Themes for Pidgin

by Ashley Poland

Pidgin is a useful program in many ways: it offers easy instant messaging over multiple services, including Facebook, in one lightweight multi-platform client. The caveat is that the user interface leaves something to be desired. The default theme is utilitarian and a bit drab. Fortunately, Pidgin supports custom themes, whether that means building a theme yourself or downloading a theme.

Understanding Pidgin Themes

There's a couple of different elements to Pidgin themes. Themes are split up into four themes you can set. The Pidgin themes available for users to set are the "Buddy List" theme, the "Status Icon" theme, the "Sound" theme and the "Emoticon" theme. Windows users will access the "Themes" folder at "C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\.purple\" and Linux users at "home/username/.purple/". Every custom theme goes in its own folder. The "Emoticon," or "Smiley," themes go into the "smileys" folder, while "Buddy List," "Status Icon" and "Sound" themes go in the "themes" folder. If the "themes" folder doesn't exist, create it.

Prepping Pidgin for Skinning

Before you can install skins on Pidgin, you will need to customize the plug-in list. The plug-in required for theme support is called Pidgin GTK+ Theme Control. Open the "Plug-ins" window by right-clicking the "Pidgin" status icon and selecting "Plug-ins" or opening your buddy list and choose "Plug-ins" from under "Tools." Select the check box beside the GTK+ plug-in; you can modify fonts and colors using the plug-in by clicking "Configure."

Downloading Pidgin Themes

You can download themes from gnome-look.org, but there's not a dedicated section for Pidgin; instead, doing a search turns up themes designed for Pidgin. Pidgin themes are available from pidgin-themes.org. The page about "Buddy List" themes offers some downloadable options. Once you've downloaded a theme, close Pidgin and copy the files to the appropriate theme folder for your system.

Setting Pidgin Themes

Once you've copied the theme files to your theme folder, start Pidgin and open the "Preferences" menu by pressing "Ctrl" and "P" on your keyboard, or choosing "Preferences" from the "Tools" menu. Select the "Themes" tab. Choose a theme from the relevant drop-down menu. The theme may have a different name from the folder you saved it in, because that theme data is saved in the "theme.xml" file. If the theme isn't present, make sure the "theme.xml" file is in the right folder. For instance, if it's a "Buddy List" theme, the XML file will need to be in the "C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\.purple\themes\themename\purple\blist\" folder; "blist" is replaced with "status-icon" for "Status Icon" themes, and "sound" for "Sound" themes.

Manual Theme Management

If you want to create your own themes, you'll have to enable the "Pidgin Theme Editor" plug-in as well as the "GTK+" plug-in. Once enabled, right-click the status icon, go to "Pidgin Theme Editor" and select either "Edit Buddylist Theme" or "Edit Icon Theme." You can also access this from the "Tools" menu. When you're using this theme editor, you will not be able to choose a custom theme from the "Preferences" menu.

About the Author

Ashley Poland has been writing since 2009. She has worked with local online businesses, supplying print and web content, and pursues an active interest in the computer, technology and gaming industries. In addition to content writing, Poland is also a fiction writer. She studied creative writing at Kansas State University.