How to Use Custom Tray Icons in KDE

KDE icons are generally very easy to customize, and there is a complete graphical interface in System Settings for choosing an icon theme or installing a new one. One thing you might notice, however, is that the standard KDE tray icons are all monochrome. When you start using non-KDE apps or lesser-known KDE apps that do not have monochrome icons, it kind of ruins the look. Of course, for those who dislike monochrome icons, the look is also ruined.

Fortunately, some KDE users have taken the initiative to create monochrome icons for those programs that did not already have them and even some alternative tray icon sets for users who want a different look from the standard Air desktop theme set. This brief tutorial will show you how to quickly and easily install tray icons for your KDE Plasma desktop theme.

Some Plasma themes come with their own tray icon sets. For others or for your own custom theme, you will need to install one. There are a few system tray icon sets available on KDE-Look.org, including the following:

KDE Krayscale system tray icons

Normal KDE user-installed icons are stored in /home/[username]/.kde/share/icons, but system tray icons are part of the desktop theme and are stored in the theme’s folder. These icons are SVG and are designed to scale nicely with your panel size.

Tray icons are kept in the following folder structure:

/home/[username]/.kde/share/apps/desktoptheme/[theme-name]/icons

For global themes that will be accessed by all users, use the following directory (dependent on your operating system or distribution):

/usr/share/kde4/apps/desktoptheme/[theme-name]/icons

To install, simply extract and copy the icons to the theme folder. If you are using the default KDE theme, you would copy them to:

/home/[username]/.kde/share/apps/desktoptheme/default/icons

Installing KDE system tray icons

A restart of KDE should make your icons appear, but if it does not, you may need to clear your icon cache or plasma cache. To do so, go to the following folder:

/home/[username]/.kde/cache-[ComputerName]

Then, remove the file “icon-cache.kcache” and possibly also “plasma_theme_[theme-name].kcache”. This should reset the theme and show your new icons.

Earlier versions of KDE-PIM applications did not support the SVG tray icons. Therefore, most of the monochrome icon sets do not include kmail, akregator, and others. With KDE-PIM 4.6 and up, these icons will now work. The Krayscale icon theme includes them, but the icons will not show message counts for Kmail or Akregator, which may be enough incentive for some to stick with the default color icons.

editing a system tray icon in Inkscape

If you decide to make your own icons or simply change the color of an existing one, you can use Inkscape to edit the SVG images and then copy your creations to the desktop theme folder. If you do decide to create your own, make sure you share them on KDE-Look.org so that everyone can enjoy your artwork.