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 Lowell Heddings
Lowell is the founder and CEO of How-To Geek. He’s been running the show since creating the site back in 2006. Over the last decade, Lowell has personally written more than 1000 articles which have been viewed by over 250 million people. Prior to starting How-To Geek, Lowell spent 15 years working in IT doing consulting, cybersecurity, database management, and programming work.
Read Full Bio »

The above article may contain affiliate links, which help support How-To Geek.