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Xcompmgr is a simple composite window manager, capable of rendering drop shadows and, with the use of the Template:Codeline utility, primitive window transparency. Designed solely as a proof-of-concept, xcompmgr is a lightweight alternative to Compiz Fusion and similar composite managers.

Because it does not replace any existing window manager, it is an ideal solution for Openbox and Fluxbox users seeking a more elegant desktop.


Xcompmgr requires the following:

  • Xorg must be installed, configured and running
  • Composite must be enabled via graphics drivers, AIGLX, or Xgl


Both Template:Codeline and the transparency tool Template:Codeline, are available from the standard repositories:

# pacman -S xcompmgr transset-df


To load xcompmgr, simply run:

$ xcompmgr -c

To have it load at session start, add the following to xprofile:

xcompmgr -c &

Instead of Template:Codeline you can experiment with the other switches to modify the drop-shadows or even enable fading. Below is a common example:

xcompmgr -c -t-5 -l-5 -r4.2 -o.55 &

For a full list of options, run:

$ xcompmgr --help

Window Transparency

Although its practical use is limited, due to its slow performance, the Template:Codeline utility can be used to set the transparency of individual windows.

To set the transparency of a program window, make sure the desired program is already running, then execute:

transset n

.. where Template:Codeline is a number from 0 to 1, zero being transparent and 1 being opaque.

Once executed, the mouse cursor will transform to a crosshair. Simply click the desired window and the transparency will change to the value specified. For example, Template:Codeline will set the target window to 75% transparency.


Fluxbox windows won't raise

This is fixed in fluxbox CVS after 0.9.10. See [1] for more info.

A workaround in 0.9.10 is to set the layer of the Slit to "Desktop" (flux menu -> Configure -> Slit -> Layer -> Desktop).

Mozilla Firefox crashes when entering a Flash site

You can fix it by creating an executable file named Template:Filename containing this line:


Background turns light gray briefly after logging in (e.g. in Openbox)

This is fixed by installing hsetroot (it's in AUR) and setting the background color by executing Template:Codeline (just type the code of the colour you want instead of 000000) before xcompmgr.


Starting/Stopping xcompmgr on Demand

This script (e.g. in ~/bin) allows easy (re)starting and stopping the composition manager.

# Start a composition manager.
# (xcompmgr in this case)

function comphelp () {
  echo "Composition Manager:"
  echo "   (re)start: COMP"
  echo "   stop:      COMP -s"
  echo "   query:     COMP -q"
  echo "              returns 1 if composition manager is running, else 0"

function checkcomp () {
  ( ps nc -C xcompmgr &>/dev/null ) && exit 1
  exit 0

function stopcomp () {
  ( ps nc -C xcompmgr &>/dev/null ) && killall xcompmgr

function startcomp () {
# Example settings only. Replace with your own.
  xcompmgr -CcfF -I-.015 -O-.03 -D6 -t-1 -l-3 -r4.2 -o.5 &

case "$1x" in
    "x") startcomp;;
  "-qx") checkcomp;;
  "-sx") stopcomp; exit;;
      *) comphelp;;

I bound COMP and COMP -s to two hot keys in IceWM because there are a few glitches using xcompmgr in this WM. This allows for fast restart or temporary composition removal if needed without interrupting other work.

Additional Resources