried work.

by Antialias (not verified)

Ooooops, I've just solved the problem with Maximize button on titlebar. No more need for hardcoded kwin clents, now we can theme ::::::)))))))).
In a few days I will post detailed tutorial on my web-site
(but only about *.ktheme format and titlebar decorations).