Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Thursday, December 6, 2018 at 22:41

For both long-time and new users, even in 2018, you can still enable 3D Desktop effects on Ubuntu GNU/Linux variants. Compiz, the famous 3D compositor in old time (most of us know it), is still alive. KWin, the 3D compositor of KDE, is also still there. You just need to know how to enable 3D on each desktop environment. Here, I use Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and Ubuntu MATE as examples. Enjoy the nostalgia!

Subscribe to UbuntuBuzz Telegram Channel to get article updates directly.


Representing distros share KDE Plasma Desktop, Kubuntu does not use Compiz, but instead KWin, KDE's own window manager. The settings are available under KDE System Settings already, so you don't need CCSM on KDE.

(3D desktop on Kubuntu 18.04)

Ubuntu MATE

Representing other distros share MATE Desktop, Ubuntu MATE has two compositors built-in "Marco" and also "Compiz". You can enable Compiz first, then using CCSM you enable 3D Cube. Just like our old-old times. (Note: other distros may need Compiz installed by hand.) 

(3D desktop on Ubuntu MATE 18.04)


Representing all other distros using XFCE, Xubuntu (honestly) does not bring Compiz by default. XFWM4, the built-in window manager does not have 3D, so you will need Compiz there. No problem, in this case you just need to install Compiz later.

(3D desktop on Xubuntu 18.04)


They're grouped in two, Compiz and KWin, both are the compositors. Compositor is a component of desktop environment that is responsible to draw 3D effects. If you wonder, the secret is, often a window manager is also a compositor. So no matter what distro are you using now, if you use MATE / XFCE then go follow Compiz below; but if you use KDE then go follow KWin instead. Those are the only difference.

1) Compiz configuration:

  • Fulfill the requirements: install Compiz and CCSM* first.
  • Enable Compiz for whole desktop: run CCSM > give check mark to Window Decoration
  • Enable Compiz: press Alt+F2 and execute  compiz --replace
  • This will make your window borders changed to Compiz style (you'll notice)
  • Make 4 workspaces: run CCSM > General Options > Desktop Size > make it all 4
  • Enable all 3D Cube effects: give check marks to Desktop Cube, Rotate Cube, and Cube Reflection & Deformation
  • Try it: hold Ctrl+Alt and drag your desktop. You should see 3D Desktop Cube here
 (Click to enlarge the picture)

2) KWin configuration:

  • Go to KDE System Settings > Desktop Behavior > Desktop Effects
  • If you don't see "Desktop Cube" there, perhaps it's hidden, then click drop-down menu before next to box > uncheck > uncheck. Now see if "Desktop Cube" is available
  • Give check mark to Desktop Cube
  • Try it: press Ctrl+F11 and you should see 3D Desktop Cube
(Click to enlarge picture)

*) In order to install Compiz and CompizConfig Settings Manager (CCSM), on Ubuntu MATE, Xubuntu, Mint MATE / XFCE, Trisquel, simply execute this command:
$ sudo apt-get install compiz compizconfig-settings-manager

That's all. Have fun with 3D Desktop again!

This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.