How-To Geek

Move the Window Buttons Back to the Right in Ubuntu 11.10


As of Ubuntu 10.04, the minimize, maximize, and close buttons on all windows were moved to the left side and the system menu was removed. Prior to version 11.10, you could use several methods to restore the original button arrangement.

To move the windows buttons in 10.04, 10.10, and 11.04, you could use Ubuntu Tweak or the Gnome-Art Manager or manually move the buttons using the Configuration Editor (gconf-editor). However, in Ubuntu 11.10 with the Gnome 3 desktop environment, these methods for moving the buttons are obsolete. The only way to move the buttons now is to use a program called Mwbuttons (Metacity Window Buttons) that allows you to specify the availability and position of the window buttons.

To install Mwbuttons, download the Debian/Ubuntu DEB ALL file, not the tar.gz file.


Go to the desktop or open the file manager (from the Places menu) and navigate to the folder where you saved the .deb file. Double-click on the file.


The Ubuntu Software Center opens and the mwbuttons screen displays. Click Install.


To install software, you must authenticate. Enter your password in the Password edit box on the Authenticate dialog box and click Authenticate.


The progress of the installation displays where the Install button was.


When the installation is done, “Installed” displays next to a check mark. To close the Ubuntu Software Center, click the X button on the window’s title bar.


To start mwbuttons, click the Dash home icon on the Unity desktop.


Enter “mwbuttons” (without the quotes) in the search box. You don’t need to press Enter. Results are displayed as you type. Click the Metacity Window Buttons icon that displays.


The Metacity Window Buttons window displays. There are eight drop-down lists from which you can choose which buttons will be available and the order of the buttons on all windows in Ubuntu.


For example, to put the close button back in its usual place, select the X button from the drop-down list on the far right side of the Metacity Window Buttons window.

NOTE: The buttons available in each drop-down list are as follows, in this order: system menu, maximize, minimize, close. The maximize button is a toggle button. Clicking it once maximizes the window, if it isn’t already, and clicking it again returns it to its previous state.


We selected the buttons as shown on the following image to put the window buttons back in their usual places.


Any window you open now will display the window buttons where you placed them.


You can also quickly set the buttons to the way they were in Karmic Koala (9.10). To do this, move your mouse to the top panel on the desktop to access the menu bar for Metacity Window Buttons and select Karmic style from the Settings menu. You can also use this menu to go back to the style from Lucid Lynx (10.04) or you can even select the Mac OS X style. To go back to the previously set button arrangement, select Restore style.


When you maximize a window on the Unity desktop in Ubuntu 11.10, the buttons go back to the left side in the following order: close, minimize, maximize. They also move to the top panel along with the menu. If you click the maximize button again, the buttons go back to where you placed them.

Lori Kaufman is a writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 02/13/12

Comments (7)

  1. Christopher Heuer

    I was able to use gconf-editor to move the buttons on 11.10 without any problems…

  2. Anonymous

    Just one more reason I HATE UBUNTU!

    I used to love it but then Canonical decided to use that confounded Unity desktop (around version 10.10) which makes even relatively simple things like moving window buttons a lot more complicated. Just why these buttons were ever moved in the first place is testament to the poor leadership and “Windows 8 wanna-be” thinking that seems to be plaguing not only Ubuntu but quite a few other distros.

    But I suppose I really hate Ubuntu (version 11.x onwards) for now making us type in program names – in a GUI! I mean, WTF? The whole idea of having a GUI desktop in the first place is to have icons you can click on. And who doesn’t like point and click (except maybe a few backwards thinking nostalgic cavemen)?

    And sure, Linux should have a command line. It’s almost an art to be able to do the things you can do – but in a terminal! I mean, shouldn’t the goal be to make things more simple? And what can be any simpler than an icon? This move away from icons seems to be the wrong direction and for that reason I hate Ubuntu and any other OS that uses the Unity desktop.

    For a much better experience I would suggest Linux Mint or nearly anything else that doesn’t try and screw it up to look like an Android tablet or Windows 8 or something. Mint is 100-percent compatible with Ubuntu’s repository and even much of Debian’s repository too. Anything you can do in Ubuntu can probably be done easier with Mint. (And although Mint has it’s problems too, they’re no where near as bad as Ubuntu).

    And if you don’t know what I’m talking about then just stick with a KDE desktop or nearly anything else non Unity – you’ll be much happier.

  3. Mushaf

    Misleading article. Ubuntu Tweak and gconf-editor both are capable of moving window buttons to right in Ubuntu 11.10.

  4. aproposnix

    Now if someone can tell me how to move the menu/taskbar Window buttons (when an app is maximized) to the right side, I’ll switch to Unity :)

  5. JJB

    This is one of the reasons I changed to Xubuntu

  6. Jon Yoder

    There’s another less involved way that I use frequently — the Appearance app itself. Set the theme to Clearlooks, which has the buttons on the right, and then Customize it to use the same settings as the regular Ambiance theme — Ambiance decorator, Ubuntu-mono-dark icons, IIRC. Less scary-looking than gconf-editor and doesn’t require anything extra to install.

  7. bailalakumlale

    As previous commenters said you can still use gconf-editor in Ubuntu 11.10

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