How To Edit Compiz Settings in Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal Easily?

OK, first of all, I think everyone is aware of the fact that Ubuntu Linux (especially the Unity desktop) heavily depends on Compiz (one of the best window-manager that uses your GPU - ATI/Nvidia and Intel, etc.. 3D hardware accelerations or 3D Graphics rendering in general). So configuring Compiz in Ubuntu Linux can be pretty handy, only if you know what you're doing, no disrespect intended.

Although you can easily do this by installing a well known front-end but still, even without having to install anything at all, you can change a lot of Compiz related settings in Ubuntu 11.04 using the Gnome configuration manager called "Gconfig-editor".

And I think it's always best to start with the somewhat the "hard-way", which always helps me, when it comes to quickly learning GNU/Linux and its other aspects. Don't you think? :). Okay, let's get started. 

1. Open your Terminal and issue the below command.

2. This should bring you the Gnome Configuration editor as shown below. From the left side choose:"apps" -> "compiz-1".

Now under "compiz-1", go to "plugins". There you'll see a hell lot of options :P that can be used to configure compiz pretty easily. But as I said before, even the most smallest change can have a significant effect on Ubuntu 11.04 because Unity desktop is actually a plug-in that runs on top of Compiz 3D rendering engine!.

Oh you can change a lot... but be careful!...

So, if you successfully messed up Compiz then you can actually reset all those value to the default ones by issuing the below commands in your Terminal.
gconftool-2 --recursive-unset /apps/compiz-1
unity --reset 
It's advisable to log out of your desktop and to log in or do a reboot. Still this is not a guarantee that this command will fix everything..., so change Compiz at your own risk or try to remember the changes (which is not that easy anyway).

Don't try to change settings like the "refresh rate" values in those options, for instance, if you don't know what you're doing, because it can easily "burn" your GNU/Linux Laptop or PC's monitor!.

And if you change Compiz settings related to Unity only via: "apps" -> "compizconfig-1" -> "profiles" -> "unity",

Then use the below command in your Linux Terminal to reset all the values to default ones.
unity --reset
And remember although there can be small risks involved, yet when it comes learning to use GNU/Linux, we all have to do a little bit of testing :D. Good luck.


d3vkit said...

Since it wasn't mentioned, I believe the "well-known front end" for compiz is CompizConfig Settings Manager. Should one want to install this instead, in the terminal type (or copy+paste):
sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

And then you can find it in System Settings -> Personal -> CompizConfig Settisn Manager
Alt+F2: ccsm

Bill said...

your reset command just saved me from hours of frustration. thanks!!

Gayan said...


The pleasure is all mine :)

House said...

This is excellent thanks guys. So that it gets found by the search engines:
Ubuntu menu lost
Ubuntu 11.04 menu restore
Ubuntu desktop missing
Fix compiz in a terminal
and anything else that us poor souls can think of :)

Gayan said...

really... I feel like a superstar already :P... (kidding...). Thanks for the appreciation :).

Anonymous said...

awesome! pretty helpful, thanks

bajangejang said...

thanks a lot.. :-)

Anonymous said...

how long does this process run??

Gayan said...

@ Anonymous,

What did you mean? :/...

Anonymous said...

carefull with CCSM though, it can cause errors where you lose functions, and you have to reset unity, so d3vkit, yes you can on some computers, but not on others without certain drivers

Anonymous said...

Great writeup, Gayan. Thanks.
If only I found this earlier.. messed up my compiz settings and have finally given up on ubuntu (natty). Moved back to Debian Squeeze since then :-)

Gayan said...


Sorry to hear that ... oh wait!, I actaully feel more safer around Debian than when I'm "with" Unity (ubuntu is not my main distro either)... so___ good for you :)

Replier said...

compiz effects ubuntu 11.04. 3rd hit on Google!

Pattayi machan :-)

Gayan said...


Isthuthie :D...

Alex said...


Gayan said...


So... Ubuntu was that bad to you ha ;-)...

Anonymous said...

Hi.. i am expiriencing the same problem by compiz but unfortunately i cant even run terminal too.even i press alt-f2 too.. whats the reason how to restore my window side bars and ubuntu panel ?

Gayan said...


Hi and sorry to hear that...

I assume that you had a working Unity 3D desktop previously. If you did then try pressing

"Alt" + "Ctrl" + "F2" on your keyboard which should open a new command-line window and log-in to Ubuntu using the command-line (use your user account that has those above mentioned issues).

Then try issueing the above commands ("unity --reset" or "gconftool-2 --recursive-unset /apps/compiz-1
unity --reset" or them both for instance) and when done reboot the pc by using the below command.

sudo reboot

Now try logging into the Unity 3D. Although I'm not sure if it'll work... but it's worth trying. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

This was very helpful. Thank you very much.

Gayan said...


lol :D

Scott Dunn said...

The problem is that the CCSM will break the window manager. The configuration utility needs to be rewritten to prevent conflicts from being set. Here is a page that briefly explains it.

SudeepShakya said...

thanks a lot
i tried to use the wobbly window
and then i messed up

Gayan said...


Whoops ;-)...

Deep said...

Grr !! WTF Problem LOL !!
Thanks for the solutions... herre is how it worked for me ...

1. Hard Reboot
2. Ctrl + alt + F2 at login..
3. sudo gconftool-2 --recursive-unset /apps/compiz-1
4. sudo unity --reset
5. sudo reboot

Gayan said...


Okay, I took your comment as a compliment :) lol!.

richesrahul said...

thankx a lot dude u saved my day...

Gayan said...


You are welcome! ;-)

Anonymous said...

thanks...helped me a lot

Gayan said...

@ Anonymous,

Glad it helped you! :D...

LanceRooke said...

None of these commands are working for me. I think I have to reinstall Ubuntu 11.10.

Herman en Juliette van der Vaart said...

After upgrading to 11.10, Unity worked fine. Using CCSM I even managed to reduce the size of the icons. I also got my wobbling windows working. It went hopelesly wrong when I wanted to get my 3D cube back and the launcher disappeared from the screen. I used the commands described above but I never got to the reboot part because the unity --reset action hangs somewhere in the process:
unity --reset
unity-panel-service: no process found
Checking if settings need to be migrated
Checking if internal files need to be migrated
Backend : gconf
Integration : true
Profile : default
Adding plugins
Skipping upgrade com.canonical.unity.unity.01.upgrade
Skipping upgrade com.canonical.unity.unity.02.upgrade
Initializing core options...done
Initializing bailer options...done
Initializing detection options...done
Initializing composite options...done
Initializing opengl options...done
Initializing decor options...done
Initializing mousepoll options...done
Initializing vpswitch options...done
Initializing animation options...done
Initializing snap options...done
compiz (expo) - Warn: failed to bind image to texture
Initializing expo options...done
Initializing move options...done
Initializing place options...done
Initializing grid options...done
Initializing gnomecompat options...done
Initializing wall options...done
Initializing ezoom options...done
Initializing workarounds options...done
Initializing staticswitcher options...done
Initializing resize options...done
Initializing fade options...done
Initializing scale options...done
Initializing session options...done

and then it hangs.
Suggestions how to continue are very much appreciated!!!

Gayan said...


First of all, sorry about the late response, went to a funeral of a friend (you know the dude got married today :P).

Anyhow, although I can't give you a certain reason but, I don't think this unity-reset command will work since as you said, it happened after you played with the Cube settings.

So the best thing to do is to first disable the cube related setting that you made (if you don't remember it at all then you'll have to reset all the manual Compiz settings using the other command it the post) and then use the unity-reset command.

And if you haven't you should install a proper GPU driver (which you'd probably know of course) and lastly.... although some like CCSM I don't like it at all because it causes these types of messes usually.

In that case I humbly advice to edit compiz setting in 11.10 using
this post that I wrote few weeks ago.

I'm pretty sure this is not the answer that you wanted... but it's the best I can do. Sorry about that.

Herman en Juliette van der Vaart said...


Sorry to hear from your friend! Though I do have sympathy for him, being married myself for 38 years.

I followed your advice, but did not know what the safe settings are. So what I did was to take a 2nd laptop (with active unity), run gconf-editor on both of them and compare the options settings site by site.
Bingo!! Success at the first screen.
The options under "general" had several missing keys, the most important one beiing "active_plugins". I have manually re-entered the entire list, and when I entered "unityshell", the screen went blank and came back a few seconds later WITH the unity launcher!

Thanks man, my marriage is safe again. This was my wife's laptop........:-)
This was a very helpfull post.

Gayan said...


The pleasure is all mine dude ;-).

Anonymous said...

You are the best man in a fourum that I have ever met thank u man

Gayan said...


Oh why thank you :D!.

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