Don’t have a graphics card capable of running desktop effects with Compiz on Ubuntu? By enabling compositing in GNOME’s default Metacity window manager, you get some eye candy and can run applications that require or benefit from a compositing window manager. Metacity uses your CPU instead of a graphics card, so it’ll work on anything – even a virtual machine.

I’ve written about compositing with Metacity in Ubuntu 8.04, but Metacity has received some updates since then so I though I’d try it again.

Metacity even with compositing turned on is still very light on the effects. Windows and menus are drawn with shadows, a bit more noticeable than the default ones in Compiz. The Alt-Tab switcher gains previews of the windows it’s switching. Noticeably missing is an animation for minimizing windows; all you get is the same old black boxes effect.

One thing I noticed right away was how smooth windows were drawn when being moved. This has never bothered me in Compiz, but Metacity is definitely much smoother.

One annoyance was switching between workspaces would cause any windows to flicker as they are redrawn. Also, there are still no options for any of the compositing effects, so you’d better like the defaults.

The Alt-Tab switcher

If you’re already using Compiz desktop effects, you’ll need to turn them off to switch back to Metacity. Open System->Preferences->Appearance, open the Visual Effects tab and select None.

The quickest way to enable compositing in Metacity is by running this command in a terminal:
gconftool-2 -s '/apps/metacity/general/compositing_manager' --type bool true

Here’s the corresponding command to disable compositing:
gconftool-2 -s '/apps/metacity/general/compositing_manager' --type bool false

If you’d rather not use the terminal the GNOME Configuration Editor is also an option. Press Alt-F2 to open the Run Application dialog. Type gconf-editor and press enter. Navigate to apps->metacity->general and use the compositing_manager option.


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