Saturday, October 26, 2013

Conserving screen space in GNOME

I finally found a tool to accomplish something I have wanted for a long time, namely tuning the size of icons and buttons in Gnome. Gnome applications waste a lot of precious screen space by default, probably the default settings are developed for and by people with six HD monitors at their desks. On a tiny screen such as the 1024x600 screen in my eee-pc, pixels are precious and should not be wasted.

The tool I found is called gnome-color-chooser. Install it with

sudo aptitude install gnome-color-chooser

I should say that I'm using Linux Mint Debian, with the Mate desktop based on Gnome 2. Gnome 3 appears to be configured differently, judging from a quick search.

The color chooser tool allows you to choose the colors of different elements, but it has several settings for button sizes and icon sizes as well. First, let's set all paddings to 0, except the y-padding of widgets which I chose to keep as 1. Check Use shadowless Menubars and Use shadowless Toolbars. On the Icons tab, you can set icon sizes. I set the sizes to 14-12-12-12. I particularly liked the setting Start menu, setting it to 12 pixels made the menu small, nice and manageable.

What the tool actually does is to provide settings in a file included from .gtkrc-2.0.
As the Archlinux Wiki points out, one can also modify the .gtkrc-2.0 file by hand.

Other settings to change for a compact look:
  • System > Preferences > Appearance, Fonts-tab, Details-button. Change Screen resolution from 96 to 80. For some reason, this setting works better than changing the font sizes.
  • System > Preferences > Appearance, Themes-tab. Controls: Clearlooks, Window borders: Mint-X, Icons: Gnome

While at it, fix the file manager preferences:
  • View new folders using: Compact View
  • Compact view defaults, Default zoom level 66%
  • Uncheck All columns have the same width
With the latest update pack for LMDE, many application started to display the following warning when run in a terminal. I frequently launch emacs from a terminal to edit files, then the message clutters up the terminal.

Fontconfig warning: "/etc/fonts/conf.d/53-monospace-lcd-filter.conf", line 10: Having multiple values in <test> isn't supported and may not work as expected

A quick fix to get rid of this annoyance is to comment out line 10 of the offending file:
<!--  <string>Bitstream Vera Sans Mono</string> -->
I figure this might change something, but it looks that the file was broken anyway as it was shipped.
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