[opinion] Why Distros Should Stop Theming Apps

When many gnome developers released this blog post, a whole lot of people freaked out. Attacking the developers, claiming that they were anti-features and trying to limit user freedom. However, I believe that not only are the writers of this blog post completely in the right. I am going to explain why I agree with them when it comes to theming apps.

Themes break apps

When applying GTK themes, a lot of things can go wrong. There are many cases where when you are not using the default theme, font sizes, buttons, and many other things are incomprehensible. UI elements sometimes stop the user from making full use of the application.

So what’s the problem?

You might be thinking, “If the user themes the apps, that’s the users fault if it breaks”. I 100% agree. However, what these developers are really against is distributions shipping with their own themes. Let’s stay a GTK theme you downloaded doesn’t work with the application, the user will either live with it, or switch to the default theme. When a theme that ships with the distribution doesn’t work though, the developer will get a lot of messages that, “your app doesn’t work on Ubuntu” because of the theme. This leads to more work from developers just because the distro wanted to seem unique with their own theme.

Conclusion

While I know that I am a bit late to this discussion, and that this was a bit short, however I thought that I would give my opinion as to why developers are 100% correct in nicely asking Linux distributions to stop providing their own themes, so that they can stop having to fix their app because of problems with the themes, and instead focus on improving their app.

Written on October 3, 2021