How-To Geek

Put Close/Maximize/Minimize Buttons on the Left in Ubuntu

If you are a new Ubuntu user coming from a Mac background, you might be disoriented by the placement of the minimize/maximize/close box on Ubuntu, which mimics Windows by default.

This setting is an easy one to change, thankfully, and combined with a nice OS X theme can really have a nice effect.


To change this setting, use Alt+F2 to bring up the Run Application dialog, and type in gconf-editor to launch the Gnome Configuration Editor.


Once in the editor, find the following key:

apps \ metacity \ general

On the right hand side of the screen you should see an option called button_layout.


This option takes a string value separated by commas, as well as a colon that separates which side of the window the buttons will be on. To mimic the OS X setting, enter this string:


In this example, the close/maximize/minimize buttons are on the left, and the menu button is on the right. You can remove an item from this list if you’d like. For example, I don’t really use the menu button so I usually just remove it.

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 06/12/07

Comments (14)

  1. merlin

    Wow !! What gtk theme are using ? This is one of a hell “à la Mac OS X” gtk theme !! Would be good if I can get it……

  2. Scott

    And for us Kubuntu users?!

  3. sasha

    For me doesn’t work. Ubuntu 7.04 with default Compiz

  4. Juliana Peña

    Sasha: This only works if you’re using Metacity as your window manager. You don’t. You use Compiz.

  5. Jake

    On Kubuntu:

    Go to K>System Settings

    Go to Appearance

    Go to Window Decorations

    Go to the Buttons tab

    Drag and drop as you please!

  6. ghost


  7. Zac

    Thanks for this. I find it much more convienent to have it on the left, it saves alot of mouse travel, especially using a track pad.

    Using Ubuntu 9.04 on a pre-installed netbook Dell Latitude 2100.

  8. Mauricio

    For Juliana, about sasha’s question:

    Are you sure Juliana? Since I know, even if you use Compiz, You are using Metacity Window Decorator, and It is what we are talking about here. Only if you change, for example, to Emerald, you were playing with another Window Decorator different from Metacity.
    Maybe I am wrong.


  9. HappyCamper

    Thanks for a good “How-To”… I was able to reverse it and FIX 10.04’s default button layout that went against everything I’ve learned since the days of 3.1 and before.

  10. Alexandros

    The themes i downloaded for Ubuntu somehow move the buttons to the right side (a bug?).
    With your tutorial I am able to move them back to the left.

    Thank you.

  11. 77cats

    Easily done. Thanks.

  12. bblackmoor

    Thanks for this. I just installed Ubuntu 10, and this helped me move the buttons back to the right. :)

  13. psuch

    Or simply do:

    gconftool-2 -s /apps/metacity/general/button_layout –type=string “menu:minimize,maximize,close”

  14. jack(s)parrow

    Also, if you’re using oneiric with Gnome3, and not metacity:
    alt+F2 -> gconf-editor -> scroll down to desktop -> gnome -> shell -> windows
    then edit button layout as follows:

    Then it looks exactly the same as unity

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