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How to test out the new official Gnome GTK theme

The default Gnome Shell GTK theme (Adwaita) has a reputation for being bland and boring. As a result, most Linux users quickly swap it out for something else or change how it looks with Adwaita tweaks. Thankfully, the Gnome team is working diligently to change that with a new theme that promises to update and refresh the default look of the Gnome desktop environment, and Gnome applications as a whole.

This new refresh to the Adwaita theme isn’t out just yet, but it’s safe to say that it’ll be shipping out soon with new updates. That said, if you don’t feel like waiting, there’s a way to try out the new official Gnome GTK theme right now! Here’s how to get it working.

Note: to test out the new theme, ensure that you’re running the latest version of Gnome Shell on your Linux PC (at least version 3.28 is preferable.)

Download New Adwaita theme

The new official Gnome GTK theme is ready for download on Gnome’s website. To get your hands on it, you’ll need to open up a terminal window and use the wget downloader tool.

To launch a terminal, press Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T on your keyboard. Then, move to the “Downloads” directory and start the download by using wget.

cd ~/Downloads
wget https://download.gnome.org/misc/testing/Adwaita/NewAdwaita-3.tar.xz -O new-adwaita.tar.xz

With the new Adwaita theme file downloaded on your computer, you’ll need to extract it using the tar command.

tar xvf new-adwaita.tar.xz

Let the tar command extract the files. It shouldn’t take long. When the process is done, all of the theme files will be in a directory labeled “NewAdwaita.”

Now that New Adwaita is done extracting on your computer, it’s a good idea to check the files archive to make sure that the files were taken out successfully. To do this, CD into the directory. Then, use LS to view the contents of the directory.

cd NewAdwaita/


Install New Adwaita theme

Even though the New Adwaita theme is official, it must still be installed in the themes directory like any other GTK desktop theme. To get it working on your Gnome setup, follow the instructions below.

Install New Adwaita system-wide

Looking to give every user on your Linux system access to the New Adwaita theme? If so, you’ll need to set it up system-wide.

For the theme to work system-wide, the New Adwaita theme files must be placed in the /usr/share/themes/ directory. Here’s how to do it.

First, use the CD command to move the terminal into your “Downloads” folder, where the theme files were extracted.

cd ~/Downloads

Now that you’re in the “Downloads” folder elevate the terminal’s privilege from your username to Root with the sudo -s command.

sudo -s

After gaining a root shell, use the mv command to move the new theme files into the /usr/share/themes/ directory.

mv NewAdwaita /usr/share/themes/

Install New Adwaita for a single user

Only plan on testing out the New Adwaita theme with one user on your Linux system? You may want to install the theme for a single user. To install this theme for a single user, open up a terminal and create a new theme folder with mkdir.

mkdir -p ~/.themes

With the new theme folder set up, move the terminal into the “Downloads” directory.

cd ~/Downloads

Finally, move the theme folder into place using mv.

mv NewAdwaita ~/.themes/

Activate the new Adwaita theme

Now that the new Adwaita theme is installed on your Linux PC it’s ready to use but it doesn’t enable itself automatically. Instead, to start using it, you’ll need to enable it in the Gnome Shell system settings manually.

Enabling the Adwaita theme on Gnome systems is identical to any other theme installed on Linux. On Gnome Shell, it’s done within the Tweaks application, and it can be applied quickly in the “Appearance” tab.

Are you having issues getting the Adwaita theme up and running on your Gnome Shell system? Launch the Tweaks app. From there, look on the left-hand side for “Appearance” and click on it. Then, find the “Applications” drop-down menu and change it to “New Adwaita” to start using the new Gnome theme.

New Gnome Shell theme on other desktops

While this article mainly focuses on how to get Gnomes re-worked Adwaita theme working on Gnome Shell early, before release, that’s not the only place it can be tested out. It’ll work decently on other desktop environments outside of Gnome Shell. The only requirement is that the desktop must support GTK3.

If you like the look of this new theme and don’t use Gnome Shell but want to try it out anyways, feel free to go ahead and do it. Just follow the installation instructions in the article. Then, look at the list below to learn how you can quickly enable it on your desktop environment of choice.

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