Difficult to distinguish which tab is selected

Bug #762349 reported by Bryce Harrington on 2011-04-16
This bug affects 79 people
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
Ayatana Design
Ubuntu theme
Will Cooke
ubuntu-themes (Ubuntu)
Will Cooke
Will Cooke

Bug Description

Binary package hint: unity

In tabbed interfaces such as in gnome-terminal under unity it is difficult to visually distinguish the selected tab from the unselected ones.

In the attached screenshot, gnome-terminal has three tabs open, and the third one is selected. If you look close you can see the text is slightly whiter than the other tabs, and the border is a little more prominent but to my old man eyes it's really hard to see it at a glance.

Under metacity, the difference is more notable (or at least, the theme is different).

My guess is this is a theme issue rather than unity, but I'm unsure. If it is just a theme issue please refile to the right project.

ProblemType: Bug
DistroRelease: Ubuntu 11.04
Package: unity 3.8.8-0ubuntu2
ProcVersionSignature: Ubuntu 2.6.38-8.42-generic-pae
Uname: Linux 2.6.38-8-generic-pae i686
Architecture: i386
CompizPlugins: [core,bailer,detection,composite,opengl,decor,mousepoll,vpswitch,regex,animation,snap,expo,move,compiztoolbox,place,grid,gnomecompat,wall,ezoom,workarounds,staticswitcher,resize,fade,scale,session,unityshell]
Date: Fri Apr 15 17:41:12 2011
InstallationMedia: Ubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" - Alpha i386 (20110202)
 PATH=(custom, user)
SourcePackage: unity
UpgradeStatus: Upgraded to natty on 2011-04-04 (11 days ago)

Related branches

PS Jenkins bot: Approve (continuous-integration) on 2016-04-15
Iain Lane: Pending requested 2016-04-15
Bryce Harrington (bryce) wrote :
Bryce Harrington (bryce) wrote :
Alex Launi (alexlauni) on 2011-05-02
Changed in unity:
status: New → Invalid
Changed in light-themes (Ubuntu):
status: New → Invalid

It's probably better to explain why this isn't a valid problem with the theme rather than just setting the bug to invalid. Reset to New (would confirm as it's clearly a problem but there must be some reason this was invalidated so I'd like to find that out first)

Changed in light-themes (Ubuntu):
status: Invalid → New
Changed in unity:
status: Invalid → New
Sam_ (and-sam) wrote :

Confirmed and still the case on an updated Oneiric.
$ uname -a
Linux zoo 3.0-3-generic #4-Ubuntu SMP Fri Jul 1 08:21:12 UTC 2011 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux
zootie@zoo:~$ lsb_release -a
Distributor ID: Ubuntu
Description: Ubuntu oneiric (development branch)
Release: 11.10
Codename: oneiric
$ gconftool-2 -g /desktop/gnome/interface/gtk_theme

I wouldn't assigne to age but rather to the theme not elegant distinguishing tabs.

Changed in light-themes (Ubuntu):
status: New → Confirmed
Alex Launi (alexlauni) on 2011-08-02
Changed in unity:
status: New → Invalid
Changed in unity (Ubuntu):
status: New → Invalid
Sam_ (and-sam) wrote :
tags: added: amd64 oneiric
Alan Porter (alan.porter) wrote :

This bug has been invalidated twice with no explanation. That's a sure way to dissuade those who are reporting the bugs and subscribing to the bugs with hopes of a resolution.

Remember that we are all volunteers, going that extra mile to report things that we think need to be repaired. Don't just blow us off without some sort of mitigation statement.

Alan Porter
former gnome-terminal user

Alan Porter (alan.porter) wrote :

Disappointed with the lack of acknowledgement here in launchpad, I finally just switched to using xfce4-terminal instead of gnome-terminal. But I still subscribe to the various bug reports on this issue, so I will know when the problem has been resolved and I can switch back to using gnome-terminal.

Alan Porter

Omer Akram (om26er) on 2011-09-06
affects: unity → null

@Alan: This bug is only invalidated for the "unity" component - because it's simply unrelated to that. There is still an issue marked as Confirmed on the "light-themes" component which is the right one afaik.

Alan Porter (alan.porter) wrote :

Thanks for the clarification, Mikkel.
That little bit of explaining goes a long way.

Curtis Hovey (sinzui) on 2011-11-11
no longer affects: null
Kees (kees-vanveen) wrote :

I had the same problem in Oneiric running Xfce with a self-chosen combination of window manager theme and 'appearance' theme.

I found a workaround to be:
- create ~/.config/gtk-3.0/gtk.css
- paste the following in:
  TerminalWindow .notebook tab:active {
        background-color: #def;

This makes my active tab being a bit lighter than the other tabs.

See also /usr/share/themes and look for gtk.css and terminal.css.

Sam_ (and-sam) wrote :

No longer affected, my workaround was installing terminator which allows comprehensive configuration (e.g. tab colours) via GUI - considered as user-friendly.

Andrea Cimitan (cimi) on 2012-04-30
Changed in light-themes (Ubuntu):
status: Confirmed → Fix Released
Gustavo Carneiro (gjc) wrote :

I am using Ubuntu 12.10, and this is certainly _NOT_ fixed.

For a great example of how tabs should look, take a look at Google Chrome. Those tabs are just right...

Dan N. (xdanieln) wrote :

I am using Xubuntu 12.10 with gnome-terminal and yes, this is certainly _NOT_ fixed.

Bryce Harrington (bryce) on 2012-12-12
Changed in light-themes (Ubuntu):
status: Fix Released → Confirmed
importance: Undecided → High

Same problem here on ubuntu 12.10, i attach a screen. Any quick workaround?
This hack doesn't works:

Nitin Gupta (nitingupta910) wrote :

Using Ubuntu 13.04 and the problem still exists with gnome-terminal.

Daniel van Vugt (vanvugt) wrote :

Assigned to design for review.

There definitely needs to be some contrast (different shade/colour) between the active and inactive tabs. I don't recommend relying on a 1px wide border because such things are imperceptible on high-res displays.

Changed in light-themes:
status: New → Confirmed
Adolfo Jayme (fitojb) on 2013-02-25
no longer affects: unity (Ubuntu)
affects: light-themes → ubuntu-themes
affects: light-themes (Ubuntu) → ubuntu-themes (Ubuntu)
zasran (erik-zasran) wrote :

Any ideas why this is not being fixed? It's fairly annoying and seem very easy to fix.

cossio (cossio-0) wrote :

Please fix this. The terminal is the most important thing in ubuntu! Make it nice.

I would also like to see this issue fixed.

It's not just gnome-terminal: some other applications with tabs, such as gedit, have thte same issue. I only noticed it in gnome-terminal because I use it all the time.

Tomislav (hefest) wrote :

14.04 suffering from the same issue.

Matti Haavikko (haavikko) wrote :

I created an account here just to comment on this issue. This bug is my biggest annoyance with Ubuntu. Since this bug has been open for such a long time and there (seemingly) is a fix available, what is the problem?

A) Is there a technical issue that prevents fixing the bug - please explain and let the community help.
B) Is there a UI/design issue that needs to be solved - please explain and let the community help.
C) is there lack of interest/lack of resources to apply the fix - please explain and let the community help.

mathematatin (nintendo-thomas) wrote :

Now the problem seems worse in 15.04 than it did in 14.04. Both use different outlines for the active tab which only helps a little. And

in 14.04 there is a *slight* color difference in the active tab making it *very* difficult to identify.
In 15.04 there is *no* color difference in the active tab making it nearly impossible to tell the difference!

This goes for all the tabbed programs: terminal, gedit, nautilus, etc.

Timo Palomaa (timppis) wrote :

A workaround (theme tweak) for gnome-terminal:


Jean Jordaan (jean-jordaan) wrote :

One more voice begging for a fix to this nasty little niggle. Bugging me on Ubuntu 15.04. This works: http://askubuntu.com/a/554642/20835

Johan Boule (johan-boule) wrote :

echo '.notebook tab:active { background-color: @selected_bg_color; }' >> ~/.config/gtk-3.0/gtk.css

Man, this is a favourite bug of mine, would be DELIGHTED to see a fix in
Wily ;)


Will Cooke (willcooke) on 2015-11-07
tags: added: rls-x-incoming
Will Cooke (willcooke) on 2015-11-09
Changed in ubuntu-themes (Ubuntu):
assignee: nobody → Will Cooke (willcooke)
Will Cooke (willcooke) on 2015-11-09
Changed in ubuntu-themes:
assignee: nobody → Will Cooke (willcooke)
Changed in ubuntu-themes (Ubuntu):
status: Confirmed → In Progress
Changed in ubuntu-themes:
status: Confirmed → In Progress
Will Cooke (willcooke) on 2015-11-09
Changed in ubuntu-themes:
importance: Undecided → High
Will Cooke (willcooke) on 2015-11-16
tags: removed: rls-x-incoming
tags: added: xenial
Johan Boule (johan-boule) wrote :

I really hope the 16.04.1 point release will finally get someone to push a fix to this otherwise we're going to live with this for several more years.
I'm re-enabling my custom ~/.config/gtk-3.0/gtk.css once again.

Johan Boule (johan-boule) wrote :

Since this simple theme bug has not been fixed for 5 years, despite being a annoying usability issue, I have to ask what's needed to be able to eventually see a fix coming.

Is there something that makes it technically harder than it seems to be to correct the theme ?
Who's in charge of the gtk theming issues ?
Has this bug been assigned to the right person ?

How can we make it progress ?

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