Since KDE 3, with each update, the number of desktop effects multiplied. Let’s take a trip into the land of KDE’s desktop effects and look at how you can use them to improve both your desktop’s aesthetics and usability.
KDE had the reputation of being the most demanding desktop environment. Its effects used to put an extra toll on resources and induce significant lag, but not anymore – at least, not if you bought your PC within the decade. Check out our KDE review for that.
If your PC isn’t a two-decade-old relic, KDE will automatically recognize its GPU and enable its compositor. Under normal circumstances, you don’t have to do anything to enable its support for effects.
Start by ensuring that KDE’s compositor is enabled and working. Press Alt + F2 and type compositor. Select the related System Settings entry. Ensure that “Enable compositor at startup” is active.
On older hardware, you can change the scale method to “Crisp” or “Smooth,” tearing prevention (“vsync”) to “Only when cheap” or “Never,” and disable “Keep window thumbnails.”
We should note, though, that due to their nature, extra effects still induce some lag, no matter your compositor or desktop environment. If you enable a lot of effects, you may feel your mouse cursor trying to keep up with you. In such a case, the only solution is to go back and disable some effects.
Enable Desktop Effects
KDE comes with an assortment of effects that can improve your desktop’s aesthetics, accessibility and even help you focus.
To quickly locate their settings page, press Alt + F2 and type “desktop effects.” Select the System Settings entry, and you’ll find all effects in thematic groups.
The Accessibility section offers a collection of visual enhancements and functions that can ease your computer’s use.
- Invert – inverts the screen’s colors at the press of a shortcut to improve readability.
- Mouse Click Animation adds animation to every mouse click, assisting in locating the cursor, and is also useful for screen recordings and presentations.
- Snap Helper helps locate the center of the screen when moving windows around.
- Track Mouse is the equivalent of sonar for your mouse cursor, helping you locate it with the press of a key combination.
- Looking Glass shows a fisheye lens magnifier.
- Magnifier works like Looking Glass but without the fisheye effect.
- Zoom is the even simpler version of the two magnifiers, magnifying the entire desktop.
Under Appearance, you’ll find effects that tweak how your desktop looks. Some of them are listed below.
- Blur is useful only when used in conjunction with semi-transparent windows since it blurs the background behind them to improve the foreground’s readability.
- Desaturate Unresponsive Applications can “drain the color” from a frozen application’s windows.
- Mouse Mark can be ultra-useful in streaming, video conferences, and vidcasts since it allows you to draw lines on your desktop directly.
Candy is one thing you can do without them, but it doesn’t hurt trying them on to see if you like them.
Here you’ll find effects like “Fall Apart,” which when closing a window makes it fall into pieces, and “Wobbly Windows,” which when you move a window around, it deforms it as if made of jello.
The Focus group of effects visually prioritizes the points of interest on the desktop through different approaches. Among them, you’ll find:
- Dialog Parent, which darkens a parent window when it presents a dialog.
- Dim Inactive, that keeps the window you’re working on normal brightness but dims the other windows the longer you don’t turn your attention to them.
- Dim Screen for Administrator Mode does precisely that, turning everything darker when you have to enter your root password.
Show Desktop Animation
A mix of usability and eye candy, the effects here aren’t essential either, but you should give them a try to check if you like them.
For example, “Window Aperture” moves a window into the corners when showing the desktop.
Do you want to know if your desktop updates as quick as your screen? Enable “Show FPS.” Would you like to know which areas of the desktop were recently updated? Put a tick in “Show Paint”
Virtual Desktop Switching Animation
A cube is one of the alternative animations for switching between virtual desktops. The other’s an even simpler fade effect, perfect for those who want their desktop to present smoother transitions but don’t like bling.
KDE comes with some alternative ways to present windows on the desktop. Some of them are:
Present Windows, which zooms out to show all opened windows side by side.
For quicker performance, enabling “Resize Window” swaps the default window scaling method for a speedier texture resize. It may look blurrier and not transition smoothly between window sizes. Still, it takes better advantage of the GPU and feels snappier.
Window Open/Close Animation
If you don’t like how the windows you open and close appear like they fade in/fade out, you can make them “Glide” instead. Alternatively, you can have them “Scale” in and out.
Get More Desktop Effects
You can click the “Get New Desktop Effects” button at the bottom right of the effects list to download even more effects. Try out “Rubberband Maximize Animation” if you like how windows look while maximizing on Windows 10 or “Grayscale Effect” if you want to globally mute the colors of your desktop environment.
Are you using KDE desktop effects on your computer? If you prefer something that is more lightweight, try Compton. If you are experiencing a screen tearing issue, here is how to fix it.