Making Firefox and Thunderbird Less Ugly in KDE4

Mozilla uses the GTK for its applications’ GUIs. As every KDE user knows, KDE uses QT (KDE4 uses QT4.x), and GTK applications look ugly in KDE. There are ways of getting GTK applications to look not as bad in KDE (qtCurve). However, these typically are a custom qt theme, which is not what I want (I’d rather skin the few misbehaving applications).

Luckily, for Firefox there is a very good theme called Oxygen KDE. You want version 2.0.1 or newer. It works very well, and applies to any Linux distribution. Thunderbird has something similar, named Oxybird. The original works with Thunderbird 2.x, you’ll want Oxybird 2 for Thunderbird 3.1.x. I have not tried Oxybird with Thunderbird 2.x, so I can not speak for it in that environment, but in Thunderbird 3.1.x it is not as polished and will not give you the same KDE look and feel that Oxygen KDE does for Firefox.

(Re)Compiling

Now, for both Firefox and Thunderbird, using the correct use flags in Gentoo helps more than you’d initially think. I had originally installed the binary versions of Thunderbird and Firefox since both take quite a bit of space to compile and I did not want to trash my SSD (they take more than the 2.5GiB of RAM that I can allocate to a tempfs).

Other than being ugly, the other thing I did not like about the binary versions of Firefox and Thunderbird is that they did not tell KDE to close the “application is starting” bouncing cursor. So it keeps bouncing until it times out—yuck! When compiling Firefox and Thunderbird, make sure the startup-notification USE flag is enabled, this will compile in support to tell the desktop manager that the application has finished loading.

Turning off the gnome USE flag, does a great deal in keeping Firefox and Thunderbird less ugly by default. Actually, with Firefox, it does a good enough job that you could use the default theme with Firefox personas if you wanted to. Thunderbird looks much better, especially when combined with Oxybird. It is not perfect, but it is at lest does not look like it is stuck in the 1990s.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

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2 thoughts on “Making Firefox and Thunderbird Less Ugly in KDE4

  1. If you are using Debian (I’m not sure about other packages), then in addition to what you’ve stated, you can also install

    gtk2-engines-oxygen - Oxygen widget theme for GTK+-based applications
    gtk3-engines-oxygen - Oxygen widget theme for GTK3-based applications

    which would kind of make all GTK based applications look much more better. Give it a try.

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