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Prerequisites 1. You need to figure out whether your computer is capable of running AWN. Your computer needs to be capable of compositing support, which allows for "real" transparency, among other things. This means, for example, that you should be able to make translucent/transparent any window, and be able to see the windows that are behind it. Your distribution may have documentation (either official or user-generated) on which compositing method and which X drivers you can use and how to install/configure it. This particular topic can be complex depending on the hardware and distribution, with users having a wide variety of opinions on which combinations work best, so it is greatly preferred that it is discussed elsewhere. Here is some information for several distributions:
* Gentoo guides (via gentoo-wiki): X11 transparency overview, AIGLX, XGL * Ubuntu's official desktop-effects guide: Feisty (7.04), Gutsy (7.10), Hardy
(8.04), Intrepid (8.10)
* openSUSE wiki guides : AIGLX, Xgl * Fedora wiki: Information on compositing
2. Make sure that your X installation has the "Composite" extension enabled. Again, the links above and/or your distribution's documentation/user support will help you with this, as this is beyond the scope of this document.
3. You need to install and run a compositing manager. There are several currently available:
* Beryl/Compiz/Compiz Fusion: This group tends to be the most popular among
compositing managers, because of the number of effects you can achieve with it, such as "wobbly windows", minimize/maximize effects, workspaces laid out on a three-dimensional cube, etc. The Beryl project has merged with the Compiz window manager to form the Compiz Fusion project. It is compatible with both Gtk+ and KDE environments. The downside is that it requires OpenGL (3D rendering) support that some video card drivers do not currently have (for example, older nvidia cards and certain onboard VIA chipsets).
* Xfce: Recent versions of the Xfce desktop environment (starting from version
4.2.0) have added support for compositing in its window manager, xfwm4. However, this feature is configurable at compile-time with a ./configure switch, so if you are running a binary package-based distribution (such as Debian or Fedora), you may or may not have this feature. You can check by going to the "Window Manager Tweaks" configuration dialog and checking for a "Compositor" tab. If it exists, you have compositing support. To enable this feature, select the tab and check "Enable display compositing".
* Metacity: The default window manager for Gnome. Compositing support was started
for this WM in November 2003 (around version 2.7.0), but it has never been very stable. Because of this, it is not enabled in most distributions. Recently though, work started on a new implementation for compositing support that is in version 2.22.0 (and later). To enable the compositing manager, you need to use the "Configuration Editor", AKA gconf-editor, to set the key /apps/metacity/general/compositing_manager to true (i.e., the box must be checked).
* Cairo Compositing Manager: According to its website, it is "a versatile and
extensible composite manager which [uses] cairo for rendering. Rendering can be done in 2D or 3D, using Xrender and Glitz backends." At the time of this writing (2007-11-25), the project is in its infancy and under heavy development, so your mileage may vary.
* xcompmgr: Back before Compiz was created or Xfce had compositing support, this was
the way to make windows translucent and have drop-shadows. It was more of a proof-of-concept application for the new (at the time) Composite extension for X. Unfortunately, this application hasn't been updated since 2005, and doesn't have an official release. It is not recommended that you use this.