Short Tip: Use composition effects in KDE 4 without fancy graphic cards

There is an easy way of enabling KWin’s composition capabilities even if you don’t have the possibility to run OpenGL. In fact, you can even activate composition within a virtual machine like VirtualBox.

Just right-click on a window title bar, choose “Configure Window Behaviour…”, click on “Desktop Effects”, mark the check box “Desktop Effects”, click on advanced options, and choose the “Compositing Type” XRender. Afterwards, most simple effects will just work, but effects like the cover flow window switcher, which require heavier OpenGL, might not work.

XRender compositing effects

You can see more screenshots at Ivo Anjo’s blog post about it. Thanks for the hint, Ivo 🙂

16 thoughts on “Short Tip: Use composition effects in KDE 4 without fancy graphic cards”

  1. That’s a wrong way to put it.

    There’s no hardware on the market that would be able to accelerate Render but not OpenGL. The fact that those effects run faster is directly caused by the fact that they are a lot simpler.

    In terms of graphics on those old low level systems there’s no difference between Render or OpenGL – they both will run all in software. It’s possible that Mesa3D is less optimized for some of the 2D operations but in general I’d be skeptical of even that.

  2. Hi Zack, thx for the comment. Is it better now?
    The idea of this post is simply to tell people how to test some effects within virtual machines.

  3. thanks for this.
    I actually was able to see some effects in action for the first time.

    unfortunately, my joy only lasted about 10 seconds as I soon discovered that emacs would no longer un-minimize from the task bar. So I turned off desktop effects.

    perhaps it is time to finally leave 20+ years of emacs behind and move to kate 🙂 or buy a new graphics card.

  4. thank you, it’s the first time any desktop effects works on my computer. I have old laptop with sis 650m integrated graphic card. It doesn’t support dri, so i was very suprised that anything like that can run on it 🙂

    thanks to people who make this

  5. allen: I have had the same with firefox – it wont unmninimize, but when i restarted it everything wokrs ok. Maybe that’s only bug that triggers when desktop effects are applied on running applications.

  6. re unminimize:
    That seems like a bug when enabling the effects. You can get it to draw if you right click->resize the (invisible) window.

  7. Cool tip! I didn’t even realize Virtual Box supported the composite extension *at all*… Now my evil plans to rule the world have gotten all the closer 😛

  8. @Zack: I tried it once with opengl too, but on my laptop (running kubuntu 8.04 with trident driver) all I got was a blank screen.

    Just tried it with opengl inside virtualbox (using vesa driver) and it misbehaves too — very slow and unresponsible, even on my overclocked 3.1ghz pentium dual core desktop, making it totally unusable.

  9. Works for me. Well, sort of. I can enable desktop effects with xrender, but most effects don’t work. Not even shadow. However I don’t really care about that. I turned every single effect off, and still get the advantage of transparency and plasma themes looking as they should with minimal performance impact.

    OpenGL works for about 10 seconds and then crashes X, so this is my only option.

  10. It does not work for me. The desktop effects configuration panel says that my system [I don’t have acceleration] does not handle composition, and “Required X extensions (XComposite and XDamage) are not available”. Everything is disabled, even the Advanced options button. I tried KDE 4.0.3 on openSUSE 10.3. Is this a new feature?

  11. @Grosz: You do need to enable the composite extension in X for the effects to work. Just have to add the relevant lines in xorg.conf

    @liquidat I have an Ati Xpress 200m. It’s pretty much established that OpenGL is broken on the free drivers. No OpenGL apps work. Not worth a bug as devs are aware of the siutation.

  12. @Leo S: The current version of the Free Software radeon driver (i.e. what you get when you install Fedora 9) is supposed to support 3D acceleration (DRI) on the Xpress 200 series now.

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