Move Minimize, Maximize and Close Buttons – Ubuntu 12.04

gconf-editor - GNOME configuration editorI don’t know why Ubuntu has decided to keep window controls (window controls being the minimize, maximize and close buttons) in the left corner of the window. For some reason, with every release of Ubuntu I expect the window controls to be moved to the right! I keep trying to change my ways but always reach for the right corner when minimizing or trying to close – maximizing I could probably do without!

Ubuntu 12.04 is no different, time to change some settings again…

Enter gconf-editor…

Gconf-editor allows you to change a lot of settings on your system. I would suggest getting to grips with this tool as you may be able to fix/modify a lot of your Ubuntu gripes here! (But as always be careful!!)

I can’t find gconf-editor?

It may not be installed by default. If not open up a terminal and type/copy in…

sudo apt-get install gconf-editor

After it has finished downloading and installing, you should have your normal prompt in the terminal again (the prompt where you can type without unleashing funky characters!). You can now open gconf-editor by typing/copying…


Now how do I get these buttons on the right?

In the directory tree on the left navigate through the following:

  • apps
  • metacity
  • general

Now in the panel on the right, locate and double click on button_layout

Change the value from “close,maximize,minimize:” to “:minimize,maximize,close” (obviously without the quotes).

Click OK and Ubuntu should apply the changes immediately.

If you think you can do without the maximize button like me, try removing it from the line above and see how you get on!

How do I do this in other versions of Ubuntu?

Though the title of this says it only applies to Ubuntu 12.04, its actually an edit to the configuration of GNOME.

GNOME (or the “GNU Object Model Environment”!) is the default desktop environment in Ubuntu. There are a number of others available. The gconf-editor will work on any OS which is using GNOME, which will be the vast majority of Ubuntu releases.

  • robin wynne-lloyd

    Thanks. I appreciate you taking the time to help people like me.

  • Gareth Parmar

    No probs

  • Pingback: How to Change Ubuntu Window Icons (for Unity and Metacity)

  • Rob Stoiber

    Thank you for sharing this tip. Love Love Love Ubuntu, and now love it even more with the minimize, maximize, and close buttons on the right side where they belong. Odd that Ubuntu does not set it up that way from the start.

  • Mattias Magnusson

    This did not work for me, it says read only… what to do?

    • sudojuice

      try opening it with ‘sudo gconf-editor’

  • SS

    Thanks a ton… it worked..

  • cevarief

    After applying, i miss the close button. It only appears on maximized window only.

  • Gareth Parmar

    That is quite strange. Though I think that could be normal behaviour if you are using unity. What desktop environment are you using?

  • capsx


    i changed

    also restarted ubuntu

    but nthg – buttons still in the left corner … :(

    Ubuntu 12.10

  • capsx

    oh: For ubuntu 12.10, gconf-editor won’t work any more.

    use this command:

    gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.preferences button-layout ‘:minimize,maximize,close’

    • Carlton Randolph

      Yes it does… the command should read ‘:minimize,maximize,close,’

    • Akyro

      thank you man! it is working

  • TeacherMac


  • Phil Cleveland

    Thank you so much. All steps worked perfectly.

  • Carlton Randolph

    the command should read ‘:minimize,maximize,close,’

    I’ll put this at the top so maybe the author can see it or anyone new coming in that experiences the same problem cevarief had.

  • Martin Rettig

    Thanks dude :) I am right handed not left ;)

  • C. Benjamin Stanfield

    Thanks for the assist. I have a computer science degree, but I’m way to used to Windows doing everything for me. Learning slowly but surely, and things like this really help. Was kinda scary when the close button disappeared, but that tends to happen when one omits spaces (oops).

  • Jagannath Padaki

    i’m usinng Ubuntu 14.04 LTS ”

    I can’t find /apps/metacity/general/button_layout
    metacity” in my

    gconf-editor Please help me sir

  • Ross Banick

    This can’t possibly work in Ubuntu 13.10 because “metacity” doesn’t even exist.
    Didn’t anyone ever test this stuff before posting it?

    Nothing will work in Ubuntu 13.10 except getting rid of the Unity interface.

    On Ubuntu 13.10, you can get half the windows to move the window controls using unity tweak tool…..

    $ sudo apt-get install unity-tweak-tool
    $ /usr/bin/unity-tweak-tool
    [unity-tweak-tool]Window Controls->Alignment->Right
    [unity-tweak-tool]Window Manager->Window Snapping->Off
    [unity-tweak-tool]Window Manager->Hot Corners->Off

    But it’s only a partial workaround since they screwed up in Unity in the first place.

  • preeti

    i’m usinng Ubuntu 14.04 Gnome ”

    I can’t find /apps/metacity/general/button_layout
    metacity” in my

    gconf-editor Please help me sir
    I want to change button layout leftside to right side…