This post is now out-of-date; for an updated guide see OS X-Like Widgets with Screenlets on Ubuntu (3rd Update)

Both Windows Vista and Mac OS X include some sort of desktop widgets. Ubuntu doesn’t by default, but it’s easy to get the same features with Screenlets. Screenlets are written in Python with the Screenlet framework and drawn with vector SVG graphics.

This post explains how to install, configure, and use Screenlets on Ubuntu 7.10.


Installing Screenlets

Screenlets require Compiz desktop effects (or another compositing window manager) to be turned on.

Open your sources.list file by running this command in order to add the repository:

sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list

Add this line to the end of the file:

deb gutsy screenlets

Save and close the editor and run this command to authenticate the repository and update apt:

wget -O- | sudo apt-key add – && sudo apt-get update

And run this to install screenlets:

sudo apt-get install screenlets

Starting and Stopping Screenlets

The Screenlets manager can be started from the System->Preferences->Screenlets menu.

Screenlets Manager

To start a Screenlet, select it from the list and check Enable/Disable and Automatically start on login. The Screenlet will launch immediately and whenever you log in.

Positioning Screenlets

Screenlets can be moved by clicking and dragging them. By default, Screenlets will always stay on top of windows. To change this right click on a Screenlet, open the Window menu and uncheck Keep above.

To stick a Screenlet to all workspaces, right click on the Screenlet, open the Window menu and check Sticky.

OS X Dashboard Style

A Mac OS X dashboard effect can be obtained using Compiz’s Widget Layer plugin.

Screenlets Widget Layer

In the Appearance Preferences dialog (System->Preferences->Appearance), open the Visual Effects tab and switch to custom effects. If this option is not available you need to install CCSM first. Then click the Preferences button to open CCSM. Find the Widget Layer plugin and turn it on.

For every Screenlet you want on the widget layer, right click and open it’s Window menu and check Widget. The Screenlet will disappear. Toggle the Widget Layer by pressing F9.

Installing New Screenlets

Screenlets are easy to develop and there are many available online. has a Desklets section that offers Screenlets for download.

When you download a Screenlet, it should decompress to a single folder. This folder needs to be put in a hidden folder called .screenlets in your home directory.

The .screenlets folder may not exist yet. Open your home folder and click View->Show Hidden Files and create it if it does not exist. Then drop the downloaded folder in and the new Screenlet should appear in the manager.

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