Add Amazing Visual Effects to Ubuntu with Compiz

What Compiz Is

Compiz is a compositing window manager, a program that beautifies the desktop with unique animations and special effects. It can make windows wobble when they are moved, and either explode into pieces or burst into flame and disappear when they are closed. Compiz uses your computer’s video card to manage the behavior of windows and other desktop elements.

Compiz is in the stock Ubuntu repositories and comes pre-installed, so there is no need to download or install it. Rather, it needs only the proper video drivers to run, which we cover in a bit. But first, take a look at some of the great visual effects it can offer.

What Compiz Does

One great feature Compiz adds is the ability to view multiple desktops as a 3D cube. You can even view the cube while playing full-screen video.

compiz cube. fullscreen video
Compiz Cube

You can also add custom images to the tops and bottoms of the Compiz Cube.

Top:

Bottom:

You can also view multiple desktops as a set of 2D slides. The default action to start this is to hold the Ctrl + Alt keys and press the Down arrow key. Then, pressing the left or right arrow keys (while still holding Ctrl + Alt) scrolls among the 4 desktops.

It also has effects like drawing fire on the screen:

compiz draw fire on screen

Raindrops falling on the desktop:

compiz raindrops

How To Configure Compiz

3D hardware acceleration is required for desktop effects, so you need a decent video card with the correct drivers installed. To check, click Menu > Administration > Additional Drivers:

linux video driver options
Menu > Administration > Additional Drivers

If no driver is available, then your PC lacks a suitable video card. You can usually buy an older graphics card that can power Compiz for a low price.

After enabling a driver from the list, the computer must reboot for the changes to take effect.

The next step is to click Menu > Preferences > Compiz Config Settings Manager (CCSM) and play with the options:

Cube Deformation is a property worthy of mention. The cube can transform into a cylinder or sphere, depending on what you want. Click Cube Reflection and Deformation:

compiz deformation main screen
Compiz deformation, main screen

Click the “Deformation” tab and you are presented with 3 options: None, Cylinder, or Sphere:

Cube Reflection and Deformation.
CCSM Deformation Options: None (Cube), Cylinder and Sphere

Cylinder:

compiz deform cylinder

Sphere:

compiz deform sphere

Each option takes effect immediately, so there is no need to restart either the desktop or CCSM. Window events like resizing, opening, closing, minimizing and maximizing each have a selection of fun animations:

compiz animation options

Each animation is configurable to a greater or lesser degree. The animation Fire is a good example. It makes windows go up in flames when opened, closed, minimized or maximized (or all 4), with or without smoke:

compiz fire options

Compiz offers hundreds of options, so take some time to explore and in no time you’ll have a desktop environment tweaked to your liking.