KDE 4, Windows, and Mac OS all have some sort of desktop widgets. Your Ubuntu desktop can also, using Screenlets. This post will guide you through installing and using Screenlets on Ubuntu 7.10 and 8.04.
[update] I’ve made some updates to this post on April 7 for version 0.1 of Screenlets.
You can keep up-to-date with the latest version of Screenlets by installing it through the repository.
Open your sources.list file to add the repository:
sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list
Add this line to the end of the file (for Ubuntu 7.10):
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/gilir/ubuntu gutsy main universe
Add this line to the end of the file (for Ubuntu 8.04):
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/gilir/ubuntu hardy main universe
Save and close the text editor. Run this command to update apt:
sudo apt-get update
Install the Screenlets package:
sudo apt-get install screenlets
The package python-feedparser may also be required if it is not already installed:
sudo apt-get install python-feedparser
If starting the Screenlets Manager nags you that Gtkmozembed needs to be installed, some Screenlets may not work. Run this command to fix it:
sudo apt-get install python-gnome2-extras
y and enter to accept installing the package without verification.
Alternate install method
As of March 17, the Screenlets repository has not been updated to the latest
release (0.0.14). You can also install from the GetDeb.net
package, if you are using Ubuntu 7.10.
Simply download and double-click the package to install it.
Getting started with Screenlets
The Screenlets manager can be started from the
menu item. If it’s not there, you may find it in
As you will see in the Screenlets Manager, the default installation includes a
lot of Screenlets. Start a Screenlet by selecting it in the list and clicking
Launch/Add button. If you like the Screenlet, select the
Auto start on
login box to have it launch automatically. Close a Screenlet by unselecting the
Here’s a few of the Screenlets that I like:
- Gmail: a Gmail account checker.
- CPUMeter: simple CPU monitor with a few themes.
- ClearRSS: RSS feed reader.
- Sensors: monitors computer sensors with graph, it was able to watch my Nvidia GPU temperature.
Positioning and configuring Screenlets.
Click and drag to move a Screenlet around the screen. Right-click on a Screenlet
to open the configuration menu; from here you can change some settings common to
all Screenlets. The
Window submenu contains a two useful options that you will
likely want to select:
Window->Sticky: sticks to all workspaces.
Window->Lock: locks the position on the screen.
In the same right-click menu, click
Properties to open the complete
configuration dialog, which also has Screenlet-specific options.
Mac OS X Dashboard style
Compiz’s Widget Layer plugin can be used with Screenlets to achieve an effect similar to the dashboard in Mac OS X. Your Screenlets will only be visible by activating a view that dims the desktop and displays the Screenlets on top of everything else.
In the Appearance Preferences dialog (
Visual Effects tab and switch to the
Custom effects level. If this
option is not available, you need to install CompizConfig Settings Manager
sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager
Now, open CCSM by clicking the
Preferences button. Find the
plugin and select the box to turn it on.
For all the Screenlets you want on the Widget Layer, open their right-click
menus and select
Window->Widget. The Screenlet will disappear from your
desktop. Press the default Widget Layer key, F9, to dim the desktop and display
Get more Screenlets
The Get more Screenlets button in the Screenlets Manager opens Firefox to a
that no longer exists. Here you can download new Screenlets.
Also, GNOME-Look.org has a Screenlets
category with a large
selection. Installation couldn’t be easier; drag and drop a downloaded Screenlet
tar.gz file into the Screenlets Manager window.
Google Gadgets and Web Widgets
I’ve written a separate post explaining how you can run Google Gadgets and Web Widgets on Your Desktop with Screenlets.
Enjoy your Screenlets!