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I am noticing an annoying effect when copying GTK themes and I am unable to explain it. Copying a theme from /usr/share/themes to ~/.local/share/themes results in a new theme that looks different than the original. As it's a cp -a copy that is surprising to me and I can't find a proper explanation for it. Why does the copied theme in ~/.local yield a different result than the original in /usr?

The whole story:

I am unhappy with the current coloring scheme I use for XFCE because it won't highlight the active tab in a gnome-terminal. The only solutions to this problem I was able to find was "use another coloring scheme". However, all the coloring schemes that solve this problem for me have other effects I don't like. So I am looking to bring that one feature of highlighted active tabs into my favorite coloring scheme.

I start out copying my favorite scheme from /usr/share/themes into ~/.local/share/themes by

cp -a /usr/share/themes/i_like_you_best ~/.local/share/themes/renamed_to_be_discernible

Now, when I open xfce4-appearance-settings I can select renamed_to_be_discernible as coloring scheme. Unfortunately, renamed_to_be_discernible looks different than i_like_you best.

Here are two small screenshots showing the difference.

with scheme i_like_you_best with scheme renamed_to_be_discernible

The left picture shows a (piece of a) window using the original scheme i_like_you_best, whereas the right picture shows the same screenarea but with renamed_to_be_discernible. Notice the difference in the gray used for the window manager decorations and the two much more pronounced borders of the menu and tab bars.

One of the reasons why I like i_like_you_best best is that it's simple. Consequently the entire theme is just one file /usr/share/themes/i_like_you_best/gtk-2.0/gtkrc. That file does neither include nor reference another file explicitly. Why do these two themes yield different results?

These days Xfce still uses GTK2 and I was hoping if i threw i_like_you_best/gtk-2.0 and theme_with_what_i_want/gtk-3.0 together I would get an Xfce theme that does what I want, but apparently even copying the gtk-2.0 folder to a new location breaks the theme.

share|improve this question
Are there any relative paths in the gtkrc file for the theme? – Jenny D Feb 27 '13 at 11:29
@JennyD: That file does neither include nor reference another file explicitly. – Bananguin Feb 27 '13 at 11:38

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