For some, the great desktop effects of Compiz-Fusion (the OpenGL window and compositing manager formerly known as Beryl) were the reason they tried Ubuntu in the first place. Desktop effects are not enabled by default, since they might unsettle older systems, and for many users they are just an unwanted distraction. If you have them running, you’ve already figured out how to enable them (if not, go to System > Preferences > Appearance, go to the Visual Effects tab, and choose either “Normal” or “Extra“), but you may be wondering how to take control over them.
First off, install compizconfig-settings-manager, as this is what lets you customise basically every aspect of your desktop effects. Not only can you choose what animations you want for certain tasks (like minimise and close window, etc), but you can edit how they work. That means you can speed up or slow down animated effects, as well as change the settings for every animation plug-in. You can disable some parts of Compiz-Fusion that you don’t particularly care for, and enable a whole lot of other features you never even knew existed. CompizConfg Settings Manager will reside in System > Preferences.
Compiz-Fusion ships with a bunch of plugins (compiz-fusion-plugins-main), but you may need to install compiz-fusion-plugins-extra to get more awesome effects, like Burn (it seems Ubuntu now installs that package, but if it isn’t marked as installed in Synaptic, then you’ll need to install it).
You can also install compiz-fusion-plugins-unsupported – “an extended collection of plugins which have received the least amount of review and are the most likely to be problematic on your system.” As you can see, this is a use at your own risk package, but if the plugins you have aren’t enough, you can always give these a try.
To get a system tray icon that gives you easy access to settings, install fusion-icon. To run Compiz Fusion Icon, go to Applications > System Tools. You’ll find this invaluable for restarting Compiz-Fusion if it has crashed, as it has a Reload Window Manager option on the menu.
For adding and changing advanced window border and titlebar themes, you will need to install emerald. You’ll find Emerald Theme Manager in System > Preferences, and the themes it uses have an .emerald extension. Many themes offer semi-transparent glass-like titlebars, animated control buttons, and shadow and glow around the window borders. They can vary wildly, with themes for basically any taste. You are bound to find a few that you find stunning, so do a web search for “emerald themes”, and download some and import them. You will see previews of them once installed, and all you have to do is click on a preview to enable that theme. And any you don’t like, you can delete. What’s more, you can actually edit installed themes, and save them as your own.
This should be all you need to get you going on the path to greater desktop effects. Have a good look around in the settings manager, and try out some of the cool features not enabled by default. And have a play around with changing some of your plug-ins, like turn the flames of Burn purple and yellow, or add heaps more wobble to Magic Lamp and make it last much longer (that actually looks really good on minimise and restore). Then find some Emerald themes to import, and if you find one you love, but don’t like the titlebar font, or want more opacity, you can edit it. You can control basically every aspect of how your windows are decorated, so if you can’t find any themes you like 100%, then make your own!
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