It'll be no shock that some non-elementary OS apps don't look right with the default elementary OS theme. I understand that theming is a Hard Problem™.

Sometimes buttons don't look like buttons, or half the buttons have bevels and the other half don't, or UI controls have white text on a grey background color, or sometimes the aesthetics are just bad.

Seahorse, MenuLibre, and Remmina are just a few examples.

Screenshot of Seahorse (Passwords and Keys) showing default elementary OS theme

However, you can specify a custom theme for a GTK app with the GTK_THEME environment variable, and in many cases using the Adwaita theme fixes the display issues. Thus, this should be possible with a .desktop file, too; for example, Exec=env GTK_THEME=Adwaita seahorse.

However, annoyingly, this modification doesn't work for certain applications. Seahorse is one. Running env GTK_THEME=Adwaita seahorse from a terminal however, has the expected effect.

What gives?

1 Answer 1


tl;dr: comment out the line that starts with DBusActivatable in the .desktop file.

This section of the always-reliable Arch wiki article for desktop entries was clutch:

Modify command line arguments

To change or add the command line arguments, edit the Exec= line to append the desired options. As an example, with the original line commented out:

# ~/.local/share/applications/steam.desktop
# Exec=/usr/bin/steam-runtime %U
Exec=/usr/bin/steam-runtime -no-browser %U

Also remove DBusActivatable=true (or set it to false) if present as it will cause the Exec line to be ignored.[2]

That "[2]" refers you to this section of the documentation on gtk.org, which elaborates:

If DBusActivatable is true and the desktop file name looks like a valid application ID, then the Exec line will be ignored and your application will be started by way of D-Bus activation instead (using the name of the desktop file as the application ID). (emphasis mine)

The bolded part is key: the .desktop filename in this case is /usr/share/applications/org.gnome.seahorse.Application.desktop, which, yep, looks like "a valid application ID." I don't know what all the DBus activation stuff is all about, but who cares. I fixed my problem.

Comment out that line with a # and problem solved. Yes, I do this as root, for reasons beyond the scope of this question, and yes, I'm OK with having to repeat that step if an update to the package ships a new .desktop file. Those are minor inconveniences.

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