Run Compiz with Xfce4

Jack Wallen
Jul 11, 2010
Updated • Dec 5, 2012

So you're enjoy the series on Xfce4. What's more, you're enjoying Xfce4 itself! It's a fantastic desktop environment that should get far more attention than it does. And because Xfce 4 is so lightweight, you might get the idea that you could easily add more to it and hardly feel the hit. You are very correct with that though. In fact, you could add, say , Compiz (and Emerald) into the mix and hardly notice. But why would you do that? Because you can. That's what is so great about the Linux desktop - if you can think of it, more than likely you can do it.

With that said, in this entry to the Xfce4 series I am going to show you how to run Compiz (and, if you like, Emerald) along with Xfce 4. With this combination you can enjoy a snappy desktop filled with extra features.

What you need

Obviously you are going to need the hardware that will run Compiz. This isn't such a big deal these days. You will also need both Compiz and (obviously) Xfce4 installed. If you want to add Emerald into the mixture you can install that as well. All three of these components can be found in your Add/Remove Software tool.

Once you have them all installed do yourself a favor and first log into Xfce4 just to make sure everything is working as you would expect it to. Once you have that up and running you are ready to go.


The first thing we are going to do is add Compiz into the mix. This will give you features like the Cube, animation effects, window effects, etc. Once you have Compiz installed you will have everything you need to pull this off. But let's first make sure everything is in working order before we set this up to autorun at start (which we'll do in a moment).

Open up a terminal window and issue the command:

compiz --replace ccp &

What should happen now is Compiz will start leaving Xfce4 running as well. More than likely you won't get your bash prompt back. If you hit <Ctrl>c (within the terminal window you started Compiz with) Compiz will stop and you will have your bash prompt back.

Now, with Compiz working properly, let's set this up to auto start. Here are the steps:

  1. Click Start > Preferences > Xfce 4 Settings Manager
  2. Click on the Application Autostart tab.
  3. Click the Add button.
  4. Enter Compiz for the name, Compiz Startup, for the description, and the same command you entered above, minus the "&" (compiz --replace ccp) in the Command section.
  5. Click OK.

Now log out of Xfce4 and log back in. You should notice Compiz starting up fairly quickly (after Xfce4 starts).


Let's add Emerald to the mix. I will warn you though, if you use Emerald you will lose all of the settings available to the Xfce4 window manager. So if you prefer the Xfce4 window manager, don't use Emerald. If you want to use Emerald first test it to make sure it works by doing the following:

  1. Open up a terminal window.
  2. Issue the command emerald --replace &.

Emerald should start now. To get your terminal back click <Ctrl>c in the same window you started Emerald with. Once you know Emerald is working properly you can add it to the startup in the same manner as you did Compiz. The only difference will be what you enter in the Add application window. Here you will add:

  • Name: Emerald
  • Description: Emerald Startup
  • Command: emerald --replace

Now log out and log in. Both Compiz and Emerald should start. You now have an Xfce4 desktop with Compiz and Emerald added goodness.

Final thoughts

The Xfce4 desktop environment isn't looking so shabby now is it? I am really impressed with all of the progress this desktop environment has made since its early days. I hope you are enjoying Xfce4, much in the same way I am. And, of course, there are further adventures to come.


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  1. debian said on November 27, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    no , there is no problem, go to CompizConfig Settings Manager(ccsm) there enable the decoration window, I just did so ,now you have maximize – minimize butons. good luck guys!

  2. Shawn said on November 11, 2012 at 4:44 am

    Ah yeah, I’m running Compiz, so maybe that’s the problem….

  3. Lasher said on November 5, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    I’m curious to know what version of Compiz you guys who are having problems are running. The newer unstable version (0.9.x) are more geared toward working for unity. I’m right now this minute installing XFCE (Mint13) for the first time. What I inend to do is compile the proper, stable 0.8.8 from source. This was the version I was running on Mint 9 up until 30 minutes ago, granted I was in Gnome 2, but I’m keen to see if this gets things working as they should.

    1. Lasher said on November 7, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      Ok, tried it… no go. Compiling from source breaks it. Too many dependancies have moved on

  4. Shanw said on October 22, 2012 at 12:34 am

    I followed these steps, and it looks like running Compiz as my window manager breaks a few things. When I switch to Compiz, I seem to lose the ability to move windows around, alt-tab between windows, or change workspaces. This seems to be the case for using Metacity as my window manager as well, and using Emerald or GTK for my window decorator.

    I miss my eye candy :(. Also, XFCE doesn’t seem to get along with transparency effects for me, so I can only get things like a transparent terminal if I run a different window manager (which unfortunately also means my windows don’t otherwise function properly).

  5. neumann n. said on October 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    re: Alvin

    I did this. Ending up with the same result. : ) no windows borders : )

  6. Alvin B. said on September 11, 2012 at 3:49 am

    This doesn’t work without Emerald. If you do compiz –replace on top of XFWM it kills the window decorations but doesn’t replace them. You have no window frames! Obviously someone did not actually do this.

  7. David said on December 22, 2011 at 11:27 am

    You have to use 2 –

    The command is compiz — replace ccp &

    – – replace

  8. bucleif said on December 8, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    when I run in the terminal ccp compiz-replace & I get this:

    [1] 1432
    [home @ home ~] $ compiz (core) – Error: Screen 0 on display “: 0.0” already have a window manager, try using the – replace option to replace the current window manager.
    compiz (core) – Fatal: No manageable screens found on display: 0.0

    I can do?

  9. dave said on November 4, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Xfce does not seem to be liking this. I can get it working, but it always has trouble negotiating conflicts between compiz and xfwm4. Also, xfdesktop is creating a lot of problems. The more you chip away at the Xfce package, the more the session breaks down.

    I blame Xfconf, because it is so critical to the session’s cohesion but so scarce for configuration. I can’t figure out how to use Xfce as a session manager + panels + compiz.

    Emerald is and has been a dead project, unfortunately. It’s amazing that it continues to be packaged in the repositories, considering how defunct it really is. It’s because of Ubuntu’s love for Compiz that it continues this way, I think.. I personally love both programs and wish that Emerald had been given more attention.

    Luckily, Jasper could still end up becoming a good successor. Anyone reading this article now, however, is going to start running in to problems.

  10. Morris Jones said on November 2, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    This seems to have stopped working …

    I’m trying out the latest LinuxMint (Debian edition) with xfce 4.8. I can indeed launch compiz from a terminal window, but putting it in as an auto startup app leaves me with wallpaper and no panel or desktop.

    And searching for “emerald” in the software manager now turns up an empty result. :(

    (I’m an Ubuntu refugee.)


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