Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Saturday, December 29, 2018 at 13:37

At the last moment I wrote the WTDAI, I found out Compton settings to be very very interesting. In other words, we can make our old computer runs beautiful desktop OS featuring translucent window and drop shadows (similar to macOS). As it would be too complicated to explain on a simple WTDAI, I make a separate tutorial here starting with finding out the config, enabling it, and making the effects right for you. This tutorial is based on Lubuntu 18.10 and should be effective for the next releases and other LXQt distros as well. Enjoy!

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More about Lubuntu LXQt: download links | install guide | review | WTDAI

Result First

Here's screenshots of the Lubuntu LXQt with Compton enabled. You can make your desktop to look like this.

 (Start menu with drop shadow)

(Right-click menu with drop shadows)

(Translucent title bar of a window)

(Every window got its own drop shadow)

Wait, what's Compton?

To understand the concept, a user needs to know "window manager" and "compositor". In a graphical desktop, there is an unseen component responsible for drawing all window borders, namely "window manager" ("WM"). Openbox is an example of a WM. If you terminate a WM, you will find your screen rather disappointing, i.e. no border on window and you cannot move/close/minimize any. A compositor is an additional component responsible for drawing effects namely drop shadow, translucency, and animation on every window. If you terminate it, you still have normal windows, but without effects anymore. Compton is an example of a compositor. On GNU-like operating systems, it's very very common for users to combine WM and compositor. And this is what you will see in this artice.

Where's the config?

It's under two places:
  • Start menu > LXQt Settings > Window Effects
  • Start menu > LXQt Settings > Session Settings > Basic Setting

Enabling and Disabling

On Lubuntu, it's very easy:

  • Go to Session Settings: select Compton and press Start. See if it says "Running".
  • To disable, just go there again and select and press Stop. See if the word "Running" is not there anymore.
(This is where you control your compositor running)

Tweaking Shadow and Translucency

These simple configurations are enough for starting. The Window Effects has 4 distinct settings:
  • Shadow: enable only "Enable client-side" and "Don't draw"; give values of Blur radius="10", Translucency="0.70"
  • Opacity: give values for menus="1.00", for inactive and active windows="1.0", for titlebars and borders="0.70"
  • Fade: disable "Fade windows"
  • Other: let it be default "X Render"
  • Press OK when finished configuring.
See also gif animation below. You can play the values as you wish later. Have a nice experiment!

(Gif animation: showing configurations of the four tabs)

Tweaking Terminal Transparency

This additional tweak will make your desktop perfect. Open your terminal and go to menu bar File > Preferences: Appearance > set value of Terminal Transparency="50%". The transparency can only work if Compton is enabled. It will look like this.

(Translucent terminal)

Advanced Configuration

Experinced users may prefer configuring Compton using its config file. You can find it on ~/.config/compton.conf. Take references from Arch wiki and of course Compton wiki itself.

(File manager with the directory, and text editor with the configuration text)

End Words

That's all. I hope you get a smooth, beautiful, and tear-free desktop now with Lubuntu LXQt on your old computers. Surely now 32-bit computers can be revived with modern look. Happy reviving, happy working!

This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.