Ubuntu Tech Snippet #9 – Change out the Unity launcher icon

One of the great things about Ubuntu is that it is so customizable. And one of the most commonly customized features is the theme. I currently run the Numix Circle icon theme with the Numix system theme. You can see an example below:


Numix Circle Circle Icon Theme w. Numix Window theme

This screenshot doesn’t really show off the circle element of the icon theme, but this next screenshot does:

unity launcher w. numix circle

Unity Launcher with the Numix Circle icon theme

As you can see, the application icons are circular (thus, Numix Circle.)

Yay, cool. Icons. What’s the Tech Tip?

If you notice at the top of the panel (second screenshot) the BFB (Big Freakin’ Button) isn’t the normal Ubuntu 14.04 version. It’s a flat, circular version that fits much better with the Numix Circle icon theme than the default:

unity launcher icon 14.04

Unity Launcher Icon – Ubuntu 14.04 Default

Obviously, the first, flat icon would (and does) fit with the theme a lot better. So, I went a-searching on how to change out the Unity launcher icon (aka, the BFB) and found one that fit.

There isn’t any automatic way to do this,  though I’ve since written a script that will do so, which you can download here. Note, you’ll have to change the file extension from .pdf to .py, as I can’t upload directly in the .py format. I’ll be posting the script once it is complete, it’s turning out to be a little more complicated than I had figured on.

However, the manual process isn’t that complicated, involving just copying and renaming a few files.

The Process

To change out the BFB, open up either Terminal or the file browser. As a side-note, you’ll need the ability to run commands as root via sudo. If you don’t have these rights, this tutorial won’t work for you, sorry 😦 Also, these actions set the icon for the entire system, I have yet to find a user-specific way to do this.

I suggest using Terminal (Ctrl+Alt+T) and that’s what this tutorial will be via, though some people may find the file browser easier. If you do decide to use the file browser, you’ll need to launch it with root privileges, which you can do via pressing Alt+F2 and then entering

gksudo nautilus
If you are using the file browser and run into issues, please feel free to ask for help, I’ll try to help as I can.

In Terminal, you’ll need to get to the directory your replacement icon is in. If you downloaded it via Firefox or Chromium, it’s probably in your ~/Downloads folder.

Get to the folder that the icon is stored in via the command


Make sure the icon you downloaded is an .svg or .png, as those tend to work the best. You can find the file’s location by finding it in the file browser and then right-clicking and selecting Copy.


Then, go into the terminal and type in sudo cp and then select Paste Filename


This will make the terminal look like this:

nate@excelion-Satellite-A105: ~_085

Without pressing enter, press Space and enter the following:


Your terminal should now look like this:

nate@excelion-Satellite-A105: ~_087

Go ahead and press enter, and you should be prompted for your password. Enter it in and then press enter again and it should instantly copy the file. If you’re get an error, make sure you put in all of the file names and paths correctly, maybe you entered cd where it should have been cp (those two are very easy to mix up, believe me, I do it all the time.)

Next, enter the following command:

sudo cp /usr/share/unity/icons/launcher_bfb.png /usr/share/unity/icons/launcher_bfb.bak && 
sudo cp /usr/share/unity/launcher_bfb_new.png /usr/share/unity/icons/launcher_bfb.png

This will create a backup of the original BFB (always, always, always make a backup when messing with system files) and then set your BFB icon as the default BFB icon.


Once you complete all of these steps without any errors, you should log out and back in again, and your new icon should be in place! If you have trouble understanding this tutorial, or get stuck somewhere, or get some strange error, comment down below and I’ll try my best to answer your question for you!

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