Vertical Scroll Bars in Linux Mint 17

The official release of Linux Mint 17 (Qiana) was made yesterday. Qiana is a long term support (LTS) version and, as such, will be supported for five years (i.e. until 2019), making this a very desirable product. Downloading and installing the new version went without a hitch but, when running LibreOffice Writer for the first time, I was disconcerted to find that there were no single, up/down arrows on the vertical scroll bar that would have allowed the page to be scrolled one line at a time. They were simple gone! Missing!

Clearly, somebody decided to remove this feature since it used to work just fine in the previous LTS release (Version 13, Maya). Now, perhaps this is desirable for some users, but for me it would have been a deal breaker. I know – I could always use the up/down arrows on the keyboard to slowly scroll through the document – but (a) we are talking about graphical user interfaces here, and (b) I have been using the vertical scroll bar for years and I am not about to change my habits.

Fortunately, as with most things in Linux, it is possible to restore this “missing” feature. However, as with a number of things in Linux, the process for doing so is not necessarily all that intuitive.

Firstly, it should be noted that this is not an issue with the vertical scroll bar in LibreOffice. The same problem occurs in Firefox. So, what’s going on?

It turns out that the functionality of vertical scroll bars is governed by the desktop theme and not by the specific application. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem to be possible to toggle the up/down arrows on the vertical scroll bar on or off. It would appear that it is necessary to change the whole theme.

However, the good news is that just about any theme – other than the default in Mint 17 – features the “standard” vertical scroll bar and, in particular, includes the single, up/down arrows.

The fix is twofold:

(1) In Software Manager, download “mate-themes” (to give a choice of desktop themes)

(2) Navigate to Control Center – Change Theme (listed in the left sidebar under “Common Tasks”) and select a pretty-coloured theme (I used Traditional Green)

Open LibreOffice and – voilà – the “normal” vertical scroll bar is now present.


Linux Mint 17 “Qiana” MATE released!

[Solved] Vertical scroll arrows in LibO

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12 Responses to Vertical Scroll Bars in Linux Mint 17

  1. Thomas W. says:

    Thanks, it worked!
    In step 2 I used Menu / Control Center / Appearance instead. I couldn’t find Control Panel / Change Theme.

    • Alan German says:


      Thank you for correcting my terminology. “Change Theme” can be found under “Control Center” (not Control Panel). I have updated the original post to reflect the correction. FYI, “Change Theme” is listed in the left sidebar as the first entry under the heading “Common Tasks”. I have not spent any time with the various items available in Control Center in Mint and had some difficulty finding out how to actually change the theme. I more or less stumbled across this item listed as a common task. However, now that you point out it is accessible through Appearance, this makes perfect sense since the theme governs things like the colours used for windows and so forth.


  2. Jim Hoy says:

    This method worked for me:
    apt-get purge overlay-scrollbar liboverlay-scrollbar

  3. R.K. says:

    Thank you very much for this hint; finally I can again reasonably work with large Writer documents! The creators of the Mint-X template don’t seem to write large text documents 😉

  4. I have been arguing that there needs to be a system-wide and/or user-specific override for this. It is absolutely unacceptable that we should have to be hacking EACH AND EVERY theme just because some theme designers have the boneheaded and WRONG idea that scrollbar arrows should be removed. It’s likely the corrupt influence of the self-declared “geniuses” at The Gnome Project, and the rest of their ilk. Of course, all I get is mealy-mouthed excuses of why they won’t implement it, and arrogant, better-than-though pomposity on why scrollbar arrows (or anything *else* that helps makes a system actually *usable*) should be permanently banned. Who do they think they are, Microsoft?

    • graham says:

      To summarise from my point of view:
      Linux Mint by default, has a strange behaviour in that, if you click on a scroll bar below the ‘thumb’ it takes you near to the end of the scroll range.
      In my previous experience, clicking on the scroll bar just below the thumb (the highlighted partial bar on the scroll bar) scrolls the page down one screenful. That has been consistent across many OS’s.
      I think it came in in Linux Mint 17, that clicking the scroll bar just below the thumb scrolls the page down to just before the end of the ‘page’.

      Why is that a good idea?

      I don’t get it. If {click below thumb} results in
      * go to end of page, you only see the last screenful of the page, skipping over screenfuls between the top and the bottom
      * go down one screenful, so you see each screenful before you get to the end.

      So is there some academic research that shows that going down one screenful at a time (seeing all the dialog along the way) results in worse outcomes than jumping straight to the last screenful?

      Or is there a UI imperative that drives this?

      • Alan German says:


        What application(s) are you using that works in this manner? Does the window contain lots of lines? If the content isn’t very long, clicking just below the “thumb” will necessarily move close to the end of the window. On my system, a long Writer file, a long web page in Firefox, and a long directory listing in Caja, all move down about a “page’s worth” when clicking below the thumb. So, I don’t see the situation that you describe.


      • graham says:

        I notice it most in Firefox, where it is very irritating. Firefox on Windows behaves as I would expect (and as you describe).
        I just fixed it on one of my Linux machines by following the advice above:
        “(1) In Software Manager, download “mate-themes” (to give a choice of desktop themes)
        (2) Navigate to Control Center – Change Theme (listed in the left sidebar under “Common Tasks”) and select a pretty-coloured theme (I used Traditional Green)”.
        Instant fix, which makes me think it is caused by a setting in the default theme.

      • Alan German says:


        It always seems odd to me that vertical scroll bars in an application are controlled by a desktop theme – which I think of as a colour scheme. Clearly it is more than that. Still, glad to hear that you found the solution to your issue.


  5. Tim Dee says:

    Mate hopelessly froze Linux Mint 17.2 Cinnamon on an Asus EeePC 1000H. No GUI commands/icons worked and relaunch didn’t help. Had to use USB key version to reinstall OS

    • Alan German says:


      I’m not clear on the problem that you experienced. Did you install the MATE user interface in addition to the original Cinnamon desktop? In any event, it’s unfortunate that you had to reload Mint. I usually make a disk image of my current hard drive before making any substantive changes to the system, and a monthly backup of the full hard disk in any case. Then if something breaks I can restore my Linux partition to its previous state in about a minute. It’s much quicker than re-installing, and it maintains any additions and/or customizations to the operating system and the apps. (my data are stored on a completely separate partition and so are not affect by any OS issues).


  6. milesonealauthor says:

    I’m not thrilled with the themes that let this work, but at least they work. Thank you very much! It’s appalling that people keep removing features.

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