If you’re not a fan of Gnome Shell but want a Unity-like desktop environment, consider modifying your KDE Plasma desktop instead. In this article, we’ll go over the several steps it takes to make KDE Plasma 5 look like Ubuntu Unity.
For this tutorial to work, it’s best to be running the latest version of KDE Plasma 5. Most Linux distributions should have a fairly new version of Plasma 5. To install the newest version, check your operating systems for updates, and install them.
Note: if your Linux distribution doesn’t have at least version 5.9 of KDE Plasma, consider switching to a different Linux distribution.
There are a lot of different places to get the latest version of Plasma, but by far the best choice is KDE Neon. If you’re using an aging Linux distribution, consider switching to Neon. To switch, download the latest ISO image and use the Etcher USB tool to make an installation stick. Once you’ve got your PC running Neon, follow the steps below to modify it so that it looks and behaves similarly to Ubuntu Unity!
The quickest way to make KDE Plasma 5 look like Ubuntu Unity is to take advantage of the “look and feel” feature. Look and feel is a unique part of the desktop that allows theme developers the ability to pre-configure the way the Plasma desktop looks. They can set the wallpaper, panel layout, icon theme, window manager theme and everything else.
To use the look and feel feature, press the Windows key on the keyboard and search for “look and feel”, not the “look and feel explorer” and etc.
Inside the “look and feel” app, you’ll notice a few pre-installed “looks”. These are the defaults, so ignore them. Instead, find the “Get New Looks” button to open up the download tool. In the downloader, search for the “United” look and feel theme. Install United by clicking the “Install” button next to it.
Once United is installed, click “close” at the bottom of the download tool and go back to the look and feel explorer. Check the box next to “Use Desktop Layout from theme”. Don’t skip this step!
With the box checked, find the “United” look and feel theme, select it and click “Apply” to tell KDE to use it. Applying the United look and feel theme should instantly transform KDE Plasma 5 into something similar to Ubuntu Unity.
The default KDE icon set really doesn’t match the overall look of Unity, so it needs a change. There are many choices for icons, but a good choice to go with for this situation is Ubuntu Flat Remix. Download it from the link here, and then follow our guide to learn how to install it on the system.
When you’ve installed the new icon theme, follow our guide to learn how to apply it to the KDE desktop environment.
Ubuntu Kwin Theme
The KDE United theme works pretty well with the Plasma/Unity theme, but for those looking for a more “Ubuntu-like” experience, it may not be enough. A great way to step up the theme is to install an Ambiance Kwin theme. There are many themes like this to choose from, but by far the best one to use is Blender Ambiance. To install this theme, press the Windows key and search for “window decorations”.
Inside this area, you’ll see a list of Kwin window decoration themes. Ignore them and look for “Get New Decorations” to open up the KDE KWin download tool. Find the search box, type in “Blender Ambiance” and press the enter key. Look through the list and click “Install” next to the Blender Ambiance theme to install it on your PC.
Once the theme is installed, click the “close” button to exit the download tool and return to the “Window Decorations” area. Look through the list of themes, select “Blender Ambiance” and click “apply” to switch to the new theme.
Unity is known for placing the window controls on the left, rather than in the traditional spot. To do this on KDE Plasma, click on the “buttons” tab inside of the “Window Decorations” tab. Using the tool, click and drag the close, minimize, and maximize buttons from the right side to the left. Due to how KDE works, this may be a bit tricky.
Note: it’s possible to reset the Kwin action buttons back to the defaults by selecting the “Defaults” button, then “apply”.
When all of the buttons have been moved to the left, click “apply”. Be sure to also drag out the KDE button, pin button, and question button out of the titlebar.