Jul 272008

Now, that we have installed and enabled Desktop Effects (Compiz) in our openSUSE, how do we use it?

Compiz Fusion / Desktop Effects enables a bunch of plugins by default and one of them is the Desktop Cube. The Destop Cube shows the multiple workspace on your desktop as a Desktop Cube. Imagine your Desktop as your cube and each side of the cube is a workspace in your multiple worlspace desktop and thats exactly is a desktop cube. This cube can also be unfolded and shown as a strip of slides where each slide is a desktop workspace.

Prior to enabling and using Desktop Cube, the most important aspect of the Desktop Cube are your keyboard and mouse (or touchpad in case of a laptop)

Apart from the standard special keys on your keyboard like <CTRL> <ALT> <SPACE> <SHIFT> keys there are few others, you need to familiarise with. They are

Super Key – “Windows Key” on your keyboard (if found)

Mouse Key mappings

Button1 – Left-click button on your mouse
Button2 – Right-Click button on your mouse
Button3 – Middle click button or clickable wheel on your mouse
Button4 – Forward scroll on the wheel of your mouse
Button5 – Backward scroll on the wheel of your mouse

Enable Desktop Cube

Let’s first see how to enable the Desktop Cube and the Rotation. The Desktop Effects or Compiz Fusion plugins can be enabled from CompizConfig Settings Manager (ccsm). This can be started from Applications – Applications – CompizConfig Settings Manager or can be started from the terminal as follows:

opensuse11:~ # ccsm

This should launch the CompizConfig Settings Manager

CompizConfig Settings Manager
Here, select the checkboxes for “Desktop Cube” and “Rotate Cube”. This enables the Compiz Desktop Cube.

Start Desktop Cube

Lets have a preview, to start the Desktop Cube,

1. Press and hold the keys <CTRL>+<ALT> on the keyboard.
2. While holding the keys, click, hold and drag the Button1 (left click button on mouse). Drag in any direction to view the cube

You should see the cube in action, each side of the cube is a desktop workspace. How is that for a start????

Almost everything about the cube is customizable, from the image on top of the cube or the background image of the cube (Skydome as in Compiz). To customize the Desktop cube, from the CCSM, click the Desktop cube to open the properties.

In the properties window,

the General tab allows you to change the key mapping

General Properties with Key mapping
the Appearence tab allows to customize the appearence, change images for cube top and background (SkyDome)

Appearence Tab shows image options on cube
the Behaviour tab allows to change the cube behaviour. For instance, to view the cube from the inside

Behaviour tab - enable inside cube here

the Transparent Cube tab allows to change the transparency setting.

transparent Cube settings

Lets have a look at some of the effects of the Desktop Cube

Unfold the Cube

To unfold the cube and show it as a strip of slides with each slide representing one side of a Cube

1. Press and hold <CTRL>+<ALT><DOWN Arrow>. This should bring up the strip.

2. To move the strip, while holding the above the keys, press the <Left Arrow> or the <Right Arrow> to move in that direction. You may press and hold this key (say <Left arrow> for a running strip

Inside Cube

By default, the cube is viewed from the outside of the cube. lLets for a change look the desktop cube from the inside.

1. Bring up the properties for Desktop Cube and click Behaviour tab.
2. Select the “Inside Cube” check box.

Now bring up the cube as earlier and see the difference

Desktop Cube in Sphere or Cyclinder

Again, the Desktop Cube is by default viewed in square edges where each side is a desktop workspace. Why not view it as a cyclinder or a Sphere. Possible??? Why not?

1. Enable the “Cube Reflection and Deformation” plugin under Effects in CCSM.
2. Click on it to bring the properties and click the “Deformation” tab
3. Select Cyclinder or Spehere from the Deformation listbox.

Now, bring up the cube and see the different… mind blowing!!!

This effect will also be seen when you unfold the Desktop Cube

3D Windows

All is great so far…Why not a 3D effect onto the cube??

Enable the “3D Windows” plugin under effects.

Bring up the Desktop Cube, you should see the active windows in your cube are shown seperately as a 3D window.


Enable the Reflection plugin under effects in CCSM and you should see the reflections on the window when the cube is evoled again. This is the reflection of the image selected. To change the image, click on “Reflection” plugin and choose the image of your choice.

NOTE: On unsupported display/video cards (say Intel 965GM), thus can crash your display.

Hope you had a great preview of your compiz/Desktop Effects. I couldn’t workout a way to capture these while in action than to use my cameras and hence no screenshots of Desktop Cube in action.