Programster's Blog

Tutorials focusing on Linux, programming, and open-source

Debian 9 Mate - Installing Compiz And Emerald

Compiz can be a bugger to set up if your distro doesn't ship with it, but its worth putting the effort in because of all the subtle improvements it makes. The most noticeable for me is the graceful resizing of complicated windows. Without compiz, they will stutter during the transition, but with compiz its silky smooth. Other major benefits are the ring switcher and the desktop wall, as well as all the subtle animations it adds, such as when minimizing/restoring a window.

Figuring out how to get Compiz working without losing my window decorations (borders), and then figuring out how to stop it looking butt-ugly (this is where emerald comes in), took a lot of time to figure out. Unfortunately I didn't just find a single source that told me how to do it, but tried lots of different things some of which didnt work and I uninstalled before I got it to work. I am pretty sure these are the commands necessary to go straight to a working solution.

At the end of it, you can have compiz enabled and a look similar to below:

That screenshot is using the Arc theme that I have another tutorial for.



# Start off by installing compiz from native packages
sudo apt-get install compiz compizconfig-settings-manager compiz-mate -y

# Install package source key
wget -q -O- | \
sudo apt-key add - 

# Install package source
sudo echo "deb $(lsb_release -sc) main" | \
sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/compiz-debian.list && sudo apt-get update

# Update package cache
sudo apt-get update

# Install compiz-reloaded and emerald
sudo apt-get install compiz-reloaded
sudo apt-get install emerald emerald-themes fusion-icon simple-ccsm-reloaded compiz-reloaded-plugins-extra


The steps before were to get compiz to work. Once you've done that, you will probably notice that your windows look butt ugly as shown below:

If you're happy with how they look you can just stop here, however, if you are like me and just can't grow to love them, here is a solution.

Run the following command to replace the window decorator with emerald:

emerald --replace &

The first time you do this, it may look even worse. Don't panic. Open the Emerald tool by going to:

System > Preferences > Look and Feel > Emerald Theme Manager

Then in the pop up window try clicking on the different themes and the window decoration will change in real-time. I found that my favourite was numix:


The theme I used for the screenshot in the description was numix, but here is a list of ones that I thought were good (in order of preference).

  • numix
  • Ambiance_ubuntu
  • numix_tangoish
  • wombat_black
  • pint

Double Click to Maximise

By default, emerald will fold up the window when you double click the title bar. You may wish for it to maximise the window instead.

Tweaking Compiz

To customize compiz, such as by enabling the ring switcher and the desktop wall, go to:

System > Preferences > Look and Feel > CompizConfig Settings Manager

The settings are pretty self explanatory. Have a play.


Last updated: 9th May 2020
First published: 16th August 2018