How to Enable Dynamic Transparency Ubuntu

Ubuntu Dynamic Transparency Featured

With the release of GNOME 3.22, the developers removed dynamic transparency from the top bar. In the past, GNOME’s top bar on Ubuntu was mostly transparent until a window touched it. It made the desktop environment, especially on distributions like Ubuntu, cleaner and much less cluttered, making it a favorite among users. That’s a real shame, too, because there don’t appear to be any concrete plans to bring it back.

Ubuntu Disco Desktop

Thankfully, GNOME extension developers sprung into action to bring back dynamic transparency. So, getting it back on Ubuntu 19.04 is a breeze.

Install the Firefox Extension

Ubuntu Firefox Gnome Integration

To start, you’re going to need a package that enables the Firefox extension to work. The setup might seem like a lot, but you won’t need to do it again, and the combination of the Firefox extension and this package will allow you to download any GNOME extension and enable it right from the Web.

First, install the package.

sudo apt install chrome-gnome-shell

Go to the GNOME Shell Integration Firefox add-on page, and add it to Firefox.

Install the GNOME Extension

You’re ready to install the GNOME extension. Head over to the Dynamic Panel Transparency extension page on GNOME’s site. You’ll see a toggle switch in the upper-right corner of the page. Flip it on to enable dynamic transparency on your system.

Ubuntu Gnome Enable Dynamic Transparency

Give it a few seconds to download and set up the extension. After it’s done, test it out. Minimize all of your windows, and take a look at your desktop. Is the top panel semi-transparent? That means it’s working. Try dragging a window up to the top. If your top panel becomes opaque, everything’s working normally, and you have dynamic transparency on your system.

Ubuntu Disco Desktop Transparency

Make the Dock Transparent Too

After seeing how much nicer your desktop can look with transparency in the top panel, you may be tempted to do the same with your dock. There really isn’t a super convenient solution for this one, but it’s certainly not difficult to do. First, install dconf to be able to edit the GNOME configurations.

sudo apt install dconf-editor

Then, open up dconf-editor. It’s a graphical application, and you can search for it. As soon as it opens, you’ll see a warning that you can easily break things. You definitely can but confirm anyway.

Navigate through the menu by clicking on “org -> gnome -> shell -> extensions -> dash-to-dock.” Landing on Ubuntu’s dock settings, scroll down until you see “transparency-mode” and select it.

Ubuntu Dconf Dock Transparency

On the settings page, turn off “Use default value.” Set the custom value to “FIXED” and hit “Apply.”

Ubuntu Dock Set Transparency Value

Back out to the “dash-to-dock” settings. Select “background-opacity.” Toggle off “Use default value” again, and set your opacity value. 1.0 is opaque. 0.0 is entirely transparent. When you’re done, press “Apply.”

Ubuntu Disco Desktop Transparent

That’s it! Your desktop now has dynamic transparency, and you’re able to adjust the transparency of your dock. These methods should work well for a long time moving forward. The GNOME developers may come up with their own implementation of dynamic transparency again, but that probably won’t make its way to Ubuntu for a while.

Nick Congleton
Nick Congleton

Nick is a freelance tech. journalist, Linux enthusiast, and a long time PC gamer.

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