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From the GTK+ website:

GTK+, or the GIMP Toolkit, is a multi-platform toolkit for creating graphical user interfaces. Offering a complete set of widgets, GTK+ is suitable for projects ranging from small one-off tools to complete application suites.

GTK+, The GIMP Toolkit, was initially made by the GNU Project for the GIMP but is now a very popular toolkit with bindings for many languages.

Configuration programs

These GUI programs allow theme selection and at least customising of a font. They generally overwrite the ~/.gtkrc-2.0 file.

Example install command:

# pacman -S gtk-theme-switch2

See also Uniform Look for QT and GTK Applications#How do I set styles for each toolkit?


GTK+ 1.x

Old GTK+ 1 apps (like xmms) often do not look very nice at first. This is because they use ugly themes by default. To change this, you need to:

  1. download and install some nice themes
  2. change the theme

Some nice themes are in the AUR. To install them, see gtk-smooth-engineAUR.

To change the theme you can use gtk-theme-switch2. Run it with the 'switch' command.

GTK+ 2.x

Major desktop environments provide tools to configure the GTK+ theme, icons, font and font size. Alternatively, tools such as those mentioned above may be used.

It is recommended to install some GTK+ 2 themes as well. The popular Clearlooks theme is included within the gtk-engines package.

Further themes can be found in the AUR:

Alternatively, GTK+ settings can be configured manually by editing ~/.gtkrc-2.0. A list of GTK+ settings can be found in the GNOME library. To manually change the GTK+ theme, icons, font and font size, add the following to ~/.gtkrc-2.0:

gtk-icon-theme-name = "[name-of-icon-theme]"
gtk-theme-name = "[name-of-theme]"
gtk-font-name = "[font-name] [size]"

For example:

gtk-icon-theme-name = "Tango"
gtk-theme-name = "Murrine-Gray"
gtk-font-name = "DejaVu Sans 8"
Note: The above example requires the packages ttf-dejavu, tango-icon-theme, gtk-engine-murrine from the official repositories, and murrine-themes-collectionAUR from the AUR.

GTK+ 3.x

If you use GNOME 3, the theme can be changed with the gnome-tweak-tool.

If you use a GTK+ 2.x based DE, like Xfce, LXDE, gnome-tweak-tool won't work; see FS#23644. You need to install librsvg, and set your theme manually in {XDG_CONFIG_HOME}/gtk-3.0/settings.ini (this is usually ~/.config/gtk-3.0/settings.ini. An example settings.ini file:

gtk-application-prefer-dark-theme = false
gtk-theme-name = Zukitwo
gtk-fallback-icon-theme = gnome

If it still does not change, delete old gtk-3.0 folder in {XDG_CONFIG_HOME} and copy gtk-3.0 folder from /path-to-the-theme to {XDG_CONFIG_HOME}. example:

rm -r ~/.config/gtk-3.0/
cp -r /usr/share/themes/Zukitwo/gtk-3.0/ ~/.config/  

After this, you need to set the same theme in your DE's appearance configuration tool. There are only a few themes which provide a uniform look for GTK+ 3.x and GTK+ 2.x apps. A few examples:

  1. Adwaita for GTK+ 3 and Advaicium for GTK+ 2
  2. Newlooks for GKT+ 3 and Clearlooks for GTK+ 2
  3. Zukitwo
  4. Elegant Brit
  5. Atolm
  6. Hope
Note: There probably are other themes. Some of these themes are available in the AUR. Also, some of them are not usable as is for displaying a GTK+ 2.x panel (light text over light background), so you need to use the provided panel background.

GTK+ and QT

If you have GTK+ and QT (KDE) applications on your desktop then you know that their looks do not blend well. If you wish to make your GTK+ styles match your QT styles please read Uniform Look for QT and GTK Applications.

Configuration file

Note: See the GtkSettings properties in the GTK+ programming reference manual for the full list of GTK configuration options.

The purpose of this section is to collect GTK configuration settings which can e.g. be used within ~/.gtkrc-2.0.

Enabling Customizable Keyboard Shortcuts

You can customize your GTK applications' keyboard shortcuts (those are called accelerators in GTK terminology) by hovering your mouse over a menu item and pressing your desired key combination. However, this feature is disabled by default. To enable it, set

gtk-can-change-accels = 1

Speed up your GNOME menu

This setting controls the delay between you pointing the mouse at a menu and that menu opening in GNOME. Change this to a setting you prefer. I guess the number is in milliseconds, e.g. 250 being a quarter of a second.

gtk-menu-popup-delay = 0

Reduce widget sizes

If you have a small screen or you just do not like big icons and widgets, you can resize things easily. To have icons without text in toolbars, use

gtk-toolbar-style = GTK_TOOLBAR_ICONS

To use smaller icons, use a line like this:

gtk-icon-sizes = "panel-menu=16,16:panel=16,16:gtk-menu=16,16:gtk-large-toolbar=16,16\

Or to remove icons from buttons completely:

gtk-button-images = 0

You can also remove icons from menus:

gtk-menu-images = 0

There is some more tweaking to do in your themes gtkrc like explained here and there's another theme that does it all.


When writing a start-from-scratch GTK+ 3 program with C, it's necessary to add CFLAGS for gcc:

gcc -g -Wall `pkg-config --cflags --libs gtk+-3.0` -o base base.c

-g and -Wall parameters are not necessary since they are only for verbose debugging outputs. You may try out the official Hello World example.

Write a simple message dialog app

You can write your own GTK+ 3 message dialog easily in many programming languages through GObject-Introspection or bindings, or you can simply use bash.

The following examples display a simple "Hello world" in a message dialog.

zenity --info --title='Hello world!' --text='This is an example dialog.'


  • Dependency: gtk3
  • Build with: gcc -o hello_world `pkg-config --cflags --libs gtk+-3.0` hello_world.c
#include <gtk/gtk.h>
void main (int argc, char *argv[]) {
	gtk_init (&argc, &argv);
        GtkWidget *hello = gtk_message_dialog_new (NULL, GTK_DIALOG_MODAL, GTK_MESSAGE_INFO, GTK_BUTTONS_OK, "Hello world!");
	gtk_message_dialog_format_secondary_text (GTK_MESSAGE_DIALOG (hello), "This is an example dialog.");
        gtk_dialog_run(GTK_DIALOG (hello));


  • Dependency: gtkmm3
  • Build with: g++ -o hello_world `pkg-config --cflags --libs gtkmm-3.0`
#include <gtkmm.h>
#include <gtkmm/messagedialog.h>
int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {
	Gtk::Main kit(argc, argv);
	Gtk::MessageDialog Hello("Hello world!", false, Gtk::MESSAGE_INFO, Gtk::BUTTONS_OK);
	Hello.set_secondary_text("This is an example dialog.");;


  • Dependency: gtk3
  • Makedependency: vala
  • Build with: valac --pkg gtk+-3.0
	Gtk.init (ref args)
	var Hello=new MessageDialog (null, Gtk.DialogFlags.MODAL, Gtk.MessageType.INFO, Gtk.ButtonsType.OK, "Hello world!")
	Hello.format_secondary_text ("This is an example dialog.") ()


Gtk =
Gtk.init(null, null)
Hello = new Gtk.MessageDialog({type: Gtk.MessageType.INFO,
                               buttons: Gtk.ButtonsType.OK,
                               text: "Hello world!",
                               "secondary-text": "This is an example dialog."})

from gi.repository import Gtk
Hello=Gtk.MessageDialog(None, Gtk.DialogFlags.MODAL, Gtk.MessageType.INFO, Gtk.ButtonsType.CLOSE, "Hello world!")
Hello.format_secondary_text("This is an example dialog.")


  • Dependency: gtk3
  • Makedependency: vala
  • Build with: valac --pkg gtk+-3.0 hello_world.vala
using Gtk;
public class HelloWorld {
	static void main (string[] args) {
		Gtk.init (ref args);
		var Hello=new MessageDialog (null, Gtk.DialogFlags.MODAL, Gtk.MessageType.INFO, Gtk.ButtonsType.OK, "Hello world!");
		Hello.format_secondary_text ("This is an example dialog."); ();