After updating Gnome to 3.18 on my Debian box, all the icons became unacceptably large compared to what I had before. Is there a config file I need to edit to shrink the icon size? I tried following this guide, editing all 96px to 48px and 136px to 68px in /usr/share/gnome-shell/theme/gnome-classic.css. After a reboot, the icons are still the same.

  • Which icons ? The ones on the "desktop" ? Also, are you using gnome-classic (the desktop with upper & lower panel) ? If so, please update your tags/post and specify that you're using gnome-clasic and which icons are oversized. Oct 30, 2015 at 9:05

4 Answers 4


Or a workaround I've found to do that:

Open (Unity/Gnome file manager) While holding CTRL, scroll with mouse scroll up/down to increase/decrease the icon sizes of the "Files" Amazingly enough this will change the size of the desktop icons as well.


You can change it easily in Nautilus by sliding the handle to the left as in the picture. The effect is not perfect but it's better than the default.

Nautilus handle to change icon size.


How to decrease size of icons

Go to the top right corner of file manager and click the icon beside search and there we get a sliding bar to increase or decrease the size of icons.Refer to the above figure


Going below 48px requires changing the Nautilus source code and recompiling. (Yes, they hard-coded icons sizes.)


1. Install the following dependencies:

libgd-dev autotools-dev libexif-dev libexempi-dev libselinux1-dev libtracker-sparql-1.0-dev libext-dev libxml2-dev libgnome-desktop-3-dev

Each one installs a bunch of other stuff, so hopefully I've given you the correct parent package name. I apologize for not recalling with 100% accuracy exactly what I installed, but this looks fairly correct to me immediately after my install. (Notify me if I'm inaccurate anywhere.)

2. Download from the Nautilus snapshots website (https://download.gnome.org/sources/nautilus/) the version of Nautilus that you are currently using. To find that out, run "nautilus --version" from the terminal. After downloading the archive, unzip it to whatever directory you want to work from.

3. From within the unzipped package, open the file "nautilus-icon-info.h". Within the first several lines you will see various sizes designated for the particular scroll-setting options. For instance, within the file for version 3.20.4 the icon sizes start on line 36. Change each of those levels to whatever you want to use so that you can make the icons much smaller (or larger).

4. After editing and saving the file, it's time to configure, compile, and install. Run the following commands from the terminal from within the base directory of the version of nautilus that you have downloaded and unzipped. Make sure that you are within the base of the folder structure of the nautilus directories!

sudo make install

This can be run altogether with the command "./configure && make && make install".

If the ./configure command fails it's because you are missing some other dependencies. I apologize if my list of dependencies above was incomplete. Google (or whatever search engine you want) to find what package it is that you need. You can use Synaptic to search for what you need if you're unsure even after Googling.

Once installed, I suggest a reboot just to make sure that every single thing is reloaded properly. You can now tweak your icon sizes as you wish.

Have fun!

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