Customizing System Sounds

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  • DevynCJohnson
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    • @devyncjohnson

    Linux users may get bored of the system sounds and wish that they could change them. Thankfully, users can customize the sounds and download more.


    There are numerous Linux system sounds on the Internet that are free and legal to download. Here are links to three websites:

    Go to any of the above sites and search for some system sounds. Once found, download the files. As an example, I will download "Dream" by Puli ( This particular user links the download to DeviantArt (most users do). Once the download has finished, uncompress the downloaded file. The resulting folder contains several OGG files. OGG files are a particular type of audio file.


    To install the theme, copy the uncompressed folder "dream" to /usr/share/sounds; all system sounds belong in this folder. Alert sounds belong in /usr/share/sounds/gnome/default/alerts.


    If a user has a system sound installed that they dislike, they can go to /usr/share/sounds and delete the sound file or files. Remember, this must be done with root privileges. To delete alerts, go to the alert folder.


    There are many ways to change the sound theme because every form of Linux is setup differently.

    For some systems in general, open the sound settings. Once the window for sound settings appears, find the menu, screen, or tab that may be titled "Sound Theme" or something of that nature. Then, select the sound theme that is desired. However, not all Linux systems have options that are that easy. The KDE (v4.x) user interface, for instance, has no easy way to change the system sound theme. Other desktop interfaces require users to use the command-line to change the theme. For systems using the GNOME (v3.x) or Unity (v7.x) user interface, these commands will be needed:

    apt-get install gconf-editor
    gconftool-2 -s /desktop/gnome/sound/theme_name "THEMENAME" -t string
    gconftool-2 -s /desktop/gnome/sound/theme_name "THEMENAME" -t string

    Replace "THEMENAME" with the name of the theme that is wanted. In this case, the theme would be "dream". The value that is typed is the same as the copied folder. In general, figure out how your particular system allows customization of system sounds.


    The sound file itself can be edited using a program called Audacity. Open the sound file with Audacity and make changes to the sound file. Root privileges are required to make changes to system sound files. The sound can be made louder and faster, sounds can be added to the file, or anything else that the user may think about doing. When saving the file, save it as an OGG file. Because MP3 file require proprietary codecs, Linux systems use OGG files instead.


    To create a system sound theme, make a sound file for each type of sound. Users may use Audacity to record a sound, or users can generate new sounds using Audacity.

    The Ubuntu theme makes a great model for how users should set up a theme. Below is a list of all the included sound files. Users can play these files to hear what type of sound each file is using. This will allow users to make better sound files if they know what sound a particular file should make. /usr/share/sounds/ubuntu/stereo:

    [no-highlight]bell.ogg dialog-information.ogg phone-outgoing-calling.ogg
    button-pressed.ogg dialog-question.ogg service-login.ogg
    button-toggle-off.ogg dialog-warning.ogg service-logout.ogg
    button-toggle-on.ogg message-new-instant.ogg system-ready.ogg
    desktop-login.ogg message.ogg window-slide.ogg
    desktop-logout.ogg phone-incoming-call.ogg
    dialog-error.ogg phone-outgoing-busy.ogg[/no-highlight]


    Notice that the sound files listed above have names of actions or events. For example, the file "desktop-login.ogg" is played when a user logs into their system. The file names must not be changed, otherwise the system has no way to know which sound file it should play.

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