Customizing Maemo

This article does not provide enough information, and needs to be expanded to more fully cover the topic.
Please see the talk page for discussion.

This article will someday describe how everybody can customize Maemo 5 to make it as personal as possible. Discussion on t.m.o concerning customization in this thread.


Editing home

Through the Edit mode of the Home screen it is possible to:

  • Add/move/delete widgets/shortcuts/contacts/bookmarks on the desktop
  • Change the the number of desktop home views (1-9 views are available)
  • Change background of the home (either for individual view or for all home views simultaneously through wallpaper sets)
  • Change active theme of the device (out of the themes available/installed on the device)

Entering the edit mode happens by long tapping the home screen or by tapping the home screen background once and then tapping the Edit mode button which slides down at the top right corner of the home screen.


Available themes can be installed straight from Application Manager. If you want to make your own theme, see below. See also article Themes.


There is already for wallpapers. Unfortunately, you need a .desktop-file if you want to configure panoramic wallpapers for now.

There will be an application for wallpaper handling to be released (hopefully) soon. See Prismic wallpaper manager (this app was released, had a good life, but now malfunctions as it is unable to reach the closed website.

Also see #Wallpapers_2

Advanced customization

Some instructions here may cause serious problems. When unsure, see General precautions
Backing up your data is recommended. In case of trouble you might need to re-flash your device.

Same Shortcut on multiple desktops

Use the same shortcut twice on the desktops can be useful. In order to do it, you have to manually modify appropiate .desktop file by adding the "X-Multiple=true" entry into the file. See Desktop file format for further information.

Welcome screen

It is possible to edit hildon-welcome. A howto is available here. Examples: "Open source. Open heart. Open future.", "The Power of Open."

To insert your own video follow these instructions (from the link above thanks to VDVsx):

  1. Copy the video you want to play to /usr/share/hildon-welcome/media
  2. Go to /etc/hildon-welcome.d/ and edit the default.conf file or create a similar one (the videos will play by the alphabetic order of the .conf files)

LED notifications

Detailed description for modifying LED -notifications can be found in LED patterns -article.


There is an application for making themes to Maemo OS2008. This will be updated as soon as possible to cover also N900 and Maemo5. See article Making themes.


If you want to make panoramic wallpapers of your own, you need to create a .desktop -file and put it to same directory where your pictures are.

Example of a .desktop -file:

[Desktop Entry]
Type=Background Image



How to change a certain wall paper in terminal?

gconftool -s --type string /apps/osso/hildon-desktop/views/1/bg-image $PATHTOIMAGE

Replace number "1" with the number of the desktop that you'd like change.[1]

Where are the slider screen files located?

Slide to Unlock Screen

You can edit the "Slide to Unlock" / "slider" screen that appears upon pressing the power button while the phone is locked[2] . You can do this by editing the lockslider.png file found in:


(note that /usr/share/themes is now a symlink to /opt/usr/share/themes , so the above path and /opt/usr/share/themes/alpha/backgrounds/ both refer to the same on-disk location)

The other images (LockSliderTop.png, LockSliderThumbPortrait.png, LockSliderThumb.png, LockSliderRight.png, LockSliderLeft.png, LockSliderBottom.png) are in /usr/share/themes/alpha/images (same symlink note as before applies).

Using the same widget on multiple desktops

The folder /usr/share/applications/hildon contains files that contain info about installed programs. Duplicating these files will result in duplicating them in the shortcut list. However, this will result in a side effect causing the program to show multiple times the programs in the "More.." folder.

Contents of power key menu

Information on how to add reboot button to power key menu, add new keyboard shortcuts N900 MODs

Instructions on how to add the reboot key (from the link above thanks to f2thak):

  1. Open xterm and type sudo gainroot to enable root access
  2. Navigate to /etc/systemui
  3. Create a backup copy of the systemui file by typing:
    cp systemui.xml systemui.xml.bak
  4. Edit the systemui file by typing:
    vi systemui.xml
  5. At the bottom of the file you will notice that part of it (consisting of three ... entries) is disabled within the "comment" marks
  6. Move the "comment" marks mentioned above "<! --" without the space between ! and - (e.g. by deleting and re-typing them in other place) so that the two remaining entries ("Soft poweroff" and "Top in XTerm") are still within them but the "Reboot" entry gets outside of them. To do this, hit the key "i" to begin editing and the Esc button in xterm to stop (once you are done editing "dd" will delete any line you created by accident). Type :wq to save and edit after being done editing
  7. Close X-Terminal and reboot the device. After the N900 reboots, you should see the new "Reboot" option in the Menu


Transition Control is an application which allows you to change various transition effects of the phone. Another approach is to edit the /usr/share/hildon-desktop/transitions.ini file (root access is needed)

Main article: Community SSU/Features/hildon-desktop

Keyboard characters

Remapping keyboard


Keyboard Sym on auto hold

PR1.2 brought a change in behaviour where holding a key will now result in the SYM for that key being inserted.

Maemo Bug 5421 details this change.

to re-enable the old autorepeat behaviour:

gconftool-2 -s /apps/osso/inputmethod/ext_kb_repeat_enabled --type boolean true

Extra Symbols in X Terminal (osso-xterm)

You can add extra keyboard symbols inside X Terminal when you happen to be stuck without virtual keyboard enabled. To do this you will need to use gconftool-2.

The default configuration is:

gconftool-2 -s /apps/osso/xterm/key_labels -t list --list-type=string "[Tab,Esc,PgUp,PgDn]"
gconftool-2 -s /apps/osso/xterm/keys -t list --list-type=string "[Tab,Escape,Page_Up,Page_Down]"

For example you want to add the pipe into X Terminal as a key on the bottom bar you do this[3]:

gconftool-2 -s /apps/osso/xterm/key_labels -t list --list-type=string "[Tab,Esc,PgUp,PgDn,|]"
gconftool-2 -s /apps/osso/xterm/keys -t list --list-type=string "[Tab,Escape,Page_Up,Page_Down,bar]"

Note how in the first set of command you actually see the pipe as a character in itself, the pipe could be of any character or a single word of your choice but the second command it must be the word bar.

You will also notice that when you add/remove new commands the full screen icon sits beside Ctrl instead behind the second last icon. When you restart X Terminal the full screen icon will relocate itself to the second last icon.

The theoretical maximum amount of icons you can place on the bottom bar including Ctrl and excluding the full screen icon is 9. You can add up to 8 custom commands and icons simultaenously or separately. However you must remember that for each new command you add via gconftool-2 you must also set state the previous commands and its icons. For example, when you add |, >, ~, etc. You must have something like this[4]:

gconftool-2 -s /apps/osso/xterm/key_labels -t list --list-type=string "[Tab,Esc,PgUp,PgDn,|,>,~]"
gconftool-2 -s /apps/osso/xterm/keys -t list --list-type=string "[Tab,Escape,Page_Up,Page_Down,bar,greater,asciitilde]"

Note how for each commands added, the previous set of commands were also mentioned.

You can also change the standard sets of commands such as Tab, Esc, PgUp, PgDn to whatever that suits you. For more other characters and their actual names under fremantle you may want to have a look under /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/nokia_vndr/rx-51 [5]

Credit goes to:

  • iKneaDough[6], for initial discovery
  • lma[7], for making it a full and proper command to work under fremantle/N900.
  • kwotski[8], for a fully set shortcut keys!
  • jebba[9], for finding out (and answering his own question) on the possible key commands under fremantle.

Application Menu

Main article: Application Menu

Camera Sound

In /usr/share/sounds the files camera_snd_title_1, 2 and 3 (1 is the camera shutter sound, 2 is the video recording sound and 3 is the focus sound) just replace them with any working wav sound file OR for a SILENT CAMERA just rename or delete these files! [10] Silent profile also quiets camera :-D

Editing SMS and Chat templates

Main article: Conversation Mods

You can change the way you read SMS and chat conversations by editing the html files in /usr/share/rtcom-messaging-ui/html.[11]


Icons tend to live in /usr/share/icons/hicolor/x/x/x, where x will vary according to the sort of icon in question. [12]

  • /usr/share/icons/hicolor/scalable/hildon
    • Signal images
    • Battery1 images
    • Bootup icons
  • /usr/share/icons/hicolor/48x48/hildon/
    • Battery2 images
    • Availability images
  • /usr/share/icons/hicolor/16x16/hildon
    • Availability (Small) images

In many cases icons saved to ~/.local/share/icons/hicolor/x/x/x will override the system icons, but leave them in place. This has the added advantage that it will survive OTA firmware updates. Deleting or movnig the icons in ~/.local/… will revert to the orignal system icons. [Does this apply to all icons and images??]

Reordering The Status Icons

You can reorder the status icons that display on top of your desktop by editing /etc/hildon-desktop/status-menu.plugins[13]

Change the number(s) for the "X-Status-Menu-Position" section. The higher the number, the lower the priority.

Sound Effects

You can edit the UI sound effects by editing the sound files found in /usr/share/sounds [14]

Disabling Auto Updates Check

You may want to disable the automatic software updates checks that occur upon internet connection, in order to consume less bandwidth when using 2G/3G connections. That is not possible but you may increase the interval to something less bothering. You can do so by editing the gconf file found in /var/lib/gconf/apps/hildon/update-notifier and changing the check interval from 1440(24 hours) to a much larger value (the value is read in minutes, 525600 is 365 days). The value must not exceed 2,147,483,647[15]:

gconftool -s --type int /apps/hildon/update-notifier/check_interval NEW_VALUE

(since there are rumours about some part of the whole system having problems with numbers near max, it's recommended to use considerably lower values than those ~4000 years. Maybe 5 years = 5 * 525600 = 2628000 is just enough for practical purposes)

Instead of disabling updates, you can use APT Woodchuck, which uses Woodchuck to intelligently schedule downloads (e.g., exploiting WiFi when it is available).

Resources & Links

Advanced Tweaks: Collection of Low-Level Config-Files / Tools


Personalizing your Maemo 5 device presentation (slides) at Maemo Summit 2009.


  10. Silent Camera Hack