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I found out from Penguin Inside about a small utility called GtkPerf which measures the performance of GTK themes.

You can install it in Ubuntu, using the following command:
sudo apt-get install gtkperf


GtkPerf is an application designed to test GTK+ performance. The point is to create common testing platform to run predefined GTK+ widgets (opening comboboxes, toggling buttons, scrolling text etc.) and this way define the speed of device/platform.


It seems that my favourite theme - New Wave - is probably the slowest GTK theme around (at least from the default and community themes).

Here are my tests results:


New Wave:

GtkEntry - time: 0.02
GtkComboBox - time: 2.10
GtkComboBoxEntry - time: 0.93
GtkSpinButton - time: 0.19
GtkProgressBar - time: 0.39
GtkToggleButton - time: 0.33
GtkCheckButton - time: 0.12
GtkRadioButton - time: 0.19
GtkTextView - Add text - time: 0.34
GtkTextView - Scroll - time: 0.28
GtkDrawingArea - Lines - time: 0.37
GtkDrawingArea - Circles - time: 0.44
GtkDrawingArea - Text - time: 0.28
GtkDrawingArea - Pixbufs - time: 0.25
---
Total time: 6.25



Dust:

GtkEntry - time: 0.03
GtkComboBox - time: 1.14
GtkComboBoxEntry - time: 0.50
GtkSpinButton - time: 0.14
GtkProgressBar - time: 0.15
GtkToggleButton - time: 0.23
GtkCheckButton - time: 0.15
GtkRadioButton - time: 0.29
GtkTextView - Add text - time: 0.29
GtkTextView - Scroll - time: 0.17
GtkDrawingArea - Lines - time: 0.40
GtkDrawingArea - Circles - time: 0.74
GtkDrawingArea - Text - time: 0.32
GtkDrawingArea - Pixbufs - time: 0.25
---
Total time: 4.81




Clearlooks

GtkEntry - time: 0.03
GtkComboBox - time: 0.69
GtkComboBoxEntry - time: 0.51
GtkSpinButton - time: 0.13
GtkProgressBar - time: 0.08
GtkToggleButton - time: 0.14
GtkCheckButton - time: 0.12
GtkRadioButton - time: 0.16
GtkTextView - Add text - time: 0.30
GtkTextView - Scroll - time: 0.14
GtkDrawingArea - Lines - time: 0.24
GtkDrawingArea - Circles - time: 0.74
GtkDrawingArea - Text - time: 0.44
GtkDrawingArea - Pixbufs - time: 0.28
---
Total time: 4.01



Human:

GtkEntry - time: 0.02
GtkComboBox - time: 1.20
GtkComboBoxEntry - time: 0.44
GtkSpinButton - time: 0.10
GtkProgressBar - time: 0.11
GtkToggleButton - time: 0.28
GtkCheckButton - time: 0.15
GtkRadioButton - time: 0.28
GtkTextView - Add text - time: 0.29
GtkTextView - Scroll - time: 0.18
GtkDrawingArea - Lines - time: 0.24
GtkDrawingArea - Circles - time: 0.47
GtkDrawingArea - Text - time: 0.29
GtkDrawingArea - Pixbufs - time: 0.27
---
Total time: 4.31




Hanso:

GtkEntry - time: 0.03
GtkComboBox - time: 1.18
GtkComboBoxEntry - time: 0.58
GtkSpinButton - time: 0.11
GtkProgressBar - time: 0.06
GtkToggleButton - time: 0.17
GtkCheckButton - time: 0.07
GtkRadioButton - time: 0.12
GtkTextView - Add text - time: 0.29
GtkTextView - Scroll - time: 0.17
GtkDrawingArea - Lines - time: 0.30
GtkDrawingArea - Circles - time: 0.59
GtkDrawingArea - Text - time: 0.30
GtkDrawingArea - Pixbufs - time: 0.25
---
Total time: 4.23



Impression:

GtkEntry - time: 0.02
GtkComboBox - time: 0.84
GtkComboBoxEntry - time: 0.54
GtkSpinButton - time: 0.09
GtkProgressBar - time: 0.10
GtkToggleButton - time: 0.17
GtkCheckButton - time: 0.09
GtkRadioButton - time: 0.16
GtkTextView - Add text - time: 0.32
GtkTextView - Scroll - time: 0.25
GtkDrawingArea - Lines - time: 0.37
GtkDrawingArea - Circles - time: 0.58
GtkDrawingArea - Text - time: 0.30
GtkDrawingArea - Pixbufs - time: 0.31
---
Total time: 4.13




Kin:

GtkEntry - time: 0.02
GtkComboBox - time: 0.74
GtkComboBoxEntry - time: 0.66
GtkSpinButton - time: 0.13
GtkProgressBar - time: 0.10
GtkToggleButton - time: 0.14
GtkCheckButton - time: 0.15
GtkRadioButton - time: 0.19
GtkTextView - Add text - time: 0.57
GtkTextView - Scroll - time: 0.22
GtkDrawingArea - Lines - time: 0.33
GtkDrawingArea - Circles - time: 0.70
GtkDrawingArea - Text - time: 0.28
GtkDrawingArea - Pixbufs - time: 0.41
---
Total time: 4.65



Of course, the results may vary, but closing all running application should keep the results pretty accurate. So, especially if you are using a slow computer, you should try to use a fast GTK theme.
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