Easy Raspberry basics: Project 00h Raspberry PI Zero W board - How to customize the desktop of your Raspb

of Lex C in Raspberry Pi Zero W

Raspberry basics: Project 00h

Project name: Raspberry PI Zero W board - How to customize the desktop of your Raspberry Pi

Tags: Raspberry, Raspberry PI Zero W board, Linux, Raspberry Pi, How to customize the desktop of your Raspberry Pi

Attachments: None

In this project, you needed these parts (Dear visitors. You can support our project buy clicking on the links of parts and buying them or donate us to keep this website alive. Thank you):

1. Raspberry PI Zero W board or full kit 1 pc

2. Micro SD card with NOOBS and SD card adapter 1 pc

3. Micro USB power supply (2 A 5V or 5V 3A) 1 pc

4. USB keyboard 1 pc

5. USB mouse 1 pc

6. TV or PC monitor 1 pc

7. HDMI cable 1 pc

8. T-Cobbler Breakout and GPIO Cable 1 pc

9. Micro USB 2.0 OTG Cable 1 pc

10. Mini HDMI to HDMI Adapter (HDMI to Mini HDMI Adapter) 1 pc

11. 4-Port USB 2.0 Hub 1 pc

Raspberry Pi
Monitor or TV
HDMI cable
USB keyboard
USB mouse
Power supply
8GB SD card


We will learn how to customize the desktop of your Raspberry Pi.

You can change many things:

  • display settings (resolution, icons, …),
  • desktop wallpaper,
  • default theme,
  • splash screen.

Understanding the Raspberry PI Zero W board

You can read more about it here.

Signals and connections of the Raspberry PI Zero W board

Step by Step instruction

1. Setup and preparation

We assume that you have Raspbian OS installed on your Raspberry Pi Zero W board. 

  1. Insert your micro SD card with Raspbian OS into the TF card slot on the Raspberry Pi Zero W board. It will only fit one way.
  2. Connect Raspberry PI Zero W board mini HDMI port to your TV or Monitor HDMI (DVI) port (use HDMI cable and mini HDMI to HDMI adapter and/or HDMI to DVI adapter).
  3. Make sure that your monitor or TV is turned on, and that you have selected the right input (e.g. HDMI/DVI,  etc).
  4. Plug in micro USB 2.0 OTG Cable to USB data port of Pi Zero and 4-Port USB 2.0 Hub to micro USB 2.0 OTG Cable. 
  5. Plug in your USB mouse and USB keyboard to 4-Port USB 2.0 Hub.
  6. If you intend to connect your Raspberry Pi Zero vers 1.2 or vers 1.3 to the internet, connect a WiFi dongle to one of the 4-Port USB 2.0 Hub ports.
  7. Connect Micro USB power supply to Raspberry PI Zero board micro USB input.
  8. The Raspberry PI desktop will start up.
  9. Go to Raspberry icon-> Preferences -> Raspberry PI configuration
  10. Select Interfaces and make sure that I2C and SPI are enabled. If it’s not enabled, enable it and reboot your Raspberry PI 3 board to begin. We suggest to enable all settings and you will not need to come back to these configuration tool again.
  11. Open Terminal window and type the command: sudo apt-get update
  12. Then type the command: sudo apt-get upgrade -y
  13. Adding -y to the end of apt-get commands instructs the program to automatically answer yes to any questions rather than waiting for you to type Y or N.

2. Display settings

  1. Go to Start menu-> Preferences-> Raspberry Pi Configuration
  2. Click on Set Resolution button.
  3. Choose the resolution to use.
  4. The Raspberry Pi by default uses the Overscan setting to adjust the screen display size. On current hardware, this setting is no longer needed. So if you find yourself in a situation where your Raspberry Pi displays black on the edges of the screen and you can not make them disappear by playing with the options of your screen go to Terminal app and type this command: sudo nano /boot/config.txt . Then uncomment disable_overscan setting (remove #) disable_overscan=1 ; comment other overscan settings (add #) - #overscan_left=16 #overscan_right=16 #overscan_top=16 #overscan_bottom=16 . Save (CTRL+O+Enter), exit (CTRL+X) and reboot by typing the command: sudo reboot After restarting the Raspberry Pi, see if it’s better than before, or adjust these options again if necessary.

3. Desktop wallpaper

You can change the background of the Raspberry Pi desktop by one of the images provided or download a new imge from internet. If you downloaded an image, save it somewhere on your Raspberry Pi and note where to find it later.

  1. Right click on the Raspberry Pi desktop and select Desktop preferences.
  2. And now you have to change the image in the Picture field. By default, it will display the system folder where the Raspberry Pi stores all the preloaded pictures. If you have downloaded an image go to the place where you saved it, change the folder and apply it.
  3. You can also do it with Terminal app. Type the command, for example: wget http://acoptex.com/uploads/wallpaper1.jpeg . Then this command: pcmanfm --set-wallpaper /home/pi/wallpaper1.jpeg

4. Change default theme

There are several graphical environments on Linux and on Raspberry Pi. A graphical environment is a package of display options, which allows you to manage most of the graphical aspects of your desktop. You can see some examples of graphical environments below:

  • RPD
  • LXDE
  • XFCE
  • MATE
  • i3
  • Openbox
  • X11 GUI
  • KDE
  • and others

We need to know which desktop environment is in use, so we can look for themes for that particular environment.

You can try to install a new desktop environment on your Raspberry Pi. If you check different environments it will allow you to choose the best desktop environment for you and then you can look for themes associated with this environment. We will now explain how to install MATE on your Raspberry Pi and how to activate it. It's the same process for other environments.

  1. We need to edit the /etc/apt/sources.list file. Go to Terminal app and type the command: sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list
  2. Add the mate repository by adding this line: deb http://archive.raspbian.org/mate stretch main

  3. Replace "stretch" with your Raspbian version if you have a different one. Press Ctrl+X, Y and Enter on USB keyboard to save the changes.
  4. Update apt by typing the command in Terminal app: apt-get update .
  5. Install mate by typing the command in Terminal app: sudo apt-get install mate-core mate-desktop-environment

  6. Add mate as default environment for your user by typing this command in Terminal app: sudo update-alternatives --config x-session-manager . In the wizard, type the number corresponding to mate.
  7. Reboot your Raspberry Pi by typing the command: sudo reboot . After reboot you will see the MATE desktop environment.

  8. Let's install a theme now. Search for the package manager of Raspberry Pi (via apt-cache search or through the graphical interface). For example, type this command in Terminal app: sudo apt-cache search mate | grep "\-theme" 
  9. There is also a lot of sites that will give you a link to download more themes via .deb files or PPA repository.
  10. It will be enough to install the theme with the usual command in Terminal app. For example: sudo apt-get install arc-themeIf you have downloaded a theme online, follow the instructions on the page.
  11. To enable a theme with Raspbian Mate, go to System -> Control Center (you should have something similar in other environments). Then choose Change Theme in the menu, and select the theme.

5. Splash screen

The splash screen is the big picture that appears when you start your Raspberry Pi, just before displaying the desktop.

The splash screen is now managed by Plymouth on Raspbian and this makes everything easier. Before, it was complicated to edit this picture, now we can just type these commands in Terminal app: sudo cp /home/pi/splash.png /usr/share/plymouth/themes/pix/splash.png

sudo reboot

/home/pi/splash.png must, of course, be replaced by the name and location of your original image.


We have learnt how to customize the desktop of your Raspberry Pi.

Libraries in use

  • None


  • None

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Published at 24-04-2019
Viewed: 2085 times