Clearlooks goes Cairo

With the next release of GTK+ the latest advances in graphics technology, called cairo, will be available to themers and programmers. Cairo gives high quality output, ideal for creating smooth themes for GTK+ applications. For more information on cairo, check the website.

Porting Clearlooks to cairo
That’s right, I’m working on a new version of Clearlooks, using this new API. It isn’t a 1:1 port, but look at it as the Clearlooks I’ve always meant it to be. It’ll be shinier, prettier, and… oh right, slower.

Speed Issues
Right now cairo isn’t exactly “fast”. I can’t give you any numbers, but believe me… You’ll see and feel the difference. This makes sense though, considering the complexity of the drawing operations. You’ll see anti-aliasing everywhere, making the theme look very smooth. With time, cairo will be optimised, and the speed issues should dissapear.

The Result (so far)
I’ve started working on this a few days ago. So far I’ve finished the progressbar, slider, button, and entry widgets. Here’s a little screenshot.

Clearlooks Cairo

Clearlooks-cairo won’t be ready anytime soon, but the code is in CVS, so feel free to try it out. It requires GTK+ 2.7 or newer.

30 Responses to “Clearlooks goes Cairo”

  1. Tomasz Torcz Says:

    Could you summarize what exactly will be visually different from classic Clearlooks? Thanks.

  2. Richard Stellingwerff Says:

    I’m not sure yet. The way I work is by designing and implementing one widget at a time. Right now I have no idea how I will design the remaining widgets. If I can’t think of anything better, I will make it look like the original Clearlooks.

    You will just have to wait and see. When I implement something new, I will show it in this blog.

  3. Michele Says:

    IMO the new slider decoration is really nice!

    The new progress bar is now also more coherent with the style of clearlooks.

    Great work, really!

    Are you planning to redesign scrollbars also?


  4. Richard Stellingwerff Says:

    I’d love to design a new scrollbar, but every attempt has turned into a failure. I want to avoid creating something that looks like XP, and it should definitely not even remotely look like Opus.

    But if you (or anyone else) could give me some inspiration then I’d really like that :)

  5. Michele Says:

    I will try to do a mockup one of these days!
    I’ve already tried but, as you said, it’s difficult to design something nice and useable.
    Anyway, before doing this, I will take a look at Opus OS to avoid deja vu phenomenons. :D


  6. Alex Says:

    I’m very excited that Clearlooks is going Cairo. Seing that screenshot however, I’m not so happy with the changements so far. The scrollbar handle for example is in my opinion too fancy. There is a circle inside a rectangle inside a rounded rectangle, just for a simple draggable element. Same thing with the progressbar. The stripes at a tilted angle PLUS the vertical shading is just too much optical distraction for my taste.

    Also, it seems that Gnome wants to adopt Clearlooks as default theme for 2.12. I’m totally happy with that: the current theme is lousy and Clearlooks 0.6.2 a perfect replacement. But keep in mind that Gnome would certainly like to ship a cairoified Clearlooks with 2.14. If there is too much optically distracting eye candy, the community will probably refuse keeping it as a default theme, for simplicity has always been one of Gnome’s strengths.

    Moreover, with Cairo performance will more be an issue as it is now. Also for that reason, keeping things simple is a good idea. I just updated my system to GTK+ 2.7.5 and things are noticeably slower, so the theme shouldn’t slow it down much further, if possible.

    I hope I haven’t discouraged you. What is stated above is purely my personal opinion. Anyway, Clearlooks currently is a great piece of work and I’d be happy to use it in future, too.

  7. Richard Stellingwerff Says:

    Hi Alex, thank you for your comments. Don’t worry, you’re not discouraging me at all.

    I will make sure that Clearlooks cairo has the ability to look as plain as the current Clearlooks does, but with the ability to make it more fancy such as demonstrated on the screenshots. The amount of code ‘bloat’ is very limited, however. So don’t worry! :)

    In addition to the “candy cane” progressbar, there is also a completely flat version which themers can enable. So everyone should be happy.

    Oh and about the dot in the center… I might remove it.

  8. Jakub Steiner Says:

    I fear you’re overdoing it a little on the progress bar side. It starts to look like a lollypop ;)

  9. Thomas McMahon Says:

    Hi There,

    First I’d like to say thanks for the great work that you have done so far to make GNOME look nice, I really love the clearlooks themes.

    I think the new theme looks nice, and I’m quite excited for the improvement in the look of feel that Cairo should bring to GNOME. I agree with some of the posters that some of the widgets should be toned down a little, but as this is a work in progress I’m sure it will look great when it is finished.

    Best of luck and keep up the good work :)

  10. lol Says:

    Wow, Clearlooks still looks stupid!

  11. Rork Says:

    I agree with Jakub Steiner on the progress bar: it looks like candy (which is more XP or KDE than Gnome, to me). The “old” one was much better, imho.

  12. Felix Says:

    Your theme looks very good. :)

    Do you also work on stock items for this new theme?

    This would be great because the themes for Gnome are getting better and better BUT the default stock items look really outdated. I know it’s a matter of taste but the default stock items look very unsharp.

    I do not want to criticise the author of the default stock items but in my point of view they are too unprofessional for a world wide used desktop. They do not harmonize with the elegant Clearlooks or Clearlooks-cairo what I see so far.

  13. gpmn Says:


  14. Rork Says:

    Felix: you may want to have a look at : it is an improvement on the default stock icons which I find quite nice.

  15. Edson Says:

    Themes experts, give a try to “Smooth Retro” theme, IMHO, a beauty and radiant theme to Gnome DE. Regards.

  16. Twigman Says:

    Heya, I use clearlooks - love it..

    The new clearlooks…. looks amazing. Keep up the good work :)

    PS. Please keep the option of having the dot and the square in the sliders.. it really doesn’t look bad at all imho..

  17. Magnus Says:

    I really like the Clearlooks theme, it’s great.
    Here’s some inspiration for a new scrollbar:
    something that lets you see the page intervals on the scrollbar.
    Possibly just thin lines, but maybe even the page numbers
    them selves. Play with it :-)

  18. bvc Says:

    Looks great Richard! I love it! I just hope cairo is optimized, and its blurryness is reduced, sooner rather than later. Oh, it would also be nice if one didn’t have to be a developer to use it as a themer.

  19. jvic Says:

    What window border are you using on that screenshot? Pretty cool.

  20. jvic Says:

    It’d be nice if you could post a similar screenshot using the current clearlooks theme, so we could compare and see the differences.

  21. Alex Says:

    Hi Richard.

    The new widgets looks nice, but i think that it could be better idea if you inspirate the new theme on Aqua than XP (this is really pretty =) ), its my personal opinion, so you’re free to do the work you want =)

    Greetings & Congratulations

  22. EddyP Says:

    Blatanly copying MacOSX progress bar (see login screen in OSX).

  23. Graig Smith Says:

    Clearlooks was one of the things that i really like about gnome. its the only theme i use. its neat that you got it running under cairo. those little roundish scroll handle bars look awesome. the only thing that i dislike, is the square edges on the windows. i want the rounded edges like clearlooks has. But all smooth rendered and antialiased ;)

  24. FrobY Says:

    EddyP: stealing from the best is no crime. Gnome far too frequently steals from Windows instead.

    Also, it’s not actually a direct copy, although it’s clearly inspired by OS X.

  25. Richard Stellingwerff Says:

    EddyP, could you provide me with a screenshot of that login progressbar? If it’s indeed a 1:1 copy, which I seriously doubt, then that happened completely by accident.

    If anything, it looks more like a copy from keramik.

    Thank you for your input!

  26. Brian Says:


    I really like this so far… it’s a good thing to have a bit more eyecandy than the current clearlooks (like you are doing right here) as long as it is not compulsory for users who prefer a little less vivid experience.

    One question though: The progressbar, is it moving (like the OS X one) or is it static? In my opinion it is really cool to have animation at least as an option, so I really hope this theme will have that abilities. It should be possible I think, but don’t pin me down on it.

    Furthermore: Great work! Don’t worry too much about possible copying of OS X. It shouldn’t be the same of course, but it never really will, even if some widgets appear to be. Remember: Small artists copy, great artists steal :-)

  27. John Nowak Says:

    I very much like this! Much better than the current clear looks. My only suggestion is that the buttons for close/minimize/etc are too small. They should touch each other perhaps and take up the full height of the toolbar. No sense in making them smaller and harder to click for the sake of them having borders. Not only will this give bigger targets, but a more simple look as well.

  28. Phil Says:

    I think that too many people in the Linux community want this “PLAIN” stuff, its just too darn boring. The progress bar looks fantastic, and I think the theme should go for “as fancy as possible” in terms of graphics.

    MacOS X isn’t one of the best looking desktops in the world because of them trying to make things plain. Of course, for some people out there who are vanilla plain boring, there can be options to turn certain things off, but all in all, progress in the development of clearlooks is totally a good idea!

  29. Phil Says:

    Oh and also, for all those who always say “It looks like windows or OSX” what are you really expecting? Buttons, scrollbars, checkboxes, etc. They aren’t going to revolutionize the scrollbar, or buttons. All operating systems on ANY computer will have buttons, scrollbars, progressbars etc. That is not going to change. You can’t make a button any different than from Windows, OSX, Linux. Its all the same stuff! How can you expect them to NOT make it look like any other operating system, the image for the button or the bar is of no essence, the point is, its a OS, it will look like an OS and all OSes look the same.

  30. Marcin Says:

    this icons its great’s and i’d like to see it in new edition with new GNOME 2.14 and Your great theme (but I dont like visual window label, i prefer things like this.. )

    Nice job!!

    Best regards