Animated Wallpaper with Compiz Fusion on Ubuntu

Animated wallpaper may not be very useful, it just looks sweet. :) In this how-to I will explain setting up an animated background that works with Compiz Fusion on Ubuntu using a program called XWinWrap.

If you don’t run Compiz Fusion this guide is not for you. This other method works just fine if you are not using Compiz.

This is my desktop:

XWinWrap is not available in the Ubuntu repositories. I installed it with this DEB package from Treviño’s Ubuntu Repository.

Double-click on the downloaded package to open the package installer. Click install to install XWinWrap. Now press Alt-F2, or open a terminal, to enter this command: (Careful, it may be running off the page a bit.)

xwinwrap -ni -argb -fs -s -st -sp -nf -b -- /usr/lib/xscreensaver/glmatrix -window-id WID

Your desktop should be taken over by glMatrix, the screensaver effect that I used in the video. Unfortunately, it is not possible to have desktop icons over the animation. After the double dash, you should be able to run any program you want to use as your background. Screensavers work well. Look in /usr/lib/xscreensaver for a ton of screensavers you can use. Here are a few of them I tried:

xwinwrap -ni -argb -fs -s -st -sp -nf -b -- /usr/lib/xscreensaver/atunnel -window-id 
xwinwrap -ni -argb -fs -s -st -sp -nf -b -- /usr/lib/xscreensaver/flyingtoasters -window-id WID
Plasma (my eyes!):
xwinwrap -ni -argb -fs -s -st -sp -nf -b -- /usr/lib/xscreensaver/plasma -window-id WID

I have a Intel Core 2 Quad and an Nvidia Geforce 8600GT, some of the screensavers ran better than others but most had no noticeable impact on Compiz’s performance.

If you run into trouble, kill the screensaver application. Switch to a terminal with Ctrl-Alt-F1 and use killall programname, and then switch back to X with Ctrl-Alt-F7.

Have fun with your new animated wallpaper!

Archived Comments


Thank you very much for the tutorial. I have an error when I try to run
the command, here it is:

Error: Unsupported depth 0… exiting
/usr/lib/xscreensaver/atunnel died, exit status 255

Can you help me?
Thank you very much.


holy cr4p

would like to try, but where can i get an amd64 deb for feisty?


I found a AMD64 compiled XWinWrap, it is not a Deb but all you have to do is copy it to the right location. However I have not tested it:



If you’ve got an ATI card, you might be in trouble. I’ve got one, and I’ve given up on xwinwrip. The closest I got to finding an answer to this ‘Unsupported Depth’ problem was “Xwinwrap doesn’t work with the Radeon Driver”.

I’m buying an NVidia card soon!


same issue

winwrap -ni -argb -fs -s -st -sp -nf -b – /usr/lib/xscreensaver/glmatrix -window-id WID
glmatrix: window 0x1200002’s visual 0x135 does not support the GLX extension.
/usr/lib/xscreensaver/glmatrix died, exit status 1


Cool, it worked ok here.
But when I click on the title window to move the window, the screensaver appears over the window.
How could I fix that?
and do you have this problem too?


i have ubuntu 7.10 and compiz is going well…
can some one tell me how to bring Dock icons and second thing is i want to know
how to enable desktop box..plz do tell me keys also thanx


Slam dunkin like Shaquille O’Neal, if he wrote infortmavie articles.


The dock is called Avant Window Navigator:
To enable the desktop cube you need to install CCSM, and then you can switch Compiz to custom and configure it for the cube.


my computer has STUPID SLOW SLOW down …
i’m running with Pentium 4 3.20
GeForce XFX 5200 128MB …

the most incrideble is that is running compiz fusion nicely …
but when i put it …
OMG ..
i just restart the computer …
no one way

if would u like to put it …
make sure that u have a good pc


I can’t get this to work as it’s supposed to at all. I’ve copied and pasted the commands into a terminal, but all it does is run the screensaver as normal, not on my desktop. Anyone else got this?


Wow, it worked good for me.. p4trick said.. I’m sorry, you must have a problem somewhere, it runs FINE with my PC, and it’s quite ancient.. It’s just an athlon XP 1700+ @ 1.47Ghz and a nVidia Geforce 4 Ti-4400 stuck at AGP4x.

I have no frame loss, no skipping, and it’s pretty much harmless to the system. I can still run Doom 3 the same as I was before. One thing I can give for advice is the video drivers.. As I found out with this system, compiz, and gutsy gibbon… Drivers can be a pain in the rear. I was two weeks getting the drivers to enable correclty. I’d make SURE you got the newest drivers, and have them installed correctly.

That p4@3.2Ghz with the 5200 should definetly kick this systems rear. There’s a problem somewhere man.


If you want to use this .deb in AMD64 run the command sudo dpkg –force-architecture -i xwinwrap_0.1+cvs20060209_i386.deb

That worked for me.

My problem is that I have dual monitors and when I run this it only shows up on the monitor that I had the terminal open on. I am guessing that I could issue a different option at the end where “-window-id WID” is but I cant find any good documentation that would explain how to do this.
Any suggestions? Other than that it looks really cool!

Slippy Lane

Ooh, I must have a go at that. In the meantime, could you tell me what you used to capture your display to a video file. I want to make some screencam demos, but I’ve yet to find anything that works for me.

Slippy Lane

Follow up:

For anyone having problems or limitations with XWinWrap, I use DevilsPie instead. I find it a little more configurable


xwinwrap -ni -argb -fs -s -st -sp -nf -b – /usr/share/pixmaps/backgrounds/Cosmos -window-id WID
/usr/share/pixmaps/backgrounds/Cosmos: No such file or directory
/usr/share/pixmaps/backgrounds/Cosmos died, exit status 2
i definately have an ati card
and i redirected my xscreensavers to gwenview


Working flawlessly for me on Ubuntu 7.10… not helping my ADD any, though…=P


I tried it and it starts up great. I just have trouble getting it to turn off, lol. I also didn’t care for the fact that you can’t have desktop icons while it’s running. It looks great and all, but honestly it’s only cool for about the first 30 seconds. After that it kind of gives me a headache. So in the end I decided that while it’s great eye candy, that’s all it really is. I ended up shutting it off.


running an ati x1300 on ubuntu 7.10 and this works great! I HAVE desktop icons, my avant still works and the only problem has already been stated above…when I move a window, the screensaver starts to overlap it rather than run behind…not a big issue really. Cheers!


Excellent effect….but its making my laptop get hot and I cant kill it…HELP!!!



to shut down a process just type: killall in a terminal

in this case:
killall xwinwrap


Nice! Working well here with GeForce 5900XT and P4 2.8 without any notably increasing cpu load.

To instantly end the effect, use ALT+F2 and type ‘killall xwinwrap’
Important: you will also have to do this before trying another screensaver…



I want to share an option that can make the experience of animated desktop much better.

In the options line, if you add ‘-o’ option you can set the opacity of the xwinwrapper layer.

I used ‘-o 0.7’ so I can see my desktop icons and use them!

The line, as example, could be>

xwinwrap -ni -argb -fs -s -st -sp -nf -b -o 0.7 – /usr/lib/xscreensaver/atunnel -window-id





By the way… how do I turn it off -I dont want to kill all my apps-




Hello, greeat application xwinwrap, y had run it on ubuntu hardy and it’s nice…. just one question… when i move the mouse to a corner to initiate window picker plugin in compiz-fusion, and i click in the desktop (not click in any window)… it minimizes all windows and show the desktop… but the animated matrix wallpaper also minimizes and i cant see it again… any ideas? thanx and great post.


When i install that matrix thing it takes over the screen


That’s only the beginning. At the end it takes over … YOU!


I make it work but is more like a switch between the screensaver and my working windows overlaping instead of getting the screensaver on the background…
any ideas?


That repository is down.

Computer Background

Worked Nicely. Thanx:-)


Thank U for this Tutorial its better than the youtube tut.
All works fine, great :)

john doe

hey when i run ur code i can’t even see my windows or what programs i am running, want to help me out with that? i have the compiz running but idk it just doesnt let me see my windows through the matrix.

C. Jason Wilson

How do I get the icons back on my desktop? The animated Wallpaper was too much for my system to handle so I shut it off but now want icons back.


How am i able to kill the just animation… basically bringing it back to how it was before i entered the code without reseting… nice tut by the way


just install desktop-drapes for animated wallpaper in ubuntu :)


As soon as i close the terminal, the animated background goes - is there a way around that?


at the end of your terminal code, put &

example: xwinwrap &


shantzXwinwrap has fixed alot of bugs and now works on my ati

thanks shants !!

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