The rEFInd Boot Manager:
Theming rEFInd

by Roderick W. Smith, rodsmith@rodsbooks.com

Originally written: 4/19/2012; last Web page update: 7/22/2014, referencing rEFInd 0.8.3

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This page is part of the documentation for the rEFInd boot manager. If a Web search has brought you here, you may want to start at the main page.


rEFInd relies on both built-in and external graphical elements in its user interface, and all of these elements can be replaced by user-specified files. This fact makes rEFInd's "look and feel" highly adjustable even by non-programmers. This page will help you get started in making such changes to each of the major sets of features: banners and backgrounds, icons, and fonts. I conclude this page with pointers to a few themes that users have created for rEFInd.

Theming Basics

Broadly speaking, rEFInd's graphical elements fall into four categories:

Of course, not all of these elements are likely to be included in all themes. You might want to change just one or two elements—say, to add an icon for your OS or to change the banner or background.

Banners and Backgrounds

You can create a new background image and logo by placing a PNG or BMP file in rEFInd's main directory and passing its filename to rEFInd with the banner option in refind.conf. If the image is smaller than the screen, the color in the top-left pixel of the image will be used for the rest of the display. This pixel's color is also used as the background color for submenu text, even for full-screen backgrounds. Using a full-screen background image can produce a dramatically different "look" for rEFInd:


rEFInd provides extensive theming
    options.

Note that in this example, the text immediately below the icons is white, whereas the hint text at the bottom of the screen is black. The text color is determined by the brightness of the background; rEFInd uses black text against light backgrounds and light text against dark backgrounds. This adjustment is done on a line-by-line basis, so it copes better with horizontal lines than with vertical lines.

If you want to use a full-screen background but also include the rEFInd logo, you can merge the two in a graphics editor by including the refind_banner-alpha.png image from the banners subdirectory of the rEFInd package in your background.

Beginning with rEFInd 0.7.8, it's possible to stretch or shrink any image to fill the screen. To do so, you should use the banner_scale option in refind.conf: Set it to noscale (the default) to use small banners as such or to crop larger images; or set it to fillscreen to adjust your banner's size to exactly fill the screen. This should be particularly handy for theme developers who want to use a full-screen background image, since you can now do this with just one image file.

Icons

As described on various other pages of this document, rEFInd relies on icon files located in its icons subdirectory, and occasionally elsewhere, to define its overall appearance. You can adjust rEFInd's icons in a few ways:

Icon Selection Backgrounds

rEFInd identifies the current selection by displaying a partially-transparent icon "between" the OS or tool icon and the background image. The default icon works reasonably well on both solid and image backgrounds, but if you like, you can customize it by creating new icons in PNG or in Microsoft's BMP format. You should create both 144x144 and 64x64 images and tell rEFInd about them by using the selection_big and selection_small tokens, respectively, in refind.conf. (If you scale your icons, you may want to adjust the selection tile images appropriately. The big image is 9/8 the size of its matching icons, while the small tile is 4/3 the size of its icons.) If you omit the large icon, rEFInd will stretch the small icon to fit the larger space; if you omit the small icon, rEFInd will use the default small icon. Because BMP doesn't support transparency (alpha channels), you must use the PNG format if you want your selection background to show the underlying image beneath it. (You can create the illusion of transparency on a solid background by matching the colors, though.)

Fonts

rEFInd's default font is a 14-point (12-point in 0.6.5 and earlier) serif monospaced font. I also include a handful of alternatives in the fonts subdirectory. rEFInd's font support is extremely rudimentary, though; it reads a PNG file that holds the glyphs from ASCII 32 (space) through ASCII 126 (tilde, ~), plus a glyph that's displayed for all characters outside of this range. Thus, rEFInd can't currently display non-ASCII characters or use proportional (variable-width) fonts. You can change the font from one monospaced font to another and change the font size, though.

If you want to create your own fonts, you can do so. If you're using Linux, the mkfont.sh script in the fonts subdirectory will convert an installed monospace font into a suitable format. (This script works properly for most fonts, but if a font is unusually thin or wide, you will have to adjust the let CellWidth= line near the end of the file.) You can use it like this:

$ ./mkfont.sh Liberation-Mono-Italic 14 -1 liberation-mono-italic-14.png

The result is a PNG file, liberation-mono-italic-14.png, that you can copy to your rEFInd directory and load with the font token in refind.conf, as in:

font liberation-mono-italic-14.png

The mkfont.sh script takes four arguments:

I recommend checking the PNG file in a graphics program like eog before using it. Note that the font files should have an alpha layer, which many graphics programs display as a gray-and-white checkered background.

If you're not using Linux, or if you want to use some other method of generating fonts, you can do so. The font files must be in PNG format (the BMP format doesn't support an alpha layer, which is required for proper transparency). They must contain glyphs for the 95 characters between ASCII 32 (space) and ASCII 126 (tilde, ~), inclusive, plus a 96th glyph that rEFInd displays for out-of-range characters. To work properly, the characters must be evenly spaced and the PNG image must be a multiple of 96 pixels wide, with divisions at appropriate points. In theory, you should be able to take a screen shot of a program displaying the relevant characters and then crop it to suit your needs. In practice, this is likely to be tedious.

Known Themes

I used icons from the Oxygen Icons project, both from the Oxygen Refit package and from Gentoo's oxygen-icons package. These icons supplemented or replaced icons that rEFIt used; however, many OS icons (such as those for Windows and Mac OS) are carried over from rEFIt. I've also used a handful of icons for individual Linux distributions from other sources—usually documentation associated with the distribution in question.

In addition to this default icon set, I've received word of a few other rEFInd themes:

If you've created or discovered another rEFInd theme, please tell me about it so that I can provide a link to it from this page.


copyright © 2012–2014 by Roderick W. Smith

This document is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (FDL), version 1.3.

If you have problems with or comments about this Web page, please e-mail me at rodsmith@rodsbooks.com. Thanks.

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