In computing, a skin is a custom graphical appearance achieved by the use of a graphical user interface (GUI) which can be applied to specific software and websites to suit the purpose, topic, or tastes of different users. A skin may be associated with themes.

In ChameleonOS, a skin refers to:

  • GTK window theme
  • Gnome/GTK icon theme
  • Openbox window decoration/theme
  • Mouse theme
  • Desktop wallpaper
  • Panel appearance, alignment, orientation and features
  • Desktop icons and application shortcuts
  • Applications menu configuration
  • Right-click menu configuration
  • Certain application-specific themes eg browser skin, terminal appearance
  • Default desktop applications eg file manager, web browser, terminal…

Most of the above can be tweaked by editing of various configuration files, installation of theme files into either /usr/share, /usr/local/share,  ~/.local/share and ~/.conifg. The idea in ChameleonOS is to create a one-click system for instantly changing the desktop theme.


Current methods of altering themes in light weight desktops (and to some extent on full-featured desktop environments) depends upon changing settings in a number of different GUIs (if you are lucky) and editing config files. To achieve some of the looks I am after requires hours of laborious tweaking.

Light-weight desktops such as those based on Openbox and/or LXDE are becoming increasingly popular to extend the use of older hardware or to get maximum performance from higher end hardware. However, everyone has their appearance preferences and this project aims to allow people to set up such a desktop in the style they want, but also to change it on a whim.

Example: let’s say you have Ubuntu installed on your main Linux box. You are a Gnome fan and moreover, used to the layout of top and bottom panels. You have an old laptop you want to revive but Ubuntu has become too heavy for it. With ChameleonOS you can get an almost identical desktop layout that uses much fewer resources.

One of the aims of ChameleonOS is to show that light-weight can still mean highly attractive and useable.

Which skins will be included?

These skins are available in the current alpha release (see screenshots):

  • A default skin with a simple and uncluttered desktop. The default colour is green, but blue, orange, red and black alternatives are also offered.
  • A Gnome-style skin with top and bottom panels and the well-known Gnome Applications/Places/System menu.
  • A Windows Vista/7 inspired skin without the Redmond branding. I know many Linuxers will baulk at the thought, but many people love the new layout that the latest Windows OSs have developed.
  • A KDE 3 series inspired skin.
  • A Mac OS-X inspired skin without the branding.

I also intend to develop:

  • A netbook skin with a modern netbook interface.
  • A web-oriented skin inspired by mobile phone interfaces eg iPhone/iPad.
  • A ‘hacker’ skin.
  • A social networking skin.

I have a great idea/already themed my desktop. How can I help?

Share your creation with us! Add a comment to this page and link to a screenshot. Share your config files, icon themes etc with us and I can include it in the final release.

Or, if you have an idea for a skin, let me know. If you want to work on one of the ones not yet developed, please do so.

Contact me at richjack80 at yahoo dot com.


5 Responses to Skins

  1. DeadTime says:

    An Amiga skin based on Amiga os 3.5 or 4.0 would be fantastic!

  2. chameleonos says:

    Hi there, I replied to you on the forum as well. Just to say if you want to make a start,I’d be happy to help you achieve this look.

  3. I would recommend a Windows XP theme too, for people who aren’t comfortable with the Vista/7 theme.

    Although personally, my biggest complaint of Vista/7 is its changes in how you get to key functionality, which of course do not apply when its just a theme on top of Linux. 😉

    • chameleonos says:

      An XP-ish theme wouldn’t be difficult – I rather consider vanilla LXDE very XP-ish!

      I am hoping to add some functionality to the next release to all users to create a new skin for sharing with others and a way to easily install a new skin. This way users can start to build up a repository of ‘community’ skins.

      An AmigaOS type skin would be feasible and somebody has ported the Amiga icons to Linux. The problem is they are a bit dodgy legally so I won’t be including such a skin, but I could provide pointers on how to achieve that look if someone wants it…

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