Matrix Desktop

Matrix Desktop Animation

What you see above is how my desktop looks now. You need to be using gnome to get this working.

Nautilus draws the desktop (including the icons) for you in gnome by default. We have to tell it to stop doing that, so we can do the matrix animation in its place. Nautilus can be configured using gconf.

gconftool-2 --type bool --set /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop false

Now that we have the desktop to ourselves, let us ask xscreensaver ‘glmatrix’ to start drawing itself in the desktop window (‘root’ window).

/usr/lib/xscreensaver/glmatrix -root

If you want the animation every time you log in, open “~/.config/autostart/glmatrix.desktop” in your text editor and paste the following.

[Desktop Entry]
Name=No name
Name[en_IN]=Desktop matrix
Exec=/usr/lib/xscreensaver/glmatrix -root

(suggested by ElecBoy) After playing around, if you want to get back to your default desktop, do

gconftool-2 --type bool --set /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop true && nautilus

11 Trackbacks

  1. [...] like the Matrix look, you can substitute any listed screensaver instead of “glmatrix.” Matrix Desktop [Prashanth [...]

  2. [...] like the Matrix look, you can substitute any listed screensaver instead of “glmatrix.” Matrix Desktop [Prashanth [...]

  3. By » Linux Tip: Use a Screensaver as Desktop Wallpaper on September 14, 2007 at 12:35 am

    [...] like the Matrix look, you can substitute any listed screensaver instead of “glmatrix.” Matrix Desktop [Prashanth [...]

  4. By ElecBoy’s World » Blog Archive on September 14, 2007 at 8:31 am
  5. [...] Oder wie legt man einen Screensaver unter Gnome in den Desktophintergrund bzw. bindet ihn als Wallpaper ein? Genau wird hier beschrieben: Prashanth Ellina [...]

  6. [...] as a Desktop Wallpaper! September 14th, 2007 Posted by Raghunath Linux Don’t believe me? Prashanth Ellina tells you [...]

  7. By Screensaver as a Desktop Wallpaper | on September 15, 2007 at 2:14 am

    [...] Via Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. [...]

  8. [...] –type bool –set /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop true && nautilus Original em: Como o berly não roda no meu note dá pra brinca um pouco mas eu prefiro meu icones ainda… [...]

  9. By Animate your background « 0ddn1x: tricks with *nix on September 21, 2007 at 12:17 am

    [...] Animate your background Filed under: Linux — 0ddn1x @ 2007-09-20 18:58:53 +0000 [...]

  10. [...] Fonte: Prashanth Ellina Blog – Matrix Desktop [...]

  11. By Catatan Afiadi » Screensaver di Desktop Ubuntu 9.04 on September 2, 2009 at 4:52 am

    [...] mulai mencari digoogle dengan kata kunci “Screensaver di Ubuntu desktop” dari link ini kemudian ke link ini dan akhirnya sampai ke link [...]


  1. Mohammed Berdai

    Haha !! That was cool. Thanks ;-)

    For those who want to try it they have to pay attention to the dash in gconftool line.
    They should replace that dash with double dash. like

    gconftool-2 –type bool –set /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop false

    Posted August 23, 2007 at 2:13 pm | Permalink
  2. Thanks. I fixed it now. WordPress was rendering double dash as a single dash when inside a strong tag.

    Posted August 23, 2007 at 3:33 pm | Permalink
  3. For OSX there is a cool tool called DVDesktop which does what you just mentioned (but in a oh so elegant Apple fashion). But apart from animating your desktop with any image file or a gif file, this does even more. You can play a movie and then configure DVDesktop to put the running movie as your desktop background. The movie keeps playing right on your desktop ! Cool aint it ?

    Posted August 24, 2007 at 1:04 am | Permalink
  4. DVDesktop costs $19.95. On Linux “

    mplayer -rootwin

    ” will do the same. for free :)

    Posted August 24, 2007 at 7:38 am | Permalink
  5. codedmind

    Don’t work with compiz :S

    Posted September 13, 2007 at 9:01 pm | Permalink
  6. How do I get nautilus to redraw my desktop?
    ‘gconftool-2 –type bool –set /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop true’ didn’t work. Other than that nice trick :)

    Posted September 13, 2007 at 9:22 pm | Permalink
  7. Joe, try running ‘nautilus’. That worked for me.

    Posted September 13, 2007 at 9:30 pm | Permalink
  8. 123

    neither “gconftool-2 –type bool –set /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop true” nor “just running “nautilus” got my desktop back. help?

    Posted September 13, 2007 at 10:24 pm | Permalink
  9. ElecBoy

    Yes it to gave me problems when I wanted my desktop back but after searching I did found how to remove it, to bad it was not included in the Instructions

    To Remove the Matrix Desktop type this in the Terminal (Shell):

    gconftool-2 -s /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop -t bool true && nautilus

    :P Hope it’ helpś

    Posted September 13, 2007 at 11:55 pm | Permalink
  10. 123

    Thanks ElecBoy, that did it!

    Posted September 14, 2007 at 12:39 am | Permalink
  11. codedmind, These links might help you get it working under compiz.

    Posted September 14, 2007 at 6:47 am | Permalink
  12. Rotten Apple

    Take that dreamscene!

    Posted September 16, 2007 at 9:36 am | Permalink
  13. revchris

    Does this work for KDE also?

    Posted October 10, 2007 at 12:24 am | Permalink
  14. spy

    what if am KDE setup centOS how to configure or fixed it??? please help… thank ;)

    Posted October 15, 2007 at 2:16 pm | Permalink
  15. I found this comment by JAMEYC on this lifehacker article. I haven’t tried this as I do not have KDE installed.

    The method outlined here will work sometimes with some other wm’s but not as well and is fairly Gnome-centric. With most other wm’s you’ll run whichever xscreensaver program you use with the -root option, something like this:

    /usr/lib/xscreensaver/glmatrix -root

    You may have to disable desktop managment in the wm as well, depending on which you use (for example, this works with Gnome after disabling it, but you’ll no longer see desktop icons.)

    Kde has it’s own options for doing this, which can be found in “Appearance & Themes | Background” -> “Advanced Options”. Just tell it to let a program manage drawing the desktop background and pick the program of your choice.

    Posted October 15, 2007 at 2:22 pm | Permalink
  16. revchris


    Posted October 15, 2007 at 5:55 pm | Permalink
  17. k3bab

    How can I disable the matrix desktop from running at startup and rather show the standard desktop? I found out it takes about 80% of my CPU to make it run in the desktop. xP

    Posted October 20, 2007 at 7:49 pm | Permalink
  18. try

    rm ~/.config/autostart/glmatrix.desktop
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 10:03 pm | Permalink
  19. Merrell

    Okay, so I’m running Ubuntu 7.10 with the standard compiz that was included.
    I ran the 1st command : gconftool-2 –type bool –set /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop false
    and that was the last time my compiz was working. None of the other commands on this page can bring it back to life.

    ccsm doesn’t run. I’ve tried rebooting, logging off, etc.
    Please help.

    Posted February 20, 2008 at 11:54 pm | Permalink
  20. coz_

    hey guys,
    There is no need to disable nautilus to have a screensaver as yuur desktop background!!
    I have read this on several sites and it is incorrect!
    all you need is xwinwrap and coobg.
    Xwinwrap , written by Dave Raveman also creator of compiz and coolbg created by cyberor one of the compiz fusion developers.
    No need to stop nautilus writing the desktop!
    i do support for compiz fusion and I use this combination when I want animated desktop

    Posted March 5, 2008 at 11:02 am | Permalink
  21. coz_

    sorry that is xwinwrap and coolbg

    Posted March 5, 2008 at 11:02 am | Permalink
  22. … Could even be simpler … If you are _not_ using gnome …

    As I found the other day, a good ‘ole transparent terminal is a rather fun background too:

    Now for the Matrix one, I favor the non-gl one, called xmatrix,

    The recipe here is to use the Enlightenment DR16 window manager: just fire up
    /usr/libexec/xscreensaver/xmatrix [+any option you'd like, see man xmatrix]
    [Yes, the location of xscreensaver seems to be different on Fedora7...]

    You can link xmatrix from “main” /usr/bin folder:
    cd /usr/bin
    sudo ln /usr/libexec/xscreensaver/xmatrix xmatrix

    Now, get it FullScreen, Borderless, StackedToBelow & use the “remember” feature so that it stays as such… And there you go…

    As stated before, it’s not the first time Enlightenment allows me to do in two clicks what seems to require bits of hacking (how useable is Gnome with the –no-desktop option?) In E DR16, the WM is still there, doesn’t suffer or miss any feature. And no need for added software of course. And windows doesn’t wobble in E: They FLY!

    For GL fans:
    One step further: the Matrix has you, its obscuring your screen:

    Cheers. Sorry if I made a show of myself. Congrats for the original idea!
    :) :)

    Posted April 4, 2008 at 9:26 am | Permalink
  23. Peacepunk, I don’t use Enligtenment myself, but many thanks for sharing the writeup!

    Posted April 4, 2008 at 11:27 pm | Permalink
  24. bpd1069

    try electricsheep with -root 1 -zoom 1
    spectacular, especially if you have a large cache of sheep already…

    Posted May 29, 2008 at 3:16 pm | Permalink
  25. Spectacular! Thanks for the tip.

    Posted June 1, 2008 at 10:29 pm | Permalink
  26. Very good article. Thanks for the good information!.

    Posted June 4, 2008 at 5:48 am | Permalink
  27. Karina

    Is there anyway I can get a step-by step instruction on how to install this cool desktop for a window vista 64bit?
    *for a non-techie person like myself?

    Please help me.. thank you so much!

    Posted December 7, 2008 at 1:20 am | Permalink
  28. Nebojša

    On XFCE you can use:
    /usr/lib/misc/xscreensaver/xmatrix -window-id `xprop -root XFCE_DESKTOP_WINDOW | cut -d’ ‘ -f5`
    mplayer -wid `xprop -root XFCE_DESKTOP_WINDOW | cut -d’ ‘ -f5` movie.avi

    Posted September 8, 2009 at 1:00 pm | Permalink
  29. Pablo

    I need to play a Video as a Screensaver. The idea is to start Linux with autologin, startx (NO Window Manager) and an one specific application. This is done and working (.bash_profile and .xinitrc)

    I put the line “vlc” vlc -Idummy -f $HOME/video.mpg \n\ under Sections Programs in the .xscreensaver and the video only play about 30 seconds and quit. After one minute start over and quit, etc.

    Can any one help me to resolv this problem?

    Posted September 23, 2009 at 7:44 am | Permalink
  30. I suggest you try mplayer; it’s more versatile on command-line arguments. See


    Posted September 23, 2009 at 9:40 am | Permalink