How to Disable GTK3 Client-Side Decorations on Ubuntu

How to Disable GTK3 Client-Side Decorations on Ubuntu

If you have a non-Gnome desktop environment (like XFCE, LXDE, etc.) and open up a Gnome 3.x application (like Gedit, etc.) you might notice that the titlebar for that application looks different. This is because the Gnome project has started using something known as client-side decorations.

This is a very divisive topic, a heated debate on both sides of the issue. Some people absolutely hate client-side decorations. Others don’t really see what all the hate is about and actually kind of like the new direction Gnome has headed. Everyone has their own opinion.

One thing is for certain though: outside of Gnome Shell, client-side decorations on windows can be quite annoying. They just don’t fit into the rest of your desktop environment’s theme. That stinks – mostly because a lot of Gnome-created apps are great, but they seem so out of place with the rest of your desktop.

Luckily, Andrew from WebUpd8 has created some software to bypass these decorations. It’s a simple piece of software that’s pretty easy to understand that can be easily installed via an Ubuntu PPA.

How to disable GTK3 client-side decorations

To install the software needed to turn off decorations, you’ll need to add a new repo to your Ubuntu install. Do this by opening a terminal window and entering the following command.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8

After you’ve added the PPA to your Ubuntu software sources you’ll need to update Ubuntu’s software sources to reflect the changes that you’ve made.

sudo apt-get update

Once the software is updated, you can finally install the software that will enable the ability to disable client-side decorations.

Install the software that enables the ability to disable client-side decorations.

sudo apt-get install gtk3-nocsd

Now that the program has been installed to your system, you have to configure it and add some code to your .profile file.

gedit ~/.profile

Inside gedit, paste this, then save the file.

Add some code to your .profile file.

export GTK_CSD=0
export LD_PRELOAD=/usr/lib/gtk3-nocsd/

Once you’ve added this to ~/.profile, client-side decorations should be disabled.

Client-side decorations should be disabled.

Note: this method can be a bit buggy while using the Unity desktop environment.


Gnome’s client-side decorations are neat, and they certainly do make things a lot cleaner when you’re using Gnome Shell. Unfortunately, if you want to use Gnome’s programs on something other than Gnome, this can be a bit frustrating. And what’s even more of a problem is the fact that there’s no easy way to turn this all off.

It more than bothers me that someone had to go out of their way to add features to a desktop environment that should have had this to begin with. It’s not all bad, though; I’m just glad that there is software out there that disables this, just so that you could run pieces of GTK3 software with your window manager of choice easily.

I hope that this guide has helped you realize that disabling GTk-3 client-side decorations is most certainly possible on Ubuntu. Gnome’s applications aren’t bad, but without this method they look broken on anything but that particular desktop environment.

How do you feel about client-side decorations? Tell us in the comments section below!

Derrik Diener
Derrik Diener

Derrik Diener is a freelance technology blogger.

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