Compiz interest

September 26th, 2007 by lucas

From time to time, I try Compiz, to see if how it has evolved. The last time was yesterday (I also switched to the xserver-xorg-driver-ati from experimental).

But as usual, after using it for a few minutes, I can’t help switching back to metacity. I don’t think that Compiz’s visual effects bring anything on the usability POV, and I just find them annoying after the initial “WOW”. Of course, it’s nice to show off, but to do actual work? Are there people really using it all the time?

33 Responses to “Compiz interest”

  1. Henning Kulander wrote on 09/26/07 at 9:30 am :

    I have actually been using compiz/beryl all the time for over a year now. On my laptop with Intel graphics, and at home with Nvidia. The reason for using it, other than the obvious WOW effect, is that I think it feels more natural and snappy.

    Take wobbly windows as an example. When I first tried it, I thought it was cool, but I figured I would turn it off after a couple of days use. But when I did, I found that moving windows without the wobbling felt unnatural, no inertia.

    And when compiz stopped working (It hasn’t always been completely stable.. :) ), I couldn’t stand the way windows behind moving windows were redrawn, or how every window would have to be redrawn when moving from one desktop to another.

    So why do I use compiz?
    - Feels more natural and snappy
    - I can configure key bindings the way I want
    - Switching between windows (alt-tab) is easier
    - It’s fun!

    Most of this could be achieved with a proper composition engine in metacity, and is probably what most users would want/need.

  2. Tester wrote on 09/26/07 at 9:31 am :

    I’ve actually been using Beryl on my nvidia-based desktop for a few months now and with the proper configuration, its very usable. The only problem I have is that gnome workspace switcher doenst allow me to move windows between viewspaces. But appart from that, I use it pretty much like metacity but with more bling. But its true that the default configuration kind of sucks.

  3. Rudd-O wrote on 09/26/07 at 9:54 am :

    I used it all the time until I changed to my new “desktop” machine (an 1U Dell server) with an embedded 8MB video card. It was EXTREMELY useful, but you need to define keybindings to use most of its features (frankly the builtin ones didn’t make sense to my muscular memory).

  4. Eetu Huisman wrote on 09/26/07 at 10:03 am :

    I have the exact same experience as you. I also find the configuration dialogs of Compiz extremely annoying.

    I just hope that composite support in Metacity would mature and be compiled in by default. The usability of Metacity coupled with some nice effects would most definately do it for me…

  5. Daoro wrote on 09/26/07 at 10:03 am :

    If you used a Mac, chances you are (like me) hooked to Exposé. It’s so useful, making windows switching fast and easy, I can’t live without it.

    And having animations can be good for the usability if they are configured well (and Compiz does a good job). Wobbly windows, minimise and closing animations, darkening of a freezed window, etc.. It makes the experience of using your computer more fluid, intuitive, exciting.

    That’s why I use it.

  6. Chris Butler wrote on 09/26/07 at 10:29 am :

    I’ve been using Compiz Fusion for a while now, and while most of its charm is just the wow factor, there are a few things I really like. For example, the transparency support is quite useful if you’re working in one window that you’d like to have maximized, but you want to keep an eye on another window. Instead of spending ages rearranging things to make both visible, just stick one behind the other..

    One thing that annoys me though is that Compiz Fusion seems to have lost quite a few of the keyboard controls that the Compiz packages in sid have.

  7. Mathew wrote on 09/26/07 at 10:33 am :

    I think its very good for usability point of view. I was thinking Compiz effects will actually solve my grandpa’s understanding on, how minimize button and restore window works :). Otherwise he only uses close button and application icons to start.

  8. Rentar wrote on 09/26/07 at 10:41 am :

    I too have tried compiz on and off for some time and every time I had the same expirience: I was impressed by the bling but didn’t find it particullary usefull for doing work.

    That was until I saw a configuration of compiz on the Ubuntu Gutsy Tribe 5 LiveCD that didn’t include the Cube plugin that everyone seems to love. Instead it used the simpler and more conservative Desktop Pane which pretty much works like Metacity (or possibly Enlightenment due to the bling).

    Switching Workspaces has slightly less bling now but feels so much more natural and faster (I don’t know if it really is faster or if it just feels that way).

    Additionally I’ve activated the Shift-Switcher which is mapped to Super-Tab (Windows-Tab usually) which is a very nice way to find the exact window you want to change to but isn’t yet as fast as the old-style Window Switcher.

    In my opinion the most important step right now is to find a usable middle ground where there’s no excessive eye candy and the usability gains are maximized.

  9. Bas wrote on 09/26/07 at 11:08 am :

    I use it all the time, I’m a software developer and it helps in managing a lot of windows. It adds to the user experience like the difference between a cheap mp3 player and an ipod. It just works more pleasant and fun.

  10. Philip wrote on 09/26/07 at 11:16 am :

    I’ve tried it a couple of times, but like you, I always end up turning it off. I’ve found no benefit to it from a usability standpoint, however I guess we’re all different and I suppose some users might love it.

    Personally, my desktop feels more flakey when it’s running — there’s no logical reasoning behind this, it’s just a feeling I get when I use it.

  11. antistress wrote on 09/26/07 at 11:19 am :

    I see some positive things with some of these animations in terms of usability and comprehension of actions on the screen for the user

    1°) See what happens in movies : sometimes, the director has to make “transitions” between scenes to make things more comprehensible.
    That’s exactly what happens when windows are minimized in the panel with compiz-fusion : the user see the window moving to the panel and then he understand what is happeining on the screen and knows where the window is. That’s an improvement in term of usability.
    Same thing when moving from a virtual desktop to another.

    2°) When using a software like GIMP with a lot of windows showing your documents, it’s not easy to switch from one to another using the Window List ! Instead, with Scale/Exposé you can easily switch between yours documents in a graphic way : very big improvement in term of usability. Somem people think that with that effect, you can suppress the window list from your panel. See in that article from jeff : http://open-source.ecchi.ca/?voir=articles/20070216-gimp_ui (“Scale plugin” & “Why are you still using a Window List anyway? This is so, like, 1995!”)

  12. Dave wrote on 09/26/07 at 11:52 am :

    I’ve used it since pre-Beryl fork, and agree with the earlier poster about Wobbly Windows. Going back to say, Vista, feels so unnatural without the windows wobbling. It seems fake.

    I also use Expo, Scale for managing lots of windows. Fire Paint/Annotate for highlighting areas of the screen when showing things to work colleagues.

    The other things like Animations(more fire!), Cube, Window Switcher/Ring Switcher are just for the cool factor. They don’t add much, but they don’t detract either.

    (Screensaver is quite good as well)

  13. Sokraates wrote on 09/26/07 at 12:44 pm :

    I’ve been using Beryl/Compiz Fusion for a very long time but it only became usable for me after the Pane-plugin. Since that time, it is my primary windows decorator.

    Desktop pane, set to display the viewports 2×2 and activated by moving the mouse to the upper left corner, replaces my need for a desktop switcher applet. The upper right corner activates scale and the lower left one shows the desktop. The lower right corner has no special function, since the KMenu is situated there, thus increasing the risk of accidental activation.

    As for the rest, I can only agree with the other posters, especially regarding Wobbly Windows.

    All in all I think that Compiz takes some getting used to but once you have used it for a while, you’ll never want to go back. Just like it was the case with multiple desktop. The only drawback with Compiz is the lack of sensible preconfiguration. But the Simple CCSM should take care of that.

  14. Matt wrote on 09/26/07 at 12:49 pm :

    Compiz is mostly “wow” — i agree. But two plugins make it much better than metacity. Both ‘scale’ and ‘expose’ are magnificent. When i am using metacity (because flash does not register clicks atm in compiz) i find myself yearning for either of these plugins. They just make window management so much easier!

  15. Vit wrote on 09/26/07 at 1:21 pm :

    Once I’ve switched off wobbly windows, there are things I can’t live without: desktop & apps switchers, the “Exposé” like thing, transparency and zoom, which I use to check pixel precision when I work with Gimp and multimedia.

  16. anonymous wrote on 09/26/07 at 2:21 pm :

    that’s the problem with you, users (not geeks) like effects and all that WOW stuff, they like that and use that. but you guys can’t figure that out, thinking that what yourselves thinks is what everyone else thinks.

  17. Anonymous wrote on 09/26/07 at 2:22 pm :

    I like Compiz, and I can imagine using it regularly, except that either it or the newest X drivers for all the hardware I have available (intel and ati) still have serious bugs, such as often not redrawing window contents.

  18. Wolki wrote on 09/26/07 at 3:27 pm :

    I’ve been trying compiz since a few days after it was released (and I played with glxcompmgr on xgl before that, just to see some of these cool effects with my own eyes). There are certainly a lot of nice things with compiz, and while many things are obviously crack there are a couple of aspects where it clearly beats metacity.

    Yet, I’m in the same position as you: I use it every few months for some time, find that it’s still not good enough, and go back to my beloved metacity. Here are some of my reasons:

    - Animations can be nice. Very often, though, they arent – Animations draw the eye to them and make you pay attention, which is bad when it’s something in the background you don’t want to pay attention to.
    - One example of this is workspace switching. Desktop pane is a lot better than the cube, but still not good enough – Lots of things move that don’t need to. I have the same desktop background, the same panels (though some applets may change their content). I don’t need to see them move or in in-between states, that’s just superfluous information distracting me. Allow me to focus on the things that matter. Metacity’s window rendering on workspace change may well be much slower, but it feels faster to me.
    - Please dont fade or wobble menus ever. It means that something you have stated you want to interact with is purposefully delayed or made unreadable by the system, and if you don’t want to slow down your workflow you end up trying to read shifting things on the screen – something that can only lead to headaches.
    - Integration with gnome sucks. I’m not saying compiz shouldn’t be cross-desktop, but it should work well with it. Many things in the workspace switcher don’t work correctly, or are dfficult to setup. No moving windows by dragging the window from the workspace switcher or task list to another workspace, no switching workspace by mousewheeling over the applet, no hovering over a workspace to switch workspaces in the middle of a drag&drop operation. All things that make my daily life with workspaces much easier.
    - I use spatial nautilus, and how it handles reopening open windows on another workspace is simply unacceptable to me.
    - There’s no good way to configure it. Most simple configuration tools don’t allow you to turn off several productivity killers, and that advanced configuration tool is horrible, built around how it works internally, not built around what the user wants to do.

    There’s more, but I tend to forget such annoyances after a few days back in metacity.

  19. brussel wrote on 09/26/07 at 4:06 pm :

    I’ve tried compiz a few times. Always turn it off. When our local ubuntu meeting started focusing on it I quit going to them. I get the impression all the nerds love it. Guess it keeps the younger kids happy. However it turns my stomach. Can’t these nerds move on to something useful?

  20. claudio wrote on 09/26/07 at 4:31 pm :

    I use compiz at home, and I find it very useful, specially expo plugin. Of course it has a lot of fancy stuff that add nothing to usability, but it’s a start. Linux will succeed by trying and testing, no other way around.

  21. Daoro wrote on 09/26/07 at 5:15 pm :

    Clearly this could go flamewar : “Compiz is for eye-candy nerdz” VS “It’s not only eye-candy it’s useful”.

    What I find really wonderful about Compiz is that no one forces you to use it and vice versa. WinXP has no “3D” desktop, MacOS has no “2D” desktop.

    Linux has both, you choose the one you like and nobody gets annoyed :)

    Oh, and just some suprise concerning the “Compiz is hard to configure and not well integrated with Gnome” : are you talking about the very last version of Compiz / Compiz-fusion ? Because I do think that lots of work has been done in a few month (considering the state of Compiz in Gutsy).

  22. claudio wrote on 09/26/07 at 6:48 pm :

    Every time I read the term “flame war”, I imagine Jimmy Hendrix burning his guitar on stage. Crazy man…

    BTW, Linux is about choice. That’s its wonder.

  23. MattW wrote on 09/26/07 at 7:23 pm :

    Having used compiz, beryl and now compiz fusion (I’ve been full-time on it for ages now) there are a few things I’ve really come to rely on, and miss greatly when they’re not there:

    - Scale plugin. This is the #1 thing. I got used to Exposé when I had a Mac, and now I get it on my Linux systems too. It’s allowed me to ditch my window list, which means I don’t need a second panel wasting space on my screen (my lone remaining panel is well-populated with useful launchers and other applets, but the window list takes up so much space)

    - Opacity adjustment with alt-mousewheel, which is superb for when I want a quick peek at something behind my current window

    - The cube plugin. I’m not particularly fussed about the spinning-cube switching animation, but the ability to say Ctrl-Shift-Down and get a zoomed-out strip of desktops to see what’s where is very handy. Of course, the Expo plugin provides an alternate route to this.

    There are lots of things I don’t like about the default configuration (every default configuration I’ve seen, in fact). Forcing menu transparency is deeply wrong, we need toolkits like GTK+ and Qt to support themes which deliberately render their menus transparently instead. Many of the available animations are ugly and horrible, but this is always going to be personal preference, as are a lot of things about wobbly windows and so forth.

    The defaults need to be functional, but minimal in terms of effects. No forcing transparency, no flashy animations – maybe fade-on-map, zoom to window list on minimise and that sort of thing, but no wobbling, no magic lamp etc. Just have the Scale plugin available and the other useful bits.

    Oh, window shadows also increase visual distinction of the window from the noise in the background (i.e. other windows).

  24. everettattebury wrote on 09/26/07 at 11:31 pm :

    I use Compiz Fusion from the Trevino repositories and I love the “Enhanced Zoom Desktop” and “Shift Switcher” plugins. These are the ones I use the most.

    The “Screensaver” plugin is nice too.

  25. Vanadaar wrote on 09/27/07 at 1:02 am :

    I use it, however I turn off everything but transparency and drop shadows. All other effects I find to be annoying. I kind of like the expose feature, but haven’t used it extensively. I don’t use the cube, zoom, animations, etc.

  26. jpax wrote on 09/27/07 at 4:23 am :

    Hi there, I’ve recently discover this page, so, let’s see its content :)

    Well, about Compiz, I miss it, my graphics card (ATI X1200 on a damn Toshiba a215) can’t support those effects. I wonder that I can actually live without it, but, it is useful, for me. I’m working with a lot of apps and it’s annoying changing with the ALT+TAB thing, I rather preferred moving my pointer to the right top corner of my display, and click the thumbnailed window.

    Also, the transparency is very useful to check the differences between Explorer and Firefox CSS results in my designed web pages.

    For me, is not only a matter of aesthetics :)

    -sorry for my english-

    Regards.

  27. Marc wrote on 09/27/07 at 9:50 am :

    I first tried beryl on my edgy/feisty laptop and it felt very natural. And even if all the effects are not required to work, they certainly do not prevent anything :D Having thumbnails of applications with ALT-tab or when hovering the task bar is great!

    On my desktop, compiz-fusion works great, the only problem I have comes from video: Xv output is broken (can’t have tvtime working when compiz is running), mplayer (using sdl:nohwaccel, can’t get the patch to use compiz video working) is resizing the desktop (all icons are moved) and you can see the desktop behind the video, which is disturbing ;)

  28. cainmark wrote on 09/28/07 at 12:03 am :

    Transparency. Compiz let’s me watch my tv or dvd or videos in the background while typing or sufing the web or doing finances, right on my desktop. saves time and electric power.

    Plus, that cube is so freakin’ cool. Switching workspaces is fun.

  29. Thorns wrote on 09/29/07 at 10:57 pm :

    I’ve used Beryl and Compiz Fusion from time to time just to check the development stage. Right now I’m running Kubuntu Gutsy with Compiz Fusion.

    1. The default settings are just wrong
    2. Very few effects and/or plugins have anything in for usability
    3. Hardware accelerated video (video overlays) has drawing problems (scan lines)
    4. Some animations are too slow, some are too fast. Bad default timings.
    5. The desktop cube is really useless and just for show IMO
    6. The desktop sliding plugin is too fast. It should slow animation speed slowly when stopping at one desktop, not instantly STOP.
    7. Many more things that are just not natural. And we want everything to seem natural.

  30. antistress wrote on 09/29/07 at 11:33 pm :

    I tried to tune Compiz Fusion to get a more efficient experience, without regard to Wow feeling

    Here is my choice :
    - Desktop plane (more explicit than the metacity equivalent and more reassuring than the cube) : people “see” the desktop change and understand what is happening
    - Animations with zoom for minimize/maximize windows and duration=900 : more explicit than the metacity equivalent since people “see” where the window goes when minimize (in the panel) and then understand better how to maximize the window (by clicking the button where the window disapeared).
    - Scale to switch beetween applications when lots of them are activated : without equivalent with metacity since with Scale people “see” the window to select among others
    - switcher with zoom=0 to switch beetween applications when few of them are activated (2 or 3)

    optionnal : enhanced zoom desktop

    I really like Switft switcher (cover) but it’s not as efficient as Scale.
    I really like Exposé too but it’s not as efficient as Desktop plane.
    That’s why i don’t use them

    That’s whey i totally agree with Thorns : The default settings are just wrong.

    Last comment : with Compiz Fusion we can’t anymore drag an application button in tle windows list to anotehr desktop to send the application on another desktop
    That’s a regression.

  31. Olivier wrote on 10/1/07 at 2:11 pm :

    I like compiz for :
    - transparency (alt+wheel) : to look at a window behind
    - exposé : easy way to get a window, and also to clean up the desktop by clicking not in a window

    The cube is great to show the multidesktop paradigm.

    The other things are WOW effects, but I like to be able to say “Yes, it’s Linux. Wanna try ?”

  32. Astro wrote on 10/9/07 at 11:06 pm :

    I used Beryl, too. As other already said the usability was great, but after some weeks I found it too slow and laggy on my i855. I then switched back from GNOME to Fluxbox. I’m really missing a slim WM like Fluxbox with Compositing features.

    The situation might have improved with the freshest drivers. But they’re stability hell and the new Compiz-Fusion configuration has become a nightmare. I’m not even able to remove a keybinding or assign Alt+Tab to the switcher. I either wait or find much time to dig into the code.

  33. anonymous wrote on 10/21/07 at 12:33 am :

    My issue with Compiz is that the Alt-Tab regular switcher is just too slow. I often want to just switch to a window quickly, without the overhead of seeing just a few minis pop up. i’d much rather have just a plain old icon switcher.