Beautifying Calibre

April 19, 2021

I’m not really a fan of Calibre more than I’m an evangelist. The word “fan” doesn’t really cover my adoration of Calibre because, as a librarian with a love of digital books, Calibre is one of those things that presses a lot of my buttons.

But, I’ll be the first to admit it’s not always a pretty bit of software. The user interface is… interesting, I guess? I mean, you’ve got BIG, FRIENDLY ICONS to help you do all the things you might want to do. It’s very candy-like, and the icons are quite lovely for 2008. While the UI is often the subject of conversation, it mystifies me that people will complain about it. I mean, don’t they know they can change their user interface?

Here we have the stock Calibre UI that you’ll find at the top of the app. It looks like this no matter the operating system. While this post features screenshots from my MacBook Pro, let me assure you that it will look like this on Linux and Windows too. And I’ll admit, this could use some work.

The stock user interface for Calibre.

So, let’s do some work. I swear, this won’t take long.

First thing, bring up the Calibre Preferences. How you do this depends on the operating system but look around the menus and you’ll find a Preferences selection. Hit that up and you’ve got this.

The Calibre preferences screen

The first setting is Look & Feel. Open that up and… wow. Okay, yeah, you’ve got options.

The Calibre Look & Feel screen

Feel free to fiddle about in here, but our focus today is to clean up the main interface. Conveniently, the first tab is labeled Main interface, so we’re already where we need to be! The second option on this panel is Icon Theme and, next to that, there’s a button that says Change icon theme (needs restart). So let’s do this first, and maybe get some iconography that isn’t so, I dunno, enforced fun?

Click that Change icon theme button and you’ll find some options for different icon packs, themes, styles, and ideas. Pick what you want, but for me the correct answer to this question is Monstre.

Calibre's icon packs and themes

The Monstre icon pack is a complete re-iconization of the entire app and you’ll see modern, flat-colour icons that are easier to look at and quite functional. I’ll select Monstre, click OK, and after a quick download, Calibre is ready to restart. Click the Apply button and you’ll be prompted for that restart. Do so, and you’ll find yourself looking at this:

Calibre with Monstre icon pack

Not bad! But ya know what? This could be better! Bring up the Preferences -> Look & Feel -> Main Interface again and check out the Icon size option along with the Show text under icons option.

Calibre icon size and text options

I don’t need such big icons, so I’m going to change that size to Small and I think I’ll turn off the text below the icons too. In this case, we don’t need to restart Calibre. After we make our changes, clicking Apply rolls it out to the UI.

Calibre UI with smaller icons and no text beneath them

Fantastic! Now we’re getting somewhere!

Noodle around with this as you like, and make the changes you want to see. You can make this app something you want to look at, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t. Which brings me to my preferred settings.

I’m a simple guy, and I don’t need a lot of flashy iconography. So while I do enjoy the Monstre icon pack, my preferred setup is no icon pack. I set my options to turn the Icon size off and set Show text under icons to Always. This brings me back to a simple, easy to use, easier to understand text based menu system like you see in almost any other app.

Calibre UI with a text only menu system

I’ve still got all of my functionality, but it’s easier to access and easier to find. But hey, this is what works for me. Set this up the way you’d like to see it. Your changes persist across upgrades, so once you’re set, you can forget. And then you can move on with your eBook management tasks!