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My (k)Ubuntu (OSX look alike) desktop setup

uf4no profile image Antonio Updated on ・6 min read

This article was originally posted in my website. If you like it, feel free to pay me a visit and check other articles in my blog.

During 2018 I've been running Ubuntu in my personal laptop and, although overall I like running Linux, I wasn't fully sold on Gnome. Animations were slow and sometimes my desktop wasn't as fluid as I think it should be on an Intel i7 8550u, 16GB RAM and a pretty fast NVMe SSD. In addition, half of the time I'm using OS X at work and switching between them was a bit of a pain. After trying different desktop environments, like Mate and even different Linux distributions I think I've finally found a setup I'm really comfortable using. This is how it looks:

My desktop appearance

Yes, I've basically cloned the look of OS X on Linux. Here's how I've done it.

Operating System

I'm running Kubuntu 18.04. It's an LTE version and the main difference between it and Ubuntu is that this one uses KDE as desktop environment instead of Gnome. The main characteristic of KDE is that it's very configurable by default (window appearance, icons, cursors...) and you can extend it installing widgets.  If you prefer to run Ubuntu, there are plenty of tutorials to just install KDE on it like this one.

KDE configuration

In the system settings  select:

Workspace Theme

  • Look and Feel: Arc Dark
  • Desktop Theme: Aex Dark - You have to download it using the "Get New Themes..." button.
  • Cursor Theme: Capitane Cursors - You have to download it using the "Get New Themes..." button.

Colours: Breeze Dark

Fonts: default  - I prefer not to play around with the font config as it's pretty easy to do a mess.

Icons: MAC OS X impression - You have to download them using the "Get New Themes..." button.

Application Style

  • Widget Style: Breeze
  • Window Decorations > Theme: Breezemite dark - You have to download it using the "Get New Themes..." button. 
  • Window Decorations > Theme > Border size: Very Large - This is very useful when using a trackpad as selecting the border to resize windows can be difficult.
  • Window Decorations > Buttons: You can re arrange the buttons to close/minimise/maximise and add others as you wish. I've removed the maximise one and arrange them to the left and added a menu button in the right side corner.

Desktop Behaviour

  • Screen Locking > Appearance: Select a wallpaper.
  • Virtual Desktops > Number of Desktops: 3

Window Management

  • Task Switcher: Cover Switch / Grid - I'm not sure which one of these I prefer but definately not the KDE default one.

Startup and Shutdown

  • Login Screen > Theme: Chili for Plasma - You have to download it using the "Get New Themes..." button. 
  • Login Screen > Advanced > Cursor Theme: Capitaine Cursors

To change the desktop wallpaper, just right click on the desktop and go to Configure Desktop. Here you can also configure the icon alignment, mouse actions (like switch between desktops), etc...

Main panel widgets

For the widgets the first thing I did was to move the main panel to the top of the screen and add the following widgets in this order (from left to right):

  • Application Launcher: It's the typical menu that contains all the system applications, shortcuts to shutdown, etc..  I rarely use it but it's useful sometimes. I changed the icon for one more subtle.
  • Application title: This is just used to have the name of the application on focus before the Global Menu. In the configuration I changed "No active window label" to "Custom Text" and "No active custom text" to "Desktop". Then I selected the Bold option so the name pops up a little bit. 
  • Global Menu: To replicate the menu item in OS X. It will contain the typical File/Edit/View... options of each program.
  • Panel Spacer: Just to add a space between widgets.
  • Pager: These adds buttons to move between your desktops.
  • Digital Clock: Just a clock
  • System Tray: Typical menu for the Wifi, Bluetooth, batery, updates, keyboard layouts (if you have more than one) etc... You can configure it to show/hide different options.
  • Panel Spacer: A small space between widgets.
  • Search: This opens a System Search. I've configured the shortcut to Win+Space so I can have something similar to Spotlight from OS X.

Dock

The dock is Latte dock. The easiest way to install it is using the KDE Software centre (search for Latte) and if you are running a different Linux distribution, you can check how to insall it in the following article. Once installed, just open the program searching it in your Application Launcher under the Utilities section. It has a lot of options but I just configured it to appear in the bottom centre and adjusted the size of the icons. You can add applications to it just dragging the icons.

For the application launcher, I added the widget U Launcher to the dock (you have to install it from the Add Widgets > Get new widgets menu) and configured its icon to the one with the rocket. Once opened the launcher menu looks like this:

My desktop appearance


Others

With the configuration above you'll get a pretty similar look to OS X but in addition you can get other functionalities :

  • Search like Spotlight: Using the Search widget and shortcut you'll be able to open apps pretty quick. You can also enter a URL and it'll open it in your default browser. By default it does not search your documents but I'm sure it can be configured to index them as well.
  • Window arrangements: You can drag windows to the borders of the screen to automatically resize and arrange them. This is very useful when using a small screen and something that is not included in OS X by default.
  • Trackpad gestures: I've been able to add basic multi touch gestures using libinput (guide here) to change desktops, horizontal and vertical scroll etc.. It works very smooth and you can configure the gestures as you wish.
  • KDE Connect: If you install the KDE connect app in your phone (Android) you'll have perfect integration between your laptop and your phone. You can get notifications, reply to them, transfer files, multimedia control and even use your phone to run commands or as a remote input (you can move the mouse and use a virtual keyboard). It's awesome!

Conclusion

This setup is definitely not perfect but for people like me, who really likes the look and feel of OS X but don't really like Apple laptops anymore (keyboard, lack of ports, larger than needed trackpad...), it can be very useful . In addition if you have to switch between a Mac and a Linux machine, it can make the transition easier. 

Hope you liked it :)

Posted on by:

uf4no profile

Antonio

@uf4no

My name is Antonio and I'm from Zamora (Spain) I live in London and work as a freelance full stack developer.

Discussion

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I've been on the fence about ditching windows for a couple of months for now. With all the bloat introduced by Windows 10, and the lack of privacy I was just getting tired of it.

This post finally motivated me to make the switch and as of today I'm happily running Kubuntu. Still have a lot to learn but thanks for convincing me to make the jump.

 

Hey, neat ! Did you get touchpad to follow the same gestures and multitouch as your Mac ? I'm missing this ?

 

Thanks!
I have the basic ones, like scrolling (vertical and horizontally) with two fingers, right click with two fingers too and switch between desktops scrolling.

I was lucky I found a repo with a lot of tweaks for my laptop (Razer Blade Stealth) and one of them is to get gestures using the Libinput package. I'm sure it can be installed in most of the laptops. You can find it here: github.com/rolandguelle/razer-blad...

 

I've found a better trackpad drivers/config and now I have basically the same gestures as in Mac. Leaving it here in case it helps :)
devhub.io/repos/bulletmark-libinpu...

 

Great setup ! I really like how configurable some distros are !
Do you still have issues when switching OS ? In my case, I really struggle with keyboard changes ! (Mac keyboards are different from the other ones, and keyboard shortcuts change as well)

 

KDE has an insane number of configurable keyboard shortcuts. You can easily match MacOS.

 
 

I really don't have problems with the different keyboard layouts, I guess I'm already use to both :)

 

I've done the opposite. I've done my best to make my work Mac look like a proper computer. I mean, you can't get rid of the dock completely, but I've pushed it off the right-hand side (the least likely side for me to hit by accident) and made it teeny-tiny. I've disabled everything I can that makes a Mac quite so... maccy.

I like having reasonably similar environments, but have made the concession of making my home computers mimic a bunch of Mac keyboard shortcuts that Apple don't let you configure.

 

Bro i latte take more memory and CPU usage. Sometimes it will not response quickly when it hidden. first i had installed latte and now i move ahead on plank and it work well compare to latte. And i really love it. very lightweight and beautiful.

 

I never had any problems with Latte to be honest. Cant talk about the latest versions as I'm currently running Windows 10 with WSL instead of Ubuntu but if I move back to Linux, I'll give plank a try. Thanks for the recommendation :)

 

yeah.. You must have to try it very lightweight and works fast compare to latte.

 

Very nice!!!! Thanks for sharing!

 

what about tools that you use on MacOS... i.e. desktop widgets like übersicht, iTerm/brew, zsh and similar... how you go around that when switching from Mac to Linux machine?

 

Hyper (hyper.is/) is a decent cross-platform replacement for iterm - you can have the same setup on Linux, Mac and Windows.

Zsh and oh-my-zsh work on Linux.

And where you would use brew on Mac, you use apt on (K)Ubuntu. It’s similar but also lets you update core OS packages.

 

Linuxbrew is the spiritual brother to Homebrew on macOS. System package managers work differently so it's not really adequate to put them on the same footing.

 
 

A great alternative to emulate Spotlight is Albert (github.com/albertlauncher/albert). To me, this is the better alternative to Spotlight on Linux.

thx

 

Is there any way to get the wallpaper that you are using?