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Ubuntu Needs to Make it Easier to Enable Dark Mode

Changing theme in Ubuntu is harder than it should be and, call me a revolutionary, but I think that needs to change.

See, once upon a time it was easy to change the look and feel of your Ubuntu desktop. You popped open the “Appearance” tool, selected something attractive from the gallery of theme thumbnails before you, and bam: applied.

That all changed with the introduction of the Unity in 2011. User control over theming vanished overnight, and Ubuntu hasn’t had an “user friendly” way to change GTK theme since then.

To be clear: when I say ‘”user friendly” I mean a graphical, default out-of-the-box, noob-proof option. I appreciate “gsettings” exists.

I get that upstream GNOME developers and designers are a touch tepid on the subject of GTK themes in general (they consider theming to be a hack essentially, not a supported desktop API).

Ubuntu 19.10 ships with a full dark theme and a full light theme but not easily accessible…

But regardless: ultimate control over a system is part and parcel of why people choose to use Ubuntu (indeed most Linux distros) in the first place.

Which brings me to dark mode.

I’m not advocating that Ubuntu to go back to the GNOME 2 days and actually ship a tonne of alternative GTK themes in the standard distro image (though I maintain that the Dust GTK theme included in 9.04-10.04 remains the best default Ubuntu never had).

But I do think Ubuntu should make it easier to enable dark mode at the very least (being able to change GTK theme too, given so many are in the archive, would be a bonus) be it as a variant of an installed theme or a separate theme entirely.

Ubuntu 19.10 even ships with a full dark theme and a full light theme by default — but it might as well not, as neither can be enabled effortlessly.

To enable a Yaru theme variant on Ubuntu 19.10 you presently have two choices: get down and dirty with gsettings in a terminal session, or go out of your way to install a utility like gnome-tweaks or dconf-editor.

It’s 2020, should it really be that much effort?

Take Pop!_OS! 19.10 for example. Pop users who want to switch between the included dark and light modes don’t need to clear any hurdles. Instead, they pop open (pun intended) Settings > Appearance panel and select it:

I think it should be that simple in Ubuntu, too.

Ubuntu 20.04 LTS will be relevant for the next 5 years. Come 2025 most people will think of a system ‘dark mode’ as a bare minimum feature of a modern desktop operating system, not a deluxe extra.

Windows, macOS, Android and iOS all offer ‘dark mode’ to their users as standard. There’s no reason why Ubuntu shouldn’t either.Do you agree? Should enabling dark mode be achievable out of the box? Let me know in the comments below!


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