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Do I need a composite manager (compton)?

asked 2014-01-18 20:34:43 +0000

eweber gravatar image

New user of Arch with i3. Out of the box everything looks and runs great. So I'm wondering, should I install a composite manager like Compton?

I actually did install Compton, but don't really notice any difference (other than a gray background/workspace with compton vs a black background/workspace without compton).

Did I launch compton with any command line switches -- no. Am I running compton with a config file -- no. Perhaps that's why I don't notice any difference.

Is there another composite manager that I should consider besides Compton.

Thanks for your help!


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Note that compositing managers are not officially supported with i3. There may be graphical glitches and other weird effects.

Michael gravatar imageMichael ( 2014-01-18 20:37:57 +0000 )edit

If you have a lots of GNOME applications, then the compton can make their corner roundout.

acgtyrant gravatar imageacgtyrant ( 2014-11-10 07:47:15 +0000 )edit

3 answers

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answered 2014-01-19 09:09:41 +0000

TonyC gravatar image

i3 is peculiar among window managers in that it is not a compositing window manager. From Wikipedia:

A compositing window manager is a window manager that provides applications with an off-screen buffer for each window. The window manager composites the window buffers into an image representing the screen and writes the result into the display memory.

i3 depends on an external application for compositing and Compton is an excellent choice if you want to improve rendering quality or apply hardware-accelerated translucency effects.

There are two issues I am aware of that affect stock compositing. One is screen tearing, which you may notice with animated effects such as Firefox's smooth scrolling. Another is a flash of partially rendered content when switching workspaces, or opening and closing windows. Using Compton should resolve those issues if it is configured correctly.

Compton also has special effects it can apply to windows such as fading and shadows. Shadows don't make much sense in a tiling window manager because windows always take up the full area of the screen, so the place where shadows would normally be rendered is off the screen.

Fading is mostly supported except for a bug with vertically split windows. The frame for the titlebars behind these windows is not transparent. The best known workaround for that is to disable titlebars with new_window pixel. This issue might be fixed in a future release.

If you have any questions about using Compton with i3, you can ask them here on the faq.

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Excellent read! Could you maybe specify 'improve rendering quality'?

joepd gravatar imagejoepd ( 2014-01-19 23:28:26 +0000 )edit

TonyC - thanks for your very thorough answer! Somehow I was under the impression that a C.M. made everything look better somehow (fonts, menus, content, etc). Sounds like its more targeted to eye candy at the window-frame level (shadows, fading, translucency, etc). Again, thanks for your time!

eweber gravatar imageeweber ( 2014-01-20 00:27:03 +0000 )edit

@joepd fixing the white flashes and tearing are the only observable improvements in rendering quality I've found so far. To me that makes a big difference. Also, I think that cairo switches to the xrender/glx backend for rendering fonts to bitmaps which should increase speed a little.

TonyC gravatar imageTonyC ( 2014-01-20 16:12:46 +0000 )edit

answered 2014-08-26 09:58:58 +0000

peterN gravatar image

I had some issues with xfce4-terminal and borders. Initially the borders where displayed correctly but after switching workspaces, moving windows around the borders always looked very garbled. I now disabled Compositing in X11/Xorg like this:

Section "Extensions"
    Option    "Composite" "Disabled"

This has solved some ugly visual artifacts I had seen. So it seems one has to either use a compositing tool like compton, which is not officially supported, or disable the Composite Extension in X11/Xorg.

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answered 2015-05-08 12:29:35 +0000

msx gravatar image

These are my settings for Compton with i3, love them actually:

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I wonder why the downvote. Would the anonymous fag behind this dare to explain?

msx gravatar imagemsx ( 2015-05-16 05:35:04 +0000 )edit

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Asked: 2014-01-18 20:34:43 +0000

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Last updated: May 08

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