Have you ever downloaded a great application but wished it had a better icon?  In Ubuntu you can not only change any icon to a new one, but you can even use image formats that are so advanced neither windows nor OSX support it yet.  Find out how!

So for the sake of this article, I’ll use a great program that has an ugly icon as an example: Sonic Visualiser.  It’s a program that analyzes audio in a variety of visual ways and lets you see the sounds you’re hearing.

Sonic Visualiser

I looked through the Tango icons and Oxygen icons that I had and found one icon I would really like to replace it with.  Both of these icon sets are wonderfully developed and free, so you can’t possibly go wrong.

Create Launcher

Before I can change my icon, I have to have to have a file I want to change - for Sonic Visualiser I created a Launcher on my desktop by  right click > Create Launcher.

Launcher dialog

I have filled out the Create Launcher dialog box with the proper information, making sure that the text in the Command field will open the desired application from the command-line.

Right Click

To change my icon, I have to find the file itself and right click on it.  You’ll see a menu appear and at the bottom you’ll see an option called  Properties.  Click on  Properties to access the file properties dialog box.

Properties Dialog

Once we have this dialog box the rest is easy, click on the current icon you see in the top-left of the box, and it will launch a window allowing you to select whatever new icon you want.

Icon Select

For me, I just have to locate my icon and click and poof! it’s set as the new icon.  Now doesn’t that look a lot better?

Vector Icon

Now we can take this to the next stage: what’s the difference between icon formats?  Surely a windows user will immediately remember the old .ico format, but Ubuntu will support many many common image formats as icons.  Typically, the best format for icons is .png, since it has support for something called variable transparency, meaning it can have beautiful edges and shadows without being a square of colour.

But PNG isn’t really more advanced than the other icon formats out there for OS X or Vista, I promised to take it one step further didn’t I?  Enter SVG.  In Ubuntu you can use vector images as icons too!  Why would you want a vector image over a PNG?

Vector vs. PNG

Because vector images are scalable, meaning you can resize them as big as you want and they always stay the same quality.  Go ahead and try it, find an SVG and set it as an icon, then you can stretch it the size of your entire desktop if you want and it will stay at full quality.

There you have it—straight from the source.

6 Responses to “How to use advanced icons with Ubuntu”

  1. Matthias Says:

    Hi, thanks for that,

    I have to say though: I actually really like Sonic Visualiser’s icon: it’s nice and simple and possibly unique-looking.


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  3. Kahn Says:

    I second that last remark. Best information I could find on the subject.

  4. Jorge Says:

    Thank you! That was really helpful!

  5. Steve Jobs Says:

    Steve Jobs…

    How to use advanced icons with Ubuntu…

  6. Lumosity Says:


    How to use advanced icons with Ubuntu…

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