Install Compiz On The Unity Desktop On Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin)

Version 1.0
Author: Christian Schmalfeld <c [dot] schmalfeld [at] projektfarm [dot] de>

This tutorial shows how you can configure Compiz on an Ubuntu Linux 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) Unity desktop (the system must have a 3D-capable graphics card - I'm using an NVIDIA GeForce 8200 here). With Compiz you can use beautiful 3D effects like wobbly windows or a desktop cube on your desktop. Ubuntu (Unity 3D) must be selected as your desktop environment.

This document comes without warranty of any kind! I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!


1 Preliminary Note And Rescue Methods

I have tried this on a desktop computer with an NVIDIA GeForce 8200. It should work the same way with all other NVIDIA graphics cards. However dealing with Compiz may cause your graphic drivers to crash (several times, before you even get it started), so be careful about what you do and backup everything you might need in future.

When I installed and configured Compiz on my machine I had to deal with several Unity crashes which a new Linux user probably cannot get around without help, therefore I will give you some commands and shortcuts that might spare you overusing your computer's reset button:

To open a terminal without mouse access, press CtrlAltT. If you get stuck in your desktop environment and nothing responds, you can open a full screen shell by hitting CtrlAltF1. You can leave the shell again by pressing CtrlAltF7 (if it's not F7, try out F8 or some other keys).

The command 

unity --reset

should reset the Unity desktop environment as well as the settings you did in the CompizConfig Settings Manager that you will use to configure Compiz. With


you can soft-restart your computer. Don't let yourself discourage by error reports and stuff, you probably won't get around these. If you get error messages and Unity crashes, try to reboot and repeat your last steps - funny enough, I got error reports all the way through configuring CCSM and after some attempts everything just worked.


2 Install Compiz

To install Compiz, open a terminal (Dash > Installed Applications > Terminal) and enter following:

sudo apt-get install compiz compizconfig-settings-manager compiz-fusion-plugins-extra compiz-fusion-plugins-main compiz-plugins


3 Configuring CompizConfig Settings Manager

Open CompizConfig Settings Manager by searching Dash for ccsm. Take the warning that comes up serious! In the CCSM window, scroll down to the Ubuntu Unity Plugin and click it:

In the plugin's menu, make sure the Enable Ubuntu Unity Plugin checkbox is checked (if it's not you would have most likely noticed it anyway. The launcher and everything would be gone then - if you had that problem from the start, open a terminal in the way described above and start ccsm by entering



Click Back to go back to the main menu. Check the Desktop Cube checkbox. A message will pop up instantly, asking if you want to disable Desktop Wall in favor of the cube - click Disable Desktop Wall (by now you could already have come across some errors - just reset or reboot if it's needed and try again):

CCSM will most likely ask you more questions if you enable the cube for the first time. Enable all the things needed for it (OpenGL, Compositing). Next check the Rotate Cube plugin. Also click it to configure additional rotation settings (zooming out while rotating as well as slowing speed and acceleration down gives nices effects). Afterwards scroll up again and enter the General Options:

On the Desktop Size tab, you can configure how many sides you want your desktop cube to have. A decent cube should have at least 4 sides, so set the Horizontal Virtual Size to 4 or higher:

To test if the cube works, hit CtrlAltarrow keys Left/Right. The desktop changing animation should be the one you configured with CCSM now - if it isn't, log out and in to try again.


4 Effect Examples

These are some examples of what you can accomplish with Compiz:


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