Want to make Ubuntu look like Windows 10?

Updated: April 15, 2018

As a man with a keen eye for aesthetic details, I do like the concept of trying to make operating systems mimic their rivals, provided this can be done with elegance, style, quality and attention to detail. A great example would be the Macbuntu transformation pack. Including but not limited to.

Now, Windows 10. Say what you will about it, it ain't ugly. It's actually a reasonably pretty distro, although the whole flatness deal is a bit overplayed. But since Linux can be made to look like anything, I set about testing, in Ubuntu, Kubuntu and even Linux Mint, to see whether this is something worth your time and decorative skills in the first place. Will this work? An open question. After me.

What to choose?

My first obstacle was finding the right package. There are several options available, some outdated, others incompatible, but in the end, I settled on Windows 10 Light and Dark Theme by B00merang, available on GitHub. This appears to be the most mature and most actively developed transformation pack. Best yet, according to small print, it should run on all sorts of desktops environments and whatnot.

Ubuntu 17.10

I started with Ubuntu Artful. There's an installation script that should help you get the desired results. Let it run, make the correct choices, observe the end result. Alas, it wasn't as trivial as it sounds.

Run script

You cannot apply custom shell themes to Gnome without installing an extensions that allows custom shell themes. Fail. Also, the Ubuntu dock is quite pervasive, so you will need to remove it first before you can have a bottom-panel only arrangement with an alternative dock. I've outlined this in my Aardvark pimping article.

User themes

Apply shell theme

In the end, I had the theming in place. Did it look like Windows 10, though? Well, not really. Even with the dock at the bottom of the screen, Gnome just does not have what it takes to look like Windows. No system menu, to start with. And the styling is just all wrong.

WIP 1

WIP 2

WIP 3

Kubuntu 17.10

Next, the Plasma edition of the Ubuntu family. Alas, this did not work at all. Like at all. The installation script, despite what it says on GitHub, was unable to identify the Plasma environment. I did have the icons available, but no desktop theme. So this was in fact a dud. Oversold. Ah, well.

Identified Window manager. Waiting for association...:

We have been unable to associate your Desktop Environment. Executing Legacy Installation

Applying Windows 10 Light to: Unknown:
Cannot apply changes for your current configuration: Unknown
X11 cursor theme is installed, but cannot be applied automatically. Please do so in your System settings or tweak tool.

Linux Mint 18 Sylvia

My attempt was with Mint Cinnamon next - as it is GTK-based and also comes with a very Windows layout, so this one might work out to be the best fit for the exercise. Only this didn't work out quite as I planned either. The overall visual effect was not very good, with some jarring glitches. I decided not to spend any great amount of time testing.

Cinnamon default looks

The Cinnamon defaults are already Windowsy in a way, but then, when I applied the theme, the icons were not vertically centered in the bottom panel, and I had to resize it to get a more balanced look. Likewise, the update icon in the system area is just too huge, and the menu looks nothing like Windows 10.

Cinnamon themes

Cinnamon, Windows 10 theme

Settings

I tried the three available flavors - Light, Dark and Metro, and while the last does offer the best overall look & feel, there are still a lot of inconsistencies compared to what the distro offers natively, and also what you get in Windows 10. The transformation never quite yields results that are satisfactory enough for prolonged use. So.

Conclusion

This article is not intended to disparage the transformation project. On the contrary, this is the only set of themes and icons that actually did work! Alas, the final cut is far from complete. There are way too many visual issues and bugs to warrant keeping around, and far from the expected result, which would be Windows 10. Shame, because if there's at least one thing that Microsoft does well, it's the visual layer.

Oddly, or perhaps not, Plasma is the closest to the intended idea in its native form, and the pack doesn't really work there. Cinnamon is up there too, but it has a more archaic approach to the theme, and Ubuntu is way too different. It's not surprising that Macbuntu seems like a much better, more natural fit. And in a way, we've come a full circle without accomplishing anything. Well, not quite. It shows that nailing down the look & feel is tricky, Linux distros and other operating systems have their essential je ne sais quoi, and they are best left alone. All that said, tight said Fred, I'd like to see this transformation project, and any other similar endeavor succeed. Always good to have some color and spice on your desktop. Take care.

Cheers.

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