[HowTo] Set Terminal As a Transparent Wallpaper In Your Ubuntu Desktop

In Ubuntu (and many other Linux distro), the Terminal is the single application that is used most frequently. Rather than seeing the monotonous black on white background everytime you launch it, why not set it as an eyecandy on your desktop?

terminal on desktop

Configuring the Terminal Profile

The profile allows you to configure how your Terminal behaves and looks.

Open up your Terminal (Applications->Accessories->Terminal).

Create a new profile (File->New Profile).

Set trans as the profile name.

Under the General tab,

  • uncheck the box “Show menubar by default in new terminals

Under the Title and Command tab

  • Set “Dynamically-set title” as “Isn’t displayed”

Under the Color tab

  • Uncheck the box “Use colors from system theme“. Ignore the Built-In schemes dropdown box. Select the text color that you want it to display on your desktop. Make sure that it is not the same color as your current desktop wallpaper

Under the Effects tab

  • Select “Transparent background” and drag the slider to “None

Under the Scrolling tab

  • In the “Scrollbar is” drop down box, select “disabled

That’s all. Click close to exit.

Configuring via the Compiz Way

The following method requires CompizFusion that is come preinstalled if you are running Ubuntu Gutsy or Hardy. If your computer does not supports Compiz, you can follow the method here

Install CCSM

From your Synaptic Package Manager, install compizconfig-settings-manager, or in the terminal,

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

Open up your CCSM (System->Preferences -> Advanced Desktop Effects Setting).

  1. Under Utility (click the Utility option on the left), activate Regex Matching (by placing a check on the box).
  2. Under Effect,  activate Windows Decoration. Click on it to enter its configuration page. Under the Decoration windows field, enter !title=trans. Click Back.
  3. Under the Window Management, activate Window Rules and Place Window
    • In the Window Rules configuration page, enter title=trans in the following fields ‘Skip taskbar‘, ‘skip pager‘, ‘Below‘, ‘Sticky‘. ‘Non-resizable windows‘, ‘non-minimizable windows‘, ‘non-maximizable window‘ and ‘non-closable windows‘. In the ‘Size rules‘ tab. Select New and enter the following:

      Feel free to adjust the width and the height to match your desktop size.
    • In the Place Window configuration page, under the Fixed Window Placement tab, select New and enter the following:

      This will fix the window on the top left hand corner of your desktop (You can use Alt+Left mouse click to move the terminal around)

Close the CCSM. You are done with the configuration. To activate the terminal wallpaper, Press Alt-F2 and enter the following command:

gnome-terminal -–window-with-profile=trans

Configuring via the devilspie way (if your computer does not supports Compiz)

Install devilspie

sudo apt-get install devilspie

Create the devilspie directory and edit the configuration file.

mkdir ~/.devilspie
gedit ~/.devilspie/trans.ds

Enter the following code inside the text editor

(matches (window_name) "trans")
(set_workspace 1)
(wintype "utility")
(geometry "+0+0")
(geometry "1280x50")

and save it.

Press Alt-F2, enter


Press Alt-F2 again

gnome-terminal –window-with-profile=trans



  1. btw. what tool do you use for the deskbar or whatever that thing is called, that displays the icons in the lower part of your screenshot?

  2. I use cairo dock, but my icons look way too stretched, yours look perfect.

  3. @ovidiu: I used AWN. I have tried cairo dock, it just didn’t work well on my desktop

  4. I somehow can’t get rid of the window frame. Any suggestions?

  5. By the way, most of the windows rules don’t seem to work. I can close, move, resize and do a lot more with the window. I used compiz and entered all the values given above. They also match the window’s name. What’s wrong?

  6. @35713: Did you enable the ‘Regex matching’ and ‘Windows Rules’ in Compiz?

  7. Yes, I did. I just typed “compiz” into a Terminal and got the following message:

    patz@patz-laptop:~$ compiz
    Checking for Xgl: not present.
    Detected PCI ID for VGA: 01:00.0 0300: 1002:7149 (prog-if 00 [VGA controller])
    Checking for texture_from_pixmap: not present.
    Trying again with indirect rendering:
    Checking for texture_from_pixmap: present.
    Checking for non power of two support: present.
    Checking for Composite extension: present.
    Comparing resolution (1400×1050) to maximum 3D texture size (4096): Passed.
    Checking for nVidia: not present.
    Checking for FBConfig: present.
    Checking for Xgl: not present.
    /usr/bin/compiz.real (video) – Warn: No 8 bit GLX pixmap format, disabling YV12 image format
    Starting gtk-window-decorator
    GConf backend: There is an unsupported value at path /apps/compiz/plugins/scale/allscreens/options/initiate_edge. Settings from this path won’t be read. Try to remove that value so that operation can continue properly.

    Anyway, ALL my windows are now equipped with the settings applied in Advanced Desktop Effect Settings. I cannot replace them, I cannot resize them, some of them do not have a frame – but the Terminal still has :D

    I reckon I have to start compiz to apply the settings to the trans-windows and somehow make sure that it affects this window only.

  8. Ah, I got it!

    By setting an exclamation mark in front of the “title=transparent” (!title=transparent) under Effects – Window Decoration, I enabled all the other settings for this one window ONLY. And by typing in compiz, I started the windows effects I had disabled before manually. Now, the frame disappeared, finally.

    I just have one more concern: When I click on the Desktop button, the Terminal disappears. I can’t even switch onto it, because it seems to be running in the background only. Any chance to make sure the terminal is always visible, over the desktop, but not over other windows?

    And is there any chance to disable the flashing cursor and let the cursor stand still?

  9. Yet another issue: The windows does not go past half the screen’s height. Although I defined 700×950 pixels, it does only go about 500 pixels in height.

    How can I change that? Changing the settings has no effect at all.

  10. @35713: If you understand the logic behind all this, you will understand its limitations as well. What this hack does is to change the window decoration and profile such that it appears to be embedded on the desktop. In actual fact, the Terminal is still running as an individual application. When you minimize to show desktop, the terminal will minimize as well. The same theory goes for the other stuffs.

  11. Hey Damien!

    Of course, I do understand what I am doing when manipulating all these settings. Still, is there not the possibility to allow a windows being shown on top of the desktop but not on top of other windows?

    And have you got an explanation for my window size not being correct?

  12. how can i get my options back to change my profile back…cant seem to find it..i still have the window around the terminal but nothing on the window except to close it….looks great but just doesnt work with my desktop

  13. great! isn’t possible to set a differente terminal for each desktop?

    1. Not quite possible at the moment.

  14. I had the same problem where the window would not disappear in 9.04. There is one small change that will keep terminal from showing up the how you want it to. In terminal under “Profile Preferences” change the option “When terminal commands set their own titles:” to “Keep initial title”. Followed the rest of the instructions to the dot and it worked perfectly. Thanks!

    1. I am glad that it worked for you.

  15. Hi, great post.
    But one thing, after doing all that, my backspace and arrow keys are
    not working properly, it’s a mess. By pressing the backspace key I get
    some symbols, also with esc key. I spent some time trying to figure it how but
    I have no idea how to get those keys again. The compatibility tab doesn’t change a thing.

    1. @seba: Did you configure it the Compiz way or devilspie way? Perhaps you want to check your Compiz setting again and see if you have any amendment previously?

  16. @Damien.
    Hi, I actually used the Compiz approach, and I left everything the way it was before changing a thing. The funny thing is that the
    “backspace” key returned ^H on a xgterm before, now it works as it was in a gnome-terminal (delete), whereas the same key now returns a small square with 0s and a 1 (or seven) in a gnome-terminal. Same behavior with the arrow keys.
    I couldn’t find anything clear about this subject.

  17. Bad advice! I followed instructions and ended up with a terminal that displays a normal window with window borders and no menu so I cannot, without researching how to reset, undo this change. Very, very, bad advice.

  18. I've followed similar instructions in the past and it worked. Your instructions for Compiz worked for me again. Thanks a lot.

    Compiz settings seem to required closing and re-opening the window to apply.

    People who had trouble with this need to know that there are many steps in the process and many places for error.

Comments are closed.

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