How-To Geek

How To Bring App Icons Back Into Unity’s System Tray


Ubuntu’s new Unity is a slick interface, but they’ve pared things down to keep it that way. Not many icons appear in the system tray, even for apps that are running. Luckily for us, there’s an easy fix.

The Unity interface is still pretty rough around the edges, enough so that plenty of users have switched back to Gnome. If you’re still using Unity, though, you’ll notice that very few applications’ system tray icons are displayed in the system tray.

tray before

This makes for a very uncluttered interface, but what about those apps whose icons you need? What if you like having all of them displayed? There’s a pretty easy solution to these problems, but first, we need to install a configuration editor.

For a change, we’ll use the GUI-based Ubuntu Software Center. Open it up and search for “dconf”.

software center

You’ll see “dconf Editor” come up. Click the button to install it, then enter your password at the prompt.

Next, hit the Alt+F2 key combination. You’ll see a prompt come up to enter a command, so type in:


launch dconf

Hit enter to launch the dconf configuration editor.

In the left-hand navigation tree, navigate here:

desktop > unity > panel

config location

(Click on the image above to see a larger version.)

You can see that there’s an entry named “systray-whitelist”. The default values are:

‘JavaEmbeddedFrame’, ‘Mumble’, ‘Wine’, ‘Skype’, ‘hp-systray’, ‘scp-dbus-service’

It’s a pretty slim list between those brackets, and most of the more useful apps aren’t listed. You can extend this list by adding a comma, a space, then the name of the app in single quotes. Here’s an example:

‘JavaEmbeddedFrame’, ‘Mumble’, ‘Wine’, ‘Skype’, ‘hp-systray’, ‘scp-dbus-service’, ‘shutter’, ‘easycrypt’

To allow all system tray icons, just replace the entire string with ‘all’ (in the single quotes).

config allow all

For these settings to take effect, just log out and log back in.

tray after

If you don’t like this you can open up dconf-editor again, go back to the proper entry, and click the “Set to Default” button in the bottom-right corner.

config reset to default


Unity’s not incredibly polished yet, something that’s sure to change in the upcoming Ubuntu releases. Little fixes like this help make it more usable in the meanwhile.


Love Unity? Hate it? Like it’s aesthetics, but dislike how it incomplete it is? Share your thoughts in the comments, as well as any other fixes you might have!

Yatri Trivedi is a monk-like geek. When he's not overdosing on meditation and geek news of all kinds, he's hacking and tweaking something, often while mumbling in 4 or 5 other languages.

  • Published 07/14/11

Comments (4)

  1. danaross

    I’ve been using Ubuntu for a while. It took me a week to get used to Unity but at this point I am working very efficiently with it and wouldn’t go back to Gnome. Of course 11.11 will be better but I like what I’m working with.

    The change for me is to rely on the Unity bar on the left and to launch other programs by hitting the Ubuntu (Windows) key and typing in a few letters for the program I’m looking for. I used to work like that with Gnome-do and find it very fast.

    All in all, I love the changes.

  2. Josh B.

    anybody else have this problem doing this?

  3. Rob1957

    I too actually prefer Unity to Gnome now I have tweeked it. I have put unity bar on auto hide, made Icons smaller and added “ClassicMenu Indicator 0.04” to the top bar.

  4. JBada$

    I switch from Ubuntu 10.10 to 11.04, and so far I like the Unity. At first is kind of confusing but in less than I week I got use to it. Unity is very good presentation wise, but as is mention in the article it could be better ( which will happen). the easiest way to move around is to create a key shortcut for Gnome-do and to pin most used apps on the sidebar, other way to get around the unity look is to open the panel function which brings the old panel this application is hidden;however using Ubuntu Tweak you could make it available and use it instead of the Unity panel. By the way good article!

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