I would like to display a fully opaque image (e.g. PNG RGB8) on the desktop in an image viewer - but such that I can set the window (showing the image) to be, say, 50% transparent (so I could see through and compare with other windows below). It would be even better if the viewer just shows a "panel" instead of a "window" (i.e. I'd prefer just the image shown, possibly with a border - instead of a full blown window with menubar, titlebar etc).

I'm aware that in Compiz, it should be possible to run a plugin, and have any window you want transparent - but I was hoping for a solution (viewer) that would not be Compiz-specific (and even more preferred, if it is neither Gnome nor KDE specific - but I'm not sure that is possible). ...

Any suggestions for an image viewer like this?

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    Considering that most programs want to be "well-integrated" there isn't going to be a DE/WM-agnostic solution that doesn't look as ugly as Squidward's head. – digitxp Aug 18 '11 at 2:43
  • Thanks for the comment @digitxp - I was suspecting that was the case, but good to have it confirmed... – sdaau Aug 22 '11 at 9:06

To my knowledge, window transparency is the job of the window manager. I'm pretty sure--but someone please correct me if I'm wrong--that the only way to accomplish this is by using a window manager, such as Compiz, that supports transparency.

How come you don't want to use Compiz? If you're just trying to avoid Gnome and KDE, you can use Compiz independently of your desktop environment.

  • Thanks for that @strangeronyourtrain - I was suspecting that is the case, but good to have it confirmed... I actually like the Compiz method, worked quite nice for me - but a lot of times, I'd have to boot into a USB-key based OS, which may not necessarily have Compiz.. In such cases, it would be nice to have a WM agnostic solution. Thanks again - cheers! – sdaau Aug 22 '11 at 9:09

I use transset, you can make any window whatever level of opacity you want. Since it is command line you can write scripts that call it.


transset -n "Window Title" 0.5
  • granted, you do need to have compositing enabled first. I use MATE as my desktop, and just use the simple compositor built into it. – LaXDragon Jan 27 '15 at 17:08

qiv with the -p flag will show an image over the desktop that can work like an overlay.

See also this question.


Compiz is a bit overkill for this usage, since it's a window manager as well as a compositing manager. You only need to compositing part.

The classic standalone compositing manager is xcompmgr, which will happily run alongside an existing window manager and should be in most distros' package managers. More recently it's been forked into Compton, to fix a few bugs.

See https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/xcompmgr for more info (it's not Arch-specific).

  • This isn't really an answer. The user seems to know how to use compositing, but seems to interested in an image viewer with a minimal edge that can be overlaid against another window of like type. – killermist Jan 27 '15 at 17:13

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