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4 ways to add more eye candy to the GNOME desktop

If you'd like to spice up your desktop with special effects, the GNOME desktop environment has plenty to offer.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
The Desktop Cube in action.
Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

The Linux desktop was an exciting place in the early 2000s. Various window managers and desktop environments were inundated with special effects that made Windows and Mac desktops look old and tired next to Linux.

I had Linux desktops that amazed my family and friends, so much that some of them decided to switch to the open-source operating system.

Also: How to install Linux on an old laptop to give it new life and purpose

While most Linux desktops have migrated from a fun to a serious approach over the past decade, this switch doesn't mean you can't reclaim the past glories. I'll show you how to add a bit of panache to your desktop.

Here are my top ways to add eye candy to the GNOME desktop.

Install the Extension Manager

Before adding any of these features, I suggest installing the GNOME Extension Manager because it makes managing things much easier. Here's how.

1. Open your terminal window

The first thing to do is open your terminal window application.

2. Install the extension manager

To install the extension manager, issue one of the following commands:

  • For Ubuntu-based distributions - sudo apt-get install gnome-shell-extension-manager -y
  • For distributions that support Flatpak - flatpak install flathub com.mattjakeman.ExtensionManager

If you install via Flatpak, ensure you log out and log back in so the entry will appear in your desktop menu. 

1. Compiz Cube

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Compiz Cube. The Cube presents your virtual desktops as a 3D cube you can spin around to select the desktop you want to work on. This approach is fun and offers a much easier way of switching between desktops.

Fortunately for GNOME users, there's an extension to add the Cube effect. Open Firefox, go to the Desktop Cube extension page, and click Install. If you get a warning that you need to install the Browser Extension, go ahead (it's a necessary step to install extensions via Firefox).

Also: 8 things you can do with Linux that you can't do with MacOS or Windows

Once installed, click the Workspace Overview (in the top left corner of the desktop), click and hold your left mouse button, and drag the cursor around to view the cube.

The Desktop Cube in action.

It doesn't get any cooler than the Compiz Cube.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

2. Burn My Windows

Burn My Windows is another fun bit of eye candy. This extension has been around for a while and adds various user-selectable special effects when opening and closing a window. You can choose from several effects (such as a Star Trek-like energize, Doom, Broken Glass, Apparition, Fire, Glide, and Glitch).

Also: How to create a bootable Linux USB drive 

Once you've installed the extension, you'll find it listed in the Extension Manager, where you can select which option you'd like to use when you open and close windows.

The Burn My Windows Settings window.

You'll find several different Burn My Windows effects here.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Wobbly Windows 

Once you install Wobbly Windows (also known as Compiz Windows Effect), a window wobbles when you drag it around your desktop. You can change how much the window wobbles in the extension's settings.

The one warning I will give you about Wobbly Windows is the effect isn't quite as smooth on machines with underpowered graphics cards. Still, when you have the tool working, it's fun.

The Compiz Window Effect settings window.

You can adjust how much wobble you want for your windows.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Top Bar Transparency

I'm not a huge fan of top bars. When they must be used, I prefer them to look elegant (instead of just a black or gray bar across the top). I always install Transparent Top Bar (Adjustable Transparency) to create that touch of class.

Also: How to create a Linux virtual machine with VirtualBox 

This extension offers only two configurations -- the amount of transparency you want to use and whether you want the top bar to switch to opaque when a window touches it. The only con to this extension is that the text and icons in the top bar can be slightly 8-bit looking. Nevertheless, this simple extension does exactly what it says -- and does it well.

The Transparent Top Bar settings window.

This extension doesn't offer much in the way of settings, but it's still effective.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

There are other ways to add eye candy, but these four tools are my favorites. If you want more, search the GNOME Extension site and ensure you install tools suited for your version of the GNOME desktop.

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