Disable the overlay scrollbars in Ubuntu Natty

The overlay scrollbars in Ubuntu Natty are a tell to how much the OS has been redesigned with touch and smaller screen sizes in mind. These overlay sidebars replace the traditional scrollbars with a thin line which indicates scroll position, and the actual scrollbar appears when you move your mouse near the indicator bar.

Overlay scrollbar inactive

Overlay scrollbar inactive

Overlay scrollbar active

Unfortunately these scrollbars can be quirky (they only appear when approached from the left (vertical) or from above (horizontal), and depending on the window size and position, it can be touchy to grab them. Also, there are applications that have very poor support for the overlay scroll bars, such as the GIMP font selection. That dialog frustrated me to no end a few days ago. Apparently the overlay scrollbar isn’t handled well, and any attempt to click the scroll bar causes it to disappear and the click passes right through it.

Fortunately, the overlay scrollbars are based on libraries and can be removed without issue. Applications start using normal scrollbars once the overlay libraries are removed.

You can either remove the libraries via Synaptic or in a terminal using the following command:

sudo apt-get remove overlay-scrollbar liboverlay-scrollbar-*

Update: Mr.Goose pointed out that you need to use liboverlay-scrollbar-0.2-0 with Oneiric.

Update 2: It’s now overlay-scrollbar* as seen in Ubuntu 13.04

No reboot is required. Though you will have to close and re-open applications to notice the change.

It’s possible, though unlikely, that the packages would be pulled in as dependencies during an update. If they are, simply remove them again.

I’m happy to have normal scrollbars again :)

Normal scrollbars

If you decide later you want the overlay scrollbars back, simply reinstall the libraries:

sudo apt-get install overlay-scrollbar liboverlay-scrollbar-0.1-0

Questions, comments, and feedback are welcome.

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  1. #1 by Mijo on May 27, 2011 - 11:38 am

    Thanks a million, I couldn’t use the overlay scrollbars at all especially in evolution, whenever I tried to scroll, I was just dragging a folder from a place to another!

  2. #2 by Felix on May 28, 2011 - 10:33 am

    Should be titled “Disable the STUPID overlay scrollbars in Ubuntu Natty”. Thanks =)

    • #3 by Mike on May 28, 2011 - 10:36 am

      I laughed out loud when I read this! Thanks for saying what I’ve been thinking for so long :)

    • #4 by mowre on November 30, 2011 - 1:54 am

      Should be titled “Disable the STUPID overlay scrollbars in Ubuntu Natty”.

      I agree with you Mijo :), natty is my first ubuntu os

    • #5 by ZeroOne on December 19, 2012 - 2:05 am

      Thanks Felix! I googled for “ubuntu stupid scrollbars” and apparently thanks to your comment, this article came on top. ;)

  3. #6 by Name on June 3, 2011 - 12:57 pm

    Thank you!!!

    • #7 by Mike on August 16, 2011 - 2:26 pm

      You’re most welcome.

  4. #8 by chris on June 17, 2011 - 11:04 am

    Well, after following your suggestions I now have no scrollbars at all. I then tried the little reinstall them command, and they are still gone… even after restarting. I didn’t like the default natty scrollbars, but no scrollbars at all seems to be worse.

  5. #9 by chris on June 17, 2011 - 11:09 am

    Wait… Nevermind, there they are. I guess I spoke too soon. Sorry. :) Looks like it works great. Thanks for the tip.

    • #10 by Mike on August 16, 2011 - 2:28 pm

      Glad it helped.

  6. #11 by Konstigt on August 15, 2011 - 3:44 pm

    Yes, scrollbars are back. Thanks!

    Ubuntu would have been seriously great if the devs spend half as much time chasing bugs as messing around with gui-changes..

    • #12 by Mr.Goose on November 30, 2011 - 6:47 pm

      @Konstigt + 1

      One of the main reasons people move to Linux is for its stability. Sadly, recent releases of Ubuntu are riddled with bugs and regressions. Yet we’ve seen countless stupid, pointless interface changes that hardly anybody wants.

      Interesting to note that Linus Torvalds has dumped both Gnome & KDE and gone to the plain-vanilla XCFE.

      @MikeBeach Thanks for the info. Really annoying thing is that even if one installs the Kubuntu desktop, Gnome apps still have the stupid disappearing scroll bars – until one applies your modification, of course.

      IMHO, disappearing scrollbars must be one of the daftest interface ideas of all time. I’ve yet to encounter any situation where disappearing scrollbars could be an advantage. The devs must have been smoking some particularly wacky weed when they came up with that one, methinks! lol :-)

      • #13 by Mike on November 30, 2011 - 7:15 pm

        @Mr.Goose

        I agree with a lot of your points. I really like[d] Ubuntu, but there are a ton of stupid bugs that — as far as I’m aware — are still unresolved. Take the numerous issues with Brasero, such as the missing cdda2wav issue, and the UI switch to Unity.

        I’ve noticed more problems with Ubuntu versions that include Unity (11.04 and forward if I recall correctly) that I’ve actually told friends and family not to upgrade. I had one computer that wouldn’t run Gnome after upgrading. Really irritating, especially since Linux is an OS that you can usually feel confident will run on older hardware.

        I didn’t understand the point of the disappearing scrollbars either. Unity seemed as if it was tuned for touch devices. Wouldn’t automatically-hiding scrollbars be a major issue on a touch interface?

        I think I’m going to start trying out other distros and see what I can recommend to people going forward. I don’t think Ubuntu will be it anymore.

  7. #14 by Mr.Goose on November 30, 2011 - 7:04 pm

    Forgot to mention, with Oneiric, you need to:-

    sudo apt-get remove liboverlay-scrollbar-0.2-0

    not:-
    sudo apt-get remove liboverlay-scrollbar-0.1-0

    Best wishes, G.

    • #15 by Mike on November 30, 2011 - 7:07 pm

      Thank you for the update!

      Would you please try the following command to see if it works?

      sudo apt-get remove liboverlay-scrollbar-*

      It should regex match any installed version of the package.

      Thanks in advance, and much appreciated!

  8. #16 by mr.goose on December 18, 2011 - 5:11 pm

    Hi Mike, sorry for the tardy response.

    You are almost correct. However, IMO it should really be:-

    sudo apt-get remove liboverlay-scrollbar*

    NOT:-

    sudo apt-get remove liboverlay-scrollbar-* (i.e. leaving the final dash from the regex)

    That way you also kill the stupid scrollbars from Gnome 3 applets such as charmap – which use liboverlay-scrollbar3-0.2-0 instead of liboverlay-scrollbar-0.2-0.

    Best wishes G.