Posted by: reformedmusings | May 9, 2010

Transparent window decorations with GTK Window Decorator in Ubuntu Lucid LTS

I wrang my hands in this post over the loss of glass/transparent window decorations with the loss of Emerald Window Decorator under Compiz-Fusion. Emerald still sorta works in Lucid, but it isn’t as stable as it used to be. Compiz 0.9 will be a complete rewrite and Emerald supposedly won’t work at all then. Best to lead-turn the changes now. You can read about the GTK Window Decorator on the Compiz site.

I found answers to several related questions either in Ubuntu Tweak or Gnome Configuration Editor. I’ve written about Configuration Editor before, including installing it from the Ubuntu Software Center. Ubuntulady wrote a nice post about Ubuntu Tweak, which convinced me to give it a try. I’m hooked now.

In order to set the transparency of the window decorations, open Configuration Editor, open the list under apps, then click on gwd:

The screenshot shows the settings that I’m using as of this writing. Changes take place immediately upon accepting the key change, so you can try things quickly. The metacity_theme_active_opacity setting governs the transparency of the active window decoration, whereas metacity_theme_opacity sets the transparency value for the inactive window decorations. The *_shade_opacity checkboxes enable the progressive change of opacity moving from the window edge out through the decoration. Enabling them gives a more progressive transparent look. Try them out to see what you like.

The controls on the title bar can be moved around for GTK+ themes as well. This can be done in Configuration editor under apps -> metacity -> general:

I have button_layout highlighted in the screenshot. You can reorder the elements by editing the key. Or, you can use the much easier Ubuntu Tweak:

Here under Window Manager Settings, you simply check Custom, then drag and drop the elements to get the order that you desire. Or, you can simply move the controls from left to right by clicking on the appropriate setting at the top. You can change many other settings in Ubuntu Tweak as well. It’s a very nice tool for customizing your setup.

I’m happier now than I was, but GTK+ is no Emerald. Hopefully things will improve in Gnome 3. We’ll see. In the meantime, I can live with this as long as I still have my Compiz effects.



  1. Thank you for the reference. 🙂 Also, thank you for explaining gconf-editor in a way that makes sense.

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