Note to users of 8.04 or 8.10: flotoonie and Ivotron report that this guide also works for Xubuntu 8.04 “Hardy Heron”, which I can confirm myself, and Ravan reports that it works for Xubuntu 8.10 “Intrepid Ibex”.
Note to users of 9.04: According to shadowsky and Andrew, Compiz also works in 9.04, except that you might not be able to use the more efficient way described below. If I get 9.04 running myself I’ll see if I can update this post with my own information. Until then, the section has been updated to link to instructions provided by sisco311 in the comments.
With the release of Xubuntu 7.10 “Gutsy Gibbon”, Xubuntu looks better than ever. However, it can look better still, with the breathtaking effects provided by Compiz. How would you like all your windows zooming out into little thumbnails to give you an overview a la Mac OS X’s Exposé? Or what about flipping through your windows Cover Flow-style (or Flip 3D-style, for that matter)? And then you haven’t even experienced the joy of your windows casting shadows on your desktop, or wobbling like jelly as you drag them!
And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg as there are many more features for you to discover – after you’ve installed it using this guide.
Preliminary note: your graphics card should support it. Most cards from Nvidia and ATI are supposed to work, as well as some cards from Intel. Most likely you will need to enable the proprietary, non-open source drivers using the Restricted Drivers Manager in
Applications->System->Restricted Drivers Manager.
You can check whether you system can run Compiz using Compiz Check.
Before we start, I should also note that Compiz has not made a stable (i.e. 1.0) release, and undoubtly you will experience bugs yourself. This could include the occasional crash, your window borders disappearing (you can get them back by pressing Alt+F2 and entering “emerald” or, if that doesn’t work, “xfwm4”), windows being black in their entirety, or even being thrown out of your graphical environment completely. Be aware of the risks, and don’t blame me if it breaks😉 .
A bit of history would be appropriate, so here goes. You can skip this paragraph if you already know what Compiz and Compiz Fusion are and just want to install them.
Developed within Novell (they bring you SUSE Linux) they released Compiz, a window manager with gorgeous effects to demonstrate their new XGL software which allowed better use of hardware and made these effects possible. Compiz became an independent project and kept adding astonishing new effects. As Red Hat (who bring you Red Hat Linux) developed AIGLX as an alternative to XGL, Compiz didn’t even need XGL anymore. A community formed around Compiz that made lots of useful and not-so-useful (but pretty) additions. One particular group of enhancements were not accepted into the main project and, being open source, a spin-off named Beryl that did include the enhancements was started. Beryl became very popular – perhaps even more popular than Compiz itself. However, both projects were dissatisfied with the duplicate work and found that they could settle their previous arguments. In a re-merge, most of Beryl’s plugins were made to work on Compiz under the name of Compiz Fusion. So now we have Compiz (or Compiz-core), the base system, with Compiz Fusion, which provides many additional, perhaps more experimental, plugins.
We will install Compiz as well as Compiz Fusion from the official software sources which will no longer pull along half of Gnome as it did in the previous version of Xubuntu.
A word of thanks goes out to Forlong who wrote a guide titled “How to install Compiz Fusion on Ubuntu Feisty – tutorial for advanced and/or KDE as well as Xfce users” – about the only guide that explains how to install Compiz on Xubuntu (up until now, that is😉 ). Whereas his tutorial
focus[es] mostly on terminal commands I’ll explain it like I usually do – the graphical way, with loads of screenshots. Do use his excellent tutorial if you prefer using terminal commands. Be sure to note, though, that his tutorial is for version 7.04, so you’ll have to replace “feisty” with “gutsy”.
Let’s start, shall we?
Note: If you rather copy and paste a command into a terminal window, use this:
sudo apt-get install compiz-core compiz-plugins compiz-fusion-plugins-main compiz-fusion-plugins-extra emerald compizconfig-settings-manager
Applications->System->Synaptic Package Manager to install the required packages. First of all, we need
compiz-core. This is just pure Compiz as opposed to the
compiz package which pulls along half of Gnome. Then, of course, we need the plugins that take care of all the bling – don’t worry, you can select which plugins you want to activate😉 . We need the packages
compiz-fusion-plugins-extra. Furthermore, you might like the application to draw the window borders, Emerald, instead of Xubuntu’s default xfwm4 (if you’re unsure, you’ll probably want it). If so, select the package
emerald. Last but not least, we need an application to configure Compiz to be usable, so select
Having selected them all, you can click Apply to start the installation.
Setting it up
Before you can run your newly installed Compiz, you need to configure it a bit. In order to do so, open
Applications->Settings->Advanced Desktop Effects Settings.
Beneath the “Effects” heading, click Window Decoration. In the Command input field, enter the window decorator you prefer (
emerald if you installed that,
xfwm4 if not).
Well, that’s about it – let’s try running it!
Only one way to find out whether everything works as expected – run it! In order to do so, press Alt+F2, enter
compiz --replace, then click Run. If everything works as it should, you should now see shadows around your windows!
Make it default
Now I’ll just assume that it ran successfully and that you want to have Compiz run by default every time you login. I’ll cover two ways to do that.
The easy-but-inefficient way
Using the first way Compiz will replace your default window manager every time you login. This means that, when you log in, first xfwm4 is ran which will then be replaced by Compiz, so even though xfwm4 is started, it will then be closed again without being used.
Also note that you might want to skip to the next part “Managing window decorations” if you’re going for the easy way.
For this method, you open
There, you click Add to create an entry with the following values:
- Compiz Fusion
- Desktop Effects
Well, actually, only the last entry really matters😉
Click OK and you’re done! The next time you login, Compiz will be started automatically.
The more-difficult-but-better way
Update: Reportedly this way doesn’t work anymore in Xubuntu 9.04 and above, due to the new version of Xfce being used (namely version 4.6). Though I haven’t verified them myself, sisco311 provides updated instructions in the comments section. Users of Xubuntu 9.10 reportedly need Sahkolihaa’s instructions.
So… You prefer the scary stuff? Well, it’s not that difficult, actually. You just press Alt+F2 and enter
gksudo "mousepad /etc/xdg/xfce4-session/xfce4-session.rc"
Basically, that opens the file
xfce4-session.rc with root rights with the text editor mousepad.
In this file, all you have to do is replace:
(Thank Ubuntuforums user sisco311 for this one)
Do note that this makes Compiz default for all users, as opposed to the previous method which made it default just for you.
Managing window decorations
It might be that you’re not always in the mood for shiny effects on your desktop – perhaps you prefer working in good old xfwm4. Fear not, as Fusion Icon is here to save the day! Fusion Icon is an application that sits in your system tray, waiting for you to right-click it. When you do, a menu will pop up so you can quickly and easily enable Compiz when your friends are watching😉 .
You can easily install it like you would install any other application. You can then run it from Applications->System and play with it.
If you followed “the easy-but-inefficient way” above, you’ll want to follow those steps now but replace the command with
fusion-icon (and perhaps the name with “Compiz Fusion Icon”) to start it by default.
If you followed the more-difficult-but-better way and want to load this by default, you also have to follow the steps described in the-easy-but-inefficient way above (though in this case there’s nothing inefficient about it), but with the command
fusion-icon --no-start (and perhaps the name “Compiz Fusion Icon”).
Take it easy
CompizConfig allows you to tweak a lot of the settings, which might be a bit overwhelming. Therefore you might feel the need for some sane defaults. Luckily, CompizConfig, in the Preferences menu, allows you to import and export profiles.
As you can guess, I’ve exported mine, so go and download it and Import it!
You might also want to use different themes for your window borders (“Emerald themes”). Fortunately, Ravan provides some instructions on the installation of Emerald themes.
It might just be that it does not work for you – please say so using the comment form below, then I can share the solution with the world:
- If you experience problems that you cannot solve using any of the methods above, you can revert back to Xfwm4. Of course, how to revert depends on the method you used. If you used the easy-but-inefficient way you can simply uncheck the checkbox before Compiz Fusion in
Applications->Settings->Autostarted Applications. If you used the more-difficult-but-better way you have to open that configuration file again (
gksudo "mousepad /etc/xdg/xfce4-session/xfce4-session.rc") and replace
Note that this will not uninstall Compiz – it will merely disable it.
- If nothing happens after you have followed all the steps, it might be that you need XGL for it to work (Xubuntu by default includes AIGLX). You can simply install it using Synaptic – look for the package
- Ivotron reports what’s happening when you do not have window borders and how to solve it:
For those not having window decorations after following all the steps try first by removing the contents of the .cache/sessions/ folder as mentioned by Rob Hodge.
Then, on Settings->Settings Manager->Sessions and Startup, check that ‘Automatically save session on logout’ is disabled. Also, check that if you have the ‘Prompt on Logout’ option is enabled, when you actually log out, the checkbox that appears below the ShutDown, Restart, etc.. buttons isn’t checked.
What happens is the following. If you like (as I did) to save your session so that the next time that you log in all the programs you had running appear again, this will also include the autostarted (from the xfce4-session.rc file) compiz. Then, when you log out and log in again, the XFCE session manager will try to run compiz twice (one from the xfce4-session and another from the last session), causing (at least that’s what happens to me) that the emerald window decorator never gets started (or something alike like killed by the –replace flag).
So, the conclusion. Follow all the steps, stop saving sessions and use the autostarted applications configuration instead.
- If Compiz doesn’t work and you have an Nvidia graphics card, then you may need to make sure it is configured correctly. You can do so by pressing Alt+F2, typing
sudo nvidia-xconfig --add-argb-glx-visuals -d 24and pressing “Run”. With thanks to Ransom’s comment.
- If you are left with just one desktop, you have to set the “Horizontal Virtual Size” in
General Options->Desktop Sizein the Cube settings.
- Rob Hodge also had a problem:
i couldn’t get it to work as the default setup.. it kept loading xfcewm instead of compiz or loading no window mqanager at all. so i”d sometimes be left with no decoration as the major noticable effect. this was even after changing the xfce4-session.rc file.
He solved it by opening a terminal window (
Applications->Accessories->Terminal) and typing:
WARNING: After pressing
Enter, this command will remove your saved session (i.e. the state saved if you checked “Save session” on logging out previously). If you don’t know what I’m talking about then it’s probably no problem.
- Crewe did not have window decorations. Though the steps he took are quite complicated, and he needed to install Metacity, GNOME’s window manager, he solved his problem. I am not sure whether this will work for you, and it is probably safest to assume it won’t. For those still interested:
A run down of what I did was first
installed all the apps I needed:
sudo apt-get install compiz-core compiz-plugins compiz-fusion-plugins-main compiz-fusion-plugins-extra emerald compizconfig-settings-manager
I removed nvidia-glx / nvidia-glx-new as they directly conflicted with my nvidia drivers, and put me into “Low Graphics Mode” and caused all sorts of issues with the xserver.
sudo apt-get remove nvidia-glx –purge
sudo apt-get remove nvidia-glx-new –purge
sudo apt-get install metacity
restarted the computer (this is key)
then made sure I had a fully functioning xorg.conf that I created from mish-mashing the generated
configs from the following commands:
sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg
and everything was working graphically, and I was using the restricted drivers, with nothing was crashing.
Then I added these entries to my xorg.conf
Option “Composite” “Enable”
Option “AddARGBVisuals” “True”
to the Device section
I then reinstalled the nvidia drivers
sudo nvidia-installer -f
-fforces the install, when the install asks you if you want it to generate and xorg for you SAY NO! (You just spent a lot of time creating a working one)
then restarted the computer again.
it’s still a bit finicky as I had to run it twice to get it to work, and afterwards I can’t switch back to xfwm4 but it’s I small price to pay.
UPDATE: I’ve since uninstalled metacity, and everything seems to be working great
Of course, you can always read the comments for this post to read everybody’s problems/solutions or general tips.
That’s all folks!
Just because Xubuntu is speedy doesn’t mean it should not look pretty. With the release of 7.10, finally Compiz is no longer exclusively Ubuntu’s. Enjoy the looks!