5 Absolutely Useless Compiz Plugins

Compiz is no doubt the best compositing manager for Linux. It has been a part of Ubuntu for a long time and is actively maintained as well. Since the addition of the contentious Unity plugin, Compiz has become the most popular and reliable compositing manager easily surpassing GNOME 3's Mutter.

Being a part of a big project like Ubuntu, developers are coming up with amazing new plugins like Modal dialogs. This, of course, doesn't mean that there aren't any useless plugins for Compiz. Here are 5 such plugins that find no practical applications whatsoever:

1. Desktop Cube
The desktop cube was and is one of the most enviable features of Linux. Managing multiple desktops in a visually intuitive way has made the cube quite popular amongst Linux enthusiasts. Having said that, switching desktops using the cube plugin is, if not clumsy, distracting for many. Imagine you have a browser window in one desktop and LibreOffice Spreadsheet in the other. Now say, you have to quickly switch between the two, would you want a huge cube to take you from window to another? The cube, as fancy as it may look, is bereft of any practical application. Of course, many won't agree with me on that one, but some of the extra plugins that come with the Cube plugin are so ridiculous that you might eventually acquiesce.

Here are two other useless Compiz plugins related to Desktop Cube:

* Cube Gears
The Cube Gears plugin that is an extra plugin that places the gears from glxgears – which is basically a standard animation showing just rotating gears – inside the cube. Now why would anybody want to do that, I don't know, but all I know is that whenever you make the cube transparent, u can see some gears in action. I seriously would love to understand the motive behind making this plugin, is it some sort of mechanical voyeurism or just a joke?

* Cube Atlantis
Cube Atlantis is a similar extra plugin, which shows the fishes from the Atlantis screensaver on the Cube's walls. Having a fish tank while switching from one Window to another might be a great way to distract you a little, but on a practical level, it doesn't make sense.

2. Negative plugin
A negative image is what you see on a camera film, which is then developed in low-lit labs to give you the nice family photos that adorn your walls. Nobody in his or her right mind hangs, prints or even likes to look at negatives of a real image. So tell me folks, why would you want a plugin that turns your desktop into its negative image?

3. Water Effect
Another one of those eye candy plugins for the Linux desktop. It looks fancy but has no practical use. The plugin basically allows you to create water ripple effects on the screen. You can set a combination using which, you can draw trails of ripples on your screen, just to entertain and relax yourself. Alternatively, you can enable the rain effect, which makes your desktop behave like the surface of a pond. The effect emulates the feeling of rain falling on your desktop screen. Do let me know if you find this useful in some way.

4. Wobbly Windows
This has been one of the most used useless Compiz plugins. Enabled in Ubuntu (pre-natty) by default, wobbly windows is a plugin that does what it says – it makes the windows wobble. Whenever you grab a window by the title bar, and try to drag it around, the window will stretch and wobble in different ways depending on which region is grabbed. Despite, the sheer uselessness of this plugin, it has been used and loved by quite a lot of Linux users. Even some Windows users are envying this nifty little feature the reason for which, I don't quite understand.

5. Firepaint
Firepaint is an eye candy plugin developed specially for arsonists and pyromaniacs. The plugin allows you to set fire to any part of your screen, with no practical utility whatsoever. I don't know if Firepaint works with Unity, but considering how buggy Unity is in Ubuntu 11.04 'Natty Narwhal', you might sometimes feel like setting fire to parts of your desktop. A great way to give vent to your anger, but not something you should be enabling on your kid's desktop.

Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.


  1. AnonymousJuly 19, 2011

    Though most of the points are generally correct, I find the 'Negative' plugin to be quite useful.

    Say I have a movie or video playing in VLC (not in fullscreen, but in a window) so I can have a chat window open beneath it. The contrast between the dark of the video and the white of the chat window can be distracting, so I usually have the 'Negative' plugin invert the colors of the chat window; thus everything is dark and easier to look at.

    It's a simple use of the plugin, but quite helpful.

  2. AnonymousJuly 19, 2011

    When my room is dark, I use the negative plugin if the window is too bright. I prefer to read books with black background and white letter. For me that plugin is useful.

  3. AnonymousJuly 19, 2011

    Do not ask me why, but I love the "Wobbly Windows" effect.

  4. AnonymousJuly 19, 2011

    How DARE you include Wobbly Windows on that list?! That is the ONLY GOOD plugin in the entirety of Compiz Fusion! DIE.

  5. AnonymousJuly 19, 2011

    Nowadays, eye candy is very important for an OS, it's the way to attract more users.

  6. I love wobbly windows! And so do my parents and if it means they want Ubuntu instead of Windows then it's all good! Also the cube does actually have a practical use, if you have transparent cube enabled, it means you can be looking at one app and see the back of others on other desktops, so you know exactly where they are!

  7. AnonymousJuly 20, 2011

    "Water Effect...Do let me know if you find this useful in some way"

    Kadu instant messenger has a plugin called " water notify", which produce waves on system tray when someone wrote. Quite useful.

  8. AnonymousJuly 20, 2011

    Wobbly windows 4ever! May not be practical, but makes for a much nicer user experience. Unfortunately, 3d unity doesn't work with my graphics card, which means no wobbly windows, and that makes me sad....

  9. AnonymousJuly 20, 2011

    Cube and Wobbly windows are not useless plugins. It's a matter of preference.
    Exactly these "useless" plugins attract the attention of many Windows users to Linux.
    Novice users love the fancy desktop - burning windows, wobbling windows, cube, rain, fire and whatever...
    Like I said - it's a matter of preference.
    Maybe the problem is not in the plugins, maybe it's you jun auza?

  10. AnonymousJuly 20, 2011

    Wobbly windows useless? It attracts girls!

  11. AnonymousJuly 20, 2011

    Negative is a really useful plugin (for many of the reasons others have given). When working in a theatre and taking notes, researching, etc. during runs of the shows it's very useful indeed. Desktop cube, while generally useless, does get *users* -- which is of value.

  12. AnonymousJuly 20, 2011

    Cube can be good usability especially for new users.

    When you switch virtual desktops you could simply show the new virtual desktop leaving users wondering where their windows went. In fact, just showing the new desktop looks exactly the same as minimizing a maximized window in many occasions. It is a "now you see now you don't" magic act that gives you no clue how to go back.

    With cube, or scrolling in the new desktop, there is no confusion, people can see where the windows went. There is a clear visual clue as to how to go back (obviously rotate the cube the other way).

  13. Another happy user of Wobbly Windows - cute and not too distracting... Just decorative but no less useful !

  14. If your criteria for "useless" is that the same thing can be accomplished some uglier, less resource-intensive way, then 90% of any desktop environment is useless. Icons are useless, desktop backgrounds are useless, systray is useless, etc.

    Never forget that the "I" in GUI means "interface" -- the point is to connect how the computer works to how the user thinks. Anything that shortens the gap between those two things is useful in an interface.

    The cube, therefore, is not useless. It enhances the way we can visualize multiple workspaces. I find it helpful when looking at my workspaces to get an overview of what I've got open where.

  15. I often find that using the negative plugin, helps me to read some web site pages, especially the ones that use grey fonts instead of black fonts, which a lot use for some stupid reason.

    The other plugins are just fun to play with, and yes they have no practical use other than fooling around with.

  16. AnonymousJuly 20, 2011

    I disagree with the first sentence. But that's not important right now. The rest is pretty much true. Of course, I can add to the list, but I find those plugins that you picked to be absolutely useless. I don't use multiple desktops, so the cube is useless to me. "Wobbly Windows" is just annoying, IMO. I don't want my windows doing some crazy stuff when I move them. The rest are just useless "prettiness" settings that do little but use RAM and bog down your system, IMO.

  17. AnonymousJuly 20, 2011

    Is this just me or are you deliberately trolling? Just because you can't think of a purpose for some of these plugins makes them useless?

    The Desktop Cube has a few purposes: first of all it let's you switch between desktops, secondly it does so by providing a graphical interface that allows one to organize one's work and finally it looks pretty rad. People need a nice graphical interface, we are used to physical objects in our daily life, so we work more fluently when we can work with similar objects on our computers. Sure, other methods work as well (e.g. Desktop Wall) but they also have the drawback of zooming out a lot.

    Same for Negative, others have said the same thing; but it's really nice when you're working late at night or trying to overlay a light window over a dark window. In the same way partial opaque windows might seem useless, but that just depends on how you use them.

    Wobbly Windows is nice in some way(but it has it's drawbacks, it suffers from limit cycles in a lot of cases). But somehow I find that I'm quite attached to the fluent movement of my windows. It just feels more natural than rigid windows (but the actual use is limited indeed).

    Fire can be nice if you have gesture recognition (e.g. EasyStroke) enabled and you want a nice way to visualize your strokes. There are some other means, but they generally look like 1995.

    I'm not really using Fire and Water myself, but my fellow commenters have already shown they have uses for these plugins. And they have a valid point: eye candy attracts people (and also: if a program looks nice, people are more inclined to find it useful than if they have to work with legacy X apps).

  18. Some things are just the way they are, some like walks on the beach, some find it lame, some like sunsets, some hate sunsets, if you like it enjoy it, if you don't disable it.

  19. I think that as useless the author means that the plugins don't add any usage/productivity enhacements, regardless of the personal preference of each user.

    I mean, almost all compiz plugins are shinny, pretty, glossy effects, but really: doest this effects are useful?
    Some of them are useful, but the vast mayority are just shinny stuff for the linux newbie.

    Also, saying that they are useless doesn't mean that they must disappear.

  20. AnonymousJuly 20, 2011

    I agree except for Cube; adding widgets and screenlets can make the Cube very user friendly and efficient. These plus 2 monitors really adds to my personal preference of spreading my work out.
    Bottom line; used intelligently and in conjunction with other desktop application the Cube can be very efficient and not distracting.

  21. Funny how I use or have used all of these...
    I find the wobbly windows gives a tactile feel to window manipulation. To me, it somehow seems more natural to see the window react to being dragged. When I use a computer without this plugin, I feel lost.
    I have been known to occasionally use the rain effect as a screensaver.
    If you turn down the switch time, the cube is no less effective than the wall for switching desktops.
    As mentioned, negative helps viewing windows in low-light conditions.
    Fire paint is a toy. Just because something isn't productive doesn't make it useless.

  22. Wobbly widows was the thing which made me to stick onto ubuntu.

  23. AnonymousJuly 20, 2011

    It's just a matter of ur liking. All these plugins are not useless but decorative. Don't u like to decorate your house, why? Its just because I LIKE IT. after all its my desktop and I want it this way. If u dont like it dont use it. simple!!

  24. AnonymousJuly 20, 2011

    I use the water effect as a constant screensaver. Keeps my monitor from burn-in, and just looks fancy :)

    As we all know, most of these are just pretty things to make our desktop look better. They serve very little practical purpose (although obviously exceptions exist)

  25. Well I use the negative plugin to read web pages with black background and white text, which is really anoying for me, the plugin becomes handy in this cases.

  26. Before I switched to E17 and Bodhi Linux, I used the negative plugin to invert the colors on long web pages and I find that the wobbly window plugin makes the windows behave in a way I found more intuitive than having static windows. But I couldn't care less about either of those.

    For a time, I did use Cube Atlantis in lieu of a wallpaper.

  27. You forgot the most useless Compiz plugin of them all: Unity.

  28. AnonymousJuly 20, 2011

    Yeah wobbly windows is pretty useless but it's very nice. People are always loving it when I move my windows around :)

    Doctor said it best -- "You forgot the most useless Compiz plugin of them all: Unity."

  29. AnonymousJuly 21, 2011

    Are you mad. You should know that most of the people who are switching to ubuntu is mostly because of its eyecandy. If you are saying these things are useless then you should switch to windows 98 or maybe MS DOS

  30. The Desktop Cube actually has practical use. (Really).

    When using VMWare workstation full screen the guest OS captures the keys and most Linux-specific key combination are not passed to the UI. This includes the desktop switching hot keys which are the ones I most frequently use. The input focus to the guest has to be switched off first.

    However, when the Cube is on and the margins activated to enable rotation, then the input focus is automatically switched back to the Linux desktop by moving the mouse to a screen edge and spinning the cube to the next/previous desktop. I think it's a convenient time-saver.

  31. Negative is for when you are pulling an all-nighter and your eyes get more and more tired... the bright white background of most text editors/ides starts to wear.... I often use the negative on a single window/app (vs the whole desktop)...w

  32. You could have just as easily named the article "5 Absolutely Awesome Compiz Plugins!"

    What about "Explode"?

    The comments clued me in on actual uses for "Negative" and "Fire" when I really thought there was none and the Kadu "Water Notify" sounds ridiculously great.

    This article has me playing with KWin now.

  33. AnonymousJuly 22, 2011

    I also adore wobbly windows ;D ;D

  34. AnonymousJuly 23, 2011

    Top-models are Absolutely useless... But they're Beautiful!

  35. AnonymousJuly 24, 2011

    Negative plugin is useful, when I'm reading those web-pages with "white-on-dark" text design. I always can invert it.

  36. I wouldn't call them 'Useless'.
    They all have Aesthetic appeal, which is why they are included and why they are used.

    The Negative plugin is not for the purposes of Aesthetics, nor is it useless. It's designed to help those with eyes that can not see bright lights. It's like people with 20:20 vision claiming that Glasses are useless for people, when they themselves don't need them. I'm surprised you didn't find this out considering that it was labelled under the Accessibility section.

    The cube and wobbly windows, while having no real extended purpose, is designed for those simple minded people who use Ubuntu for the whole Aesthetic appeal.
    Having plugins like these is what sets Ubuntu from Windows. Have you ever seen a cube-like feature for Windows 7? Do you think they will have one any time soon?

    The answer is No.

  37. I love using the cube because I run various virtual machines on each side of the cube. So to switch between each virtual machine (full screen) all I have to do is turn the cube. It's one of my favorite and efficient features!!

  38. Negativ is really usefull plugin! There are so many pages which are black background and white text and this colors has really high contrast which is not good for eyes.

  39. Interesting, but I don't agree with writing off the spinning cube as mere eye-candy! It's one of Compiz's biggest productivity boosters for me. I only have one screen and it provides such a logical and intuitive way to organise windows and switch between them.

    I do have 'edge flip pointer' enabled in ccsm, which means I can switch to the next workspace by moving the mouse to the right / left of the current workspace. Also I have 'edge drag n' drop' which is indispensible, as well as the more usual 'edge drag windows'.

  40. desktop cube, wobbly windows, and such are the main reason i switched to linux, makes using the computer much more fluid and enjoyable. and the lack of them in gnome 3 is why i refuse to switch. saying they're useless is like saying it's useless to buy a nice looking car when u can get the same drive train in a cheaper one, or not getting a nice looking tv when u can get some ugly one with the same same specs. why would someone choose to not have it look cooler and be funner to use?

  41. Im using the desktop cube with cube atlantis, wobbly windows and have the water effect and firepaint on hotkey when I feel like using them. This article is the opinion of one person and useless information to anyone else. Use what you like. PS the whole reason I switched to linux was for the cube and if u put rotate cube on ur middle mouse button or another mouse button it makes it really easy to switch sides and is very productive and you can use expo plugin to move windows between workspaces

  42. Wobbly windows are completely useless, but it's something you can't live without once you get used to it.

  43. I too like the Negative plugin, tho' I notice that several use it to reverse a light-font-on-dark-background. i use it for the opposite: i can't stand light backgrounds.. it actually hurts my eyes all that light coming at me. so i prefer what i'm reading to be salient (i.e., light) and the background to fade to black. minimal photons hitting my eyes. instantly feels better. and i'm like the other person -- i tend to do this on a window-by-window basis -- not the whole desktop.

  44. The Negative plugin let us fight with non-professional coding type aka "let's cook tons of new apps but 'forgot' fix important bugs of previous apps". Not only Ubuntu uses nowadays this coding type. Even quite professional frameworks like modern Xilinx ISEs, also follow it. The most important bug of all apps with GUI, is that they can't use black background properly, even when you try tune your system color scheme black. It is due to programmers often just use 'black' colour instead of system theme's text colour, etc. It is insane behaviour, because it can't be fixed by theming. Black background burn people's eyes since WYSIWYG and GUI was introduced. And only way to fight with it is NEG plugin. System just almost useless for continuous use, without Neg plugin. Also please read more how you can enhance the Neg so it will not damage colours:

  45. The negative plugin is good when you are working at night or reading an e-book at night. Hurts the eyes less