How-To Geek

How to Change Ubuntu’s Window Borders with Emerald

The look of your operating system is all about the panels and the window borders, so now that we’ve shown you how to customize your panels, it’s time to customize the window borders to make Ubuntu look the way you want it to.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume that you’ve got the Compiz compositing window manager running—which is what provides the custom window effects found in Ubuntu. This means the technique probably won’t work in a virtual machine, or a really old PC.

This is the third installment of our series on customizing Ubuntu by geeky reader Omar Hafiz—be sure and check out the first article, where he explained how to make your panels transparent, and the second article, where he explained how to customize the fonts and colors of those panels.

First Step: Make Sure You Are Running Compiz

You can make sure you are using Compiz compositing manager and not Metacity by pressing ALT+F2 and typing the following command:

compiz –replace


This should enable Compiz as your window manager if it isn’t already.

Installing Emerald Theme Manager

Let’s start installing Emerald, which is a window decorator for Compiz, by opening a terminal window and typing the following command:

sudo apt-get –y install emerald


Once finished, close the terminal window.

Every thing is done now, so let’s change the window border. Launch Emerald from System > Preferences > Emerald Theme Manger.

Launching Emerald

The program interface looks like this, which shows you a list of the window borders that are available to use. You can click on one of them to apply it.

Emerald interface

You can then fine-tune it further by going to the Edit Theme tab, where there are loads of settings available.

Emerald edit theme tab

Still haven’t found what you like? That’s no problem, because you can download and add more themes. Just head to and then choose Beryl from the right side of the web page. From there, you can download thousands of free themes.

If you’ve downloaded a theme from somewhere online, you can launch Emerald and click Import from above the themes list and browse to the theme you just downloaded and click open.

Browsing to import theme

Now the theme is installed and ready to be used.

Emerald theme imported

That’s pretty much all there is to it. Enjoy!

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 02/22/11

Comments (11)

  1. Hatryst

    I like the Windows-styled one :)

  2. Chappers

    Could we have an article on how to make Ubuntu look like Windows 7, or OS X? A lot of the stuff out there is quite outdated now, or not very clear. (And your articles are normally the opposite of both of these.) I certainly remember having great difficulty doing either of these when I tried a few months ago.

    After all, some people just don’t think GNOME or KDE look as good as the other two OS’s systems.

  3. Duckbrain

    Macbuntu did a pretty good job on mine I thought, but I don’t own a Mac so I am comparing it to how I remember it when I was fixing one. (I have not had a lot of exposure to Macs.)

  4. Omar Hafiz

    @Chapper – Making Ubuntu look like OS X was in the plan at a later time. As for Window 7, it has just been added to the plan.

  5. Yo

    this is really helpful, I’m a new ubuntu user and for setting themes I’ve been having a hard time but this is so clearly written and organized that it’s really easy to follow.

  6. Callum

    You have the Faenza Icon set aswell! :D Tis a rather epic icon set…

  7. rMatey180

    Nice article. I’ve been using Emerald for a few months. Really like it. My main window has the emerald red border – cool.

  8. legalxchechHow to Change Ubuntu’s Window Borders with Emerald The look of your operating system is all about the panels and the window borders, so now that we’ve shown you how to customize your panels, it’s time to customize the window borders to ma

    followed the steps above and i’m not able to change themes. when i click on them nothing happens. running compiz fuzion icon and the emerald themer 0.7.2. i see different theme options in emerald themer but they wont “apply” or change.

    what did i do wrong?

  9. legalxchech

    dont know what happened to my name up there. weird.

  10. Hanif Baloch

    I have seen some pictures of Ubuntu Disktop wallpapers which were looking like Windows 7 but i am afraid i was totally unable to do so. I will be grateful if someone make any help for this.

  11. Omar Hafiz

    @legalxchech: Try doing “compiz –replace” again after doing all the steps mentioned in the article.

    @Hanif Baloch: I don’t understand what you are asking for, sorry.

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