Another wallpaper changer for Gnome and Unity

The previous wallpaper changer that I wrote in Python served me well for the last 2 years, but sometimes it would get stuck with some wallpapers: of the 200 pictures I have in my wallpapers folder (mostly taken from the paper wall), some were definitely being shown more often than others. Has the script developed a taste? Probably! 🙂

So this time I decided to put together something very quick, but that does a better job at never showing the same picture twice before all pictures in the folder have been set as desktop background.

It comes as a single bash script, there’s no configuration file to set, it picks pictures from a single folder (whereas the Python version could use several), and it moves files to a folder called shown when setting them as desktop background. Not very elegant, but it gets the job done!

Here it is; you can set your wallpapers folder and the refresh interval at the highlighted lines.

# Copyright 2014 Michele Bonazza
# A simple script to automatically change your wallpaper in Gnome.
# This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify
# it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
# the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or
# (at your option) any later version.
# This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
# but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
# GNU General Public License for more details.
# You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
# along with this program.  If not, see <>.

REFRESH_INTERVAL=$((5 * 60)) # change every 5 minutes
MODE="zoom" # one between none, centered, wallpaper, scaled, stretched, zoom, spanned

# Changes the desktop background, and moves it to the "shown" folder so that it's
# not shown again before all wallpapers in the folder have been used.
# arg1 the file name of the file to be set as new background; must be in the
#      current folder
function change_wallpaper() {
  mv $1 shown
  gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background picture-uri file://$WALLPAPERS_FOLDER/shown/$1
  gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background picture-options $MODE

# Echoes the next wallpaper to be set, picked at random among images in the
# configured folder
function get_next_wallpaper() {
  find . -maxdepth 1 -type f -name "*.png" -o -name "*.jpg" -o -name "*.gif" -o -name "*.jpeg"| shuf -n 1

mkdir -p $WALLPAPERS_FOLDER/shown

while true; do
  # have we used all wallpapers?
  if [[ "$NEXT_WP" == "" ]]; then
    # yes, chdir to shown, and move them all back to the parent folder
    cd shown
    # move them to parent folder
    find . -maxdepth 1 -type f -name "*.png" -o -name "*.jpg" -o -name "*.gif" -o -name "*.jpeg" | xargs mv -t ..
    cd ..

    # check again

    if [[ "$NEXT_WP" == "" ]]; then
      echo "no wallpapers found in $WALLPAPERS_FOLDER, will check again in $REFRESH_INTERVAL seconds..."
  echo "changing background to $NEXT_WP"
  change_wallpaper $NEXT_WP

As always, I’ve also added this to my pastebin.

Save it as, make it executable

chmod +x

and add it to your “Startup applications” list, which can be found in Ubuntu’s main menu (the one you use to log out/shut down the computer), or can be brought up from a terminal using


Click “Add”, use whatever name you want and browse to the script (wherever you’ve saved it).

Sometimes I found that “Startup applications” doesn’t work: make sure that after having added your script and closed the window you can see an entry called in the output of

ls -l ~/.config/autostart

If it’s not there, remove the entry and try again (I know, I know. The alternative is to fiddle with Upstart or init.d so if you want a GUI, that’s better than nothing!)

You can also change the effect to apply to your wallpapers at line 23 in the script.

Enjoy your new desktops! 🙂