Please, port Beryl to Windows or OS X?

You know, there are very few things in Linux that have ever made me jealous… but this quote from the Beryl project made me jump out of my chair:

Beryl is a combined window manager and composite manager written in C using OpenGL to provide acceleration. It is designed to be highly flexible, extensible, and portable, all the while keeping in mind that the users know how they want their desktops to act better than we do.

Wow. Maybe Linux is the user’s ULTIMATE operating system after all? Eat your heart out, Windows Explorer and OS X’s Finder. Beryl’s developers have the trump card. And for emphasis, let me add bold formatting to the most important part of that positioning statement: “…the users know how they want their desktops to act better than we do.”

Is it possible, even remotely, to port Beryl to Vista and/or OS X?

And if that doesn’t make you want to try Beryl, maybe something in its growing feature list will trip your trigger. The best Microsoft can offer is a CPU-devastating DreamScene (and even that’s only available for Vista “Ultimate”). Compiz or Beryl, they’re soon to be one-and-the-same.

40 thoughts on “Please, port Beryl to Windows or OS X?”

  1. Pingback: Anonymous
  2. that’s a really cool interface … very promising … but c’mon now … how does that going to improve work productivity?

  3. As a full time Ubuntu user, I would point out that Beryl is a mixed bag. I used it myself for a couple of months. However unless you make sure to set it up under its own “login session”, you could find yourself dealing with issues playing games, running certain programs, along with other little instabilities.

    There were also some other bugs awhile back that caused your power off button (which has log-off, restart, etc) to misplace important items such as the ability to turn off your PC. It’s easy enough for me to fix, but not for the newbie to Beryl.

    I am first to admit that Metacity is boring. However it is stable and I would be careful in making too big of a selling point over 3D effects. Considering we both have dual-LCD monitor setups, are we really gaining anything here other than a new toy?

    With that said, I will say that it is fun to play with and has been know to make people install Ubuntu (Fedora, etc) just to try it out. It’s just unfortunate that it is such pain to get running.

    Never fear though, I am working on an Open Source project that uses some of the Feisty advantages to make the complete setup GUI friendly (drivers and everything). And yes, when it is eventually ready, it will debut at Lockergnome’s IT Pro newsletter. After looking at what the Envy driver program has done, among other xorg control utilities, we believe that we can do much better.

    This will mean that any Windows power user will be able to install Ubuntu, run their updates and assuming they are using a NVIDIA, ATI or Intel powered card supporting 3D effects, they will be enjoying what you see above…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. “Is it possible, even remotely, to port Beryl to Vista and/or OS X?”

    Yes and no. If Vista was able to run
    , then maybe. I “believe” cygwin has xServer running on Windows, but am unsure of whether or not they offer GLX.

    Because of the lock and key on the Vista windows manager, I am unsure if this GLX could happen as I imagine you would be running xServer over the top of explorer. Sounds rather painful, really.

    Here is what I would do. Take the easiest route, buy a ready to go cheap Ratel Value desktop from It has a NVIDIA card, so getting Beryl to work will be MUCH easier.

    When it arrives, I will see about coming down to Seattle and setting the whole thing up for you. I will even help to set up dual-monitors for you as well. Just as long as one is DVI and the other VGA, it will be totally doable considering this is the ability of the card that it comes with. I can make it to where you will have dual-monitor Beryl action – it’s pretty pimp, let me tell you.

  5. I don’t think that the Beryl or Compiz project can be ported over directly to replace Explorer or Finder, because it is build on X Windows. X can run on OS 10 or Windows (cygwin), but that is in addition to the traditional desktop shell, so it won’t affect apps that are not written for X.

    Programmers can do just about anything with the Vista DWM, probably that same goes for OS 10 desktop environment. And individual features and making there way over.

    3D Cube Desktop switching:

    Spacial Window Layout:

  6. IMO – the problems are deeper than anyone here seems to understand. Windows doesn’t have the underlying architecture in it’s desktop to support this kind of extension well. Ever tried using Microsofts own Virtual Desktop PowerToy for Windows XP (and Win 2K, etc.)? Ever noticed that the memory consumption shoots way up? Ever notice the performance of your system drag down? This is completely symptomatic of the poor design of Windows underlying desktop.

    Now, admittedly I could be wrong, but here’s what my impression of what Microsoft has been doing. With WinXP and Vista, Microsoft has invested time in working on explorer (the combined window manager / desktop) and DirectX. This is about the equivalent of Linux developers working on the Gnome Desktop, Metacity Window Manager, or KDE (and it’s “integrated” window manager).

    But, to implement something like Beryl, you have to have a solid foundation in the server that underlies the window manager. In the case of linux, this is the server (and previously the XFree86 server). This is where you implement things that need to be a step or two above the hardware interface level (in windows the HAL level), but have the ability to uniformly communicate to everything running on top of the server.

    IMO – as a casual observer – Microsoft doesn’t appear to have made any substantial changes to this layer of their OS since Win2k when they integrated the architectures of WinNT and Win98. I suspect that the server itself is a really big piece of nasty, monolithic code that no group of people within Microsoft really wants to under-take re-writing in order to make it function in a more reasonable manner.

    And, I should point out, this is an advantage of OpenSource in the truest sense… A similar situation arose a couple years back with the XFree86 server: there were sections of it that many saw as old, outdate, and causing dependency issues that shouldn’t have been an issue any more. So, what did they do? Well, that’s where came into being: a group of XFree86 developers split off, and re-factored, and re-wrote the code to make it function better in a modern context. This allowed for the development of an extension like Beryl.

    Okay, having explained all that – I really wanted to post about two things the demo video doesn’t show you:

    – Windows aren’t restricted to being on a single desktop. If you position a window halfway off one desktop, it will wrap onto the adjacent desktop. You can actually see this when switching the desktops…and if there is active output on the window (like a video playing) you will see it playing in it’s wrapped position. (The video Matt posted shows part of this… window being dragged around from desktop to desktop – wrapping as it goes around the corners.)

    – I know a guy from Novel that had Beryl (or maybe it was Compiz) installed under SuSE on his IBM Thinkpad. He had one of the ThinkPads that has a telemetry sensor in it. So, he wrote an interface between the telemetry sensor driver and Beryl. When activated, turned his laptop left or right would switch desktops in that direction. Basically, whatever he did with his laptop was reflected on his desktop by the signal sent by the sensor. It was a gimmick, and not really useful, but it did show a potential for some of the power of something like Beryl (or Compiz).

    Final comment: Matt will probably point out that I am wrong on some things in my explanation. He seems to know a bit more about Beryl’s internals than I do…

  7. Mitchel: You bring up a good point. And if there is one area where Microsoft excels, it is initiating development. However I still believe that there is a long stretch between offering great APIs to being completely open and accessible. Sure makes troubleshooting a hell of a lot easier, IMO.

    That said, one could do some fairly impressive things with this set of great APIs (see Mitchel’s post). I would be tickled pink to see it happen ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. gdb: I think you about covered it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Although, the more I think about Mitchel’s API post, I can’t help but think that something “more” could be done with the Vista windows manager. I still don’t believe APIs are the cure to what ails a closed off OS, but the set that he linked to could certainly add some pretty cool functionality, be it a little different than Beryl.

    My only issue is that by nature, Vista is a resource hog as one jumps into the 3D-Desktop side of things. This is not my opinion, it is a hardware “needy” fact.

    Still, Microsoft does present an attractive desktop that offers improved functionality over that of XP in many areas. I now use Vista myself, for software reviews, etc. My daily desktop however, remains Ubuntu Edgy.

  9. Mitchel: Hey, the 3D Cube Desktop switching and Spacial Window Layout are *very* cool, are you involved in their development? If so, I would love to learn more about it.

    Just noticed the post containing those links above. I must be slacking. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Sure this is cool but how much of it is actually practical? Alot of theses features are already built into OSX (and others are KIND OF already there). Being a Mac user there are a few things I saw in the video that I would like on my Mac but other then that, it was a little much.

  11. I believe Kyle brings up a valid point. As it stands now, I really don’t use Beryl any longer myself as it proved to be a bit of a distraction while working. But this is where setting up as a separate session has its advantages.

    When it’s time to work, I use Metacity. To “wow” people, I login to my “XGL” session. And this goes back to the danger of Linux users relying on Beryl to “hook” people into trying a particular distro.

    I see more advantages to being able to install a dozen software programs in a row in a single effort, never hearing the word “defrag” ever again and most importantly – having real control over what features my desktop is going to offer me.

    My Linux box gives me a reliable, powerful and customizable option. Then again, my fiancee says much of the same for her Mac, so who am I to talk? ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. @Matt Hartley,

    You say Beryl is a pain to install, I beg to differ. I have so far pointed 3 people to the Beryl install FAQ, and none of these users are very computer smart, but they are not dumb people either. None of them had any problems getting beryl running on a stock ubuntu edgy system.

    The install is NOT gui, but if you can use a simple text editor to make changes to a file or two, then you can install Beryl on Ubuntu with out any problems.


  13. @gdb –

    On Vista, the Window Manager and the shell are actually quite seperate. Window management is handled by the DWM (Desktop Window Manager – clever name, I know).

    It is itself a Direct3D process using the same underlying engine that Windows Presentation Foundation (aka Avalon) uses. It’s a high-performance, high-quality windowing system that is WAY more mature than Beryl+XGL.

    Beryl is better at showing off, for sure. But for everyday use, it has a long way to go. That’s why it’s still at version 0.2. If you play games, it’s useless. There are tons of incompatible apps, and it doesn’t handle them nearly as gracefully as the DWM on Vista does. Plus, most of what you gain from it just isn’t useful in any way.

    I do love the virtual desktop management, though – and I’m hopeful that we’ll soon see some cool DWM-based virtual desktop solutions for Vista.

    The major area where the DWM is lacking, unfortunately, is in API support. However, what’s there works well for things like Switcher, and could probably be useful for a sweet virtual desktop solution (3D effects are the trickiest part. The DWM can do them handily, as shown with Flip3D – but the current public API isn’t really designed for that, so you’d have to be clever about it).

    Anyway, Ubuntu is pretty cool. My boss was playing with it recently. It’s impressive how well they’ve done getting to about Windows 98 level functionality. But the file explorer and desktop search options are so incredibly laughable it’s a wonder anyone actually lives and works in that environment.

  14. Itโ€™s impressive how well theyโ€™ve done getting to about Windows 98 level functionality. But the file explorer and desktop search options are so incredibly laughable itโ€™s a wonder anyone actually lives and works in that environment.

    OK, now you are just making stuff up. I will agree with the functionality of ANY 3D desktop is more for show than anything. And I will even agree that many Linux distros still have growing pains to be ironed out. But to sit there with what I imagine to be less than a day’s worth of real-world Ubuntu experience and to make blatantly untrue statements does not make Vista look any better. They have that marvelous marketing campaign that does this quite nicely.

    First, with Ubuntu we can select one of a number of file “explorers” in case the default does not meet our needs. The default one which comes with everything most users need. See, we choose not to need access to rows of fluff and nonsense.

    As for desktop search, we have the option of *easily* installing Beagle which to be brutally honest, is fantastic even when compared to other desktop search options from other OS’.

    So yes, wireless sucks in Ubuntu as many big name hardware manufacturers choose to live in a vacuum. And there a number of other annoyances that I would happily agree with. If you are going to put down a distro, do it for valid reasons.

  15. Yes, yes I honestly can.

    I have used it on a /daily basis/ to look up specifics that I may need to reference from time to time. Email, content from docs, dates, pretty much anything. It’s actually quite helpful.

    Now I will also say that it is a bit of a resource hog for older notebooks and the like. But aside from the indexing/resource issues, it have NEVER failed me. Not once.

    If you have had issues with it indexing your PC, I would say that you may not be familiar with how it works. It does not work right after a new app install. It has to have reboot and then give it time to index your machine. No worries, it’s a common mistake. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16. Let me re-phrase that:

    I have used it on a /daily basis/ to look up specifics that I may need to reference from time to time.

    It’s late and my brain is in sleep mode…lol.

    What I mean is that I use it daily and I use to reference a variety of items which vary from day to day.

  17. Now now Brandon, calm down. I love the things that you have done with Start++, but comments like your last one sound … petty. Its not very nice to make value judgements on someone else’s opinion. I like the way that Beagle works because it gets the job done.

  18. @Matt –

    You have to reboot to get it to index something? And you find that acceptable? I actually wasn’t complaining about their indexer, that part is fine it seems at least for the basics.

    I was referring to the UI which returns a very small set of results (WHY is it paged? This isn’t a web UI), has no preview support, no detail/property editing (and only very, very basic detail viewing) – lame sorting support, no controllable grouping support, no useful filtering mechanism, no column selection, and so on. It’s a search box and a listview – you might as well use the command line. They’ve got a long ways to go before Beagle can compete with the main Windows desktop search solutions, or Spotlight.

    @Mitchel – I didn’t know the word I used (it wasn’t SH–) was going to be filtered, which made my last post read a bit differently than I intended =)

  19. Rodrigo

    It is a nice 3d desktop manager, but it has one very big flaw.

    The rotation is possible only horizontally.

    Go back to the link and see for yourself.

    want the berryl cube on Win XP?
    Use Yodโ€™ m 3D (Yet anOther Desktop Manager 3D) on……m-3d-about

    Nice Blog, bye!

  20. The one thing that bothered me about Brandon’s post that no one else seemed to comment on (perhaps because they didn’t get to it yet) was about your use of Beryl’s “version” to bash it, Brandon.

    It is a common misconception amongst users of Windows or Mac operating systems (ie. non-open source) to think that if something is not at version 1 it is immature, incomplete or just not up to par.

    The OSS movement has a completely different approach to software versioning. Traditional commercial software versioning is more of a contest to get the higher version numbers put out because that makes the app look better and make more money (pretty much)

    OSS versioning is quite different. They get an idea of everything they eventually want to put out by version 1, and they don’t release version 1 until that happens. Just because something is at version 0.2 does not mean anything bad about it, because it doesn’t matter what you call it. Version 0.2 is merely 2 / 10. What’s the difference if you start something and call it v 0.1 vs. v1 ? It’s still the software’s first release.

    It is merely a cosmetic difference that literally doesn’t mean much in terms of the software’s maturity.

    In terms of Vista, if it was as “mature” as you say it is, then I wouldn’t know people that had to switch back to XP because their sound card drivers caused Direct3D framerate drops, etc, when they have top of the line Soundblaster cards (ie. pretty much the card that is the most popular in a Windows environment).

    Also the fact that Vista pretty much stole every one of its desktop management features from OS X, where as Beryl is a little more original and a little more focused on what the USERS want, vs what the company wants, which is the exact point of this blog entry.

    I agree with you about a lot of the Linux stuff though, it does seem pretty primitive compared to OS X’s Finder and Windows Explorer, but these companies need to realize that instead of copying each other they perhaps should listen to what the user wants.

    Yes, Apple’s interface and OS is VERY nice indeed, but their arrogance of “we know what’s best for our users” sometimes jumps up to bite you in the *** every now and then when you simply CANNOT DO something you want to do because they think “Why would you ever want to do that?”

  21. You don’t need to port it to DirectX to make it run on Windows. OpenGL runs on Windows.

    The server for Windows doesn’t support hardware-accelerated OpenGL yet, so that has to be fixed first.

    Afterwards, you would have to port Beryl.

  22. Why even bother to try running beryl on windows, when you can have linux, in my case ubuntu???

    Ubuntu 7.04 comes with almost everything one could need, including office, mediaplayers with semiautomatic codec handleing and stuff like that. For playing win games or using win software there is always Wine (www.winehq) or cedega ( and both choices works pretty good (at least for me).

    Well just a thought!

  23. *Watches Video*

    I see very little in there that I want to use or don’t already use on my Mac. In fact, many of it’s feature list is already on my Mac, minus the Cube and the Aero effects.

    The Alt+Tab equivilent on my Mac also makes far more sense. Command+Tab will switch me between Applications and Command+` will switch me between windows in the current Application.

    Also you can already zoom in using Ctrl+Scroll. I find it quite useful, but only in a few situations.

    The rest is just eye candy (like the Genie effect) and it’s essentially a cross between Aqua/Expose and Aero + a Cube.


  24. If you want to try this quickly with no problems, try pclinuxos… It’s jumped to #1 on distrowatch, and I’m using it now.

    To try Beryl quick and easy: download the iso, burn it, put the disc in, reboot, login, start synaptic, reload synaptic, search for dkms_97xx or your driver set, it will want to restart x, do so, log back in, start>configuration>other>Beryl Manager, and you are all set to try Beryl ๐Ÿ™‚

    Have fun…

  25. To all Mac users out there, while we may not have Beryl, we have still have a cube window manager. Check out DesktopManager. The latest version is 0.5.4; but, if the open source community gets involved in this project once again, it could possibly become similar to beryl.

    DesktopManager is open source, and stable, although it hasn’t been updated in a long time.

    DesktopManager provides some of the cube effect features of Beryl as well as multiple desktops and more, and it doesn’t produce any lag on my new iMac 24″.
    (it combines the best of speed, gloss and usability for Mac).

    DesktopManager needs a little bit of configuration to get the cube effect; however, it is easy to configure, and does allow for you to have more than 4 workspaces. If you want usability and gloss on your mac, this is the program for you.

    Either way, I am happy with where beryl is going. I am noticing a few bugs on my Debian machine using KDE underneath Beryl, but maybe once the port it is “stable” I think it will all be kosher.

  26. Hi there,

    i am also a macian, but installed ubuntu feisty on it parallely (i used linux before buying the mac). Now, as I have the mac, I can’t understand how I could deal with those linux applications–gnome is ok, but on the mac, everything works together, you can work so efficient… That is the reason why I, though highly impressed by beryl, won’t re-switch to Linux… I agree with Graham, beryl for OSX would be the real beat–work efficiency combined with eye candy you can play with when tired of work…

    I am not good enough in programming to help with a beryl port, but would really appreciate beryl on OSX using Quartz–I mean, the main requirements are given with it, so I can’t imagine this would be too hard!

    Keep me informed.

  27. I used to be a Windows user, and switched to Linux (Ubuntu 7.04 at the moment) half a year ago. Although Beryl has indeed a lot of eye-candy, I haven’t seen any video of it yet, that does the real experience any credit. It has some great functionality, some of which is copied from OSX, and weirdly, some of the stuff that, at first glance, look like eye-candy, are actually very usefull. The best example is probably the water effect :
    my computer doesn’t beep anymore (although it could, if I wanted to). Everytime an application would normally beep, the currently active window sends out ripples across my desktop. It doesn’t sound like much, but it means I can listen to music, or watch a movie, and, for example, chat in MSN without noise pollution.
    But the best part is probably that *I* choose to have my desktop behave that way. I’m not stuck with whatever Steve or Bill prefered. And that’s probably the main reason I stick with Linux.

  28. Linux is the ultimative system!
    Beryl: for nice desktop
    Cedega/Crossower: for all your windows game(program) needs
    Vmware(WS/SERVER/PLAYER)(windows):to meet devil aginal =D

  29. I have ran Gentoo Linux and Windows for years. Why would I dual boot? Because sometimes I just feel like running things natively under Windows.

    Compiz-Fusion has some new features but what I am noticing with the developement is the lack of actual functional features being added. Sure there is a lot of eye-candy which is great. But the actual WM functions of killing borders, saving the location of apps and making hte WM truly self sufficient have yet to be seen. Compiz still relies on a Desktop Manager which it really should not have to, imo.

    Now for the good, Compiz is more stunning than anything that has been put into the API for Aero. Yet innitially, driver support for Linux was totally lacking as it always is. Due to the fact Linux retains a one percent share of the desktop market. If the API for Aero was well thought out, I am quite certain they would have added something more useful than tilting windows. I agree with some of the statements made about, however no one truly knows the code for Vista except Microsoft. I am pretty certain that if Compiz was ever ported it would bring your system to an almost unusable halt. Xorg operates under totally different principals than the Windows GUI. Also, if ever ported it would have to be recoded from scratch, period.

    With Windows, there simply is no true open source community that functions the way the Linux community does. This is the thing I love about Linux most. When I want to do something on my computer it is never a question of can it be done. It is merely a question of how hard one wants to work to have it done, with the exception of drivers (granted even these you could code yourself).

    I enjoy messing with my interface, gui etc. I have had the pleasure and pains of installing Gentoo 64 when AMD 64’s first came out. and in the end that is why I have Windows still, sometimes I don’t care to worry about having a new application compile without an error where I have to hop into the code and create a diff.

    Point being, both have ups and downs, Windows will never be as stable as Linux, ever. In the future, I see Linux taking a greater hold of the desktop market. OSX is to an extent posix compliant and so is Linux, hence no Mac opinion, to me its roughly the same OS.

    That being said, you can look up very old screenshots of my desktops on under the username nvrpunk. That was all pre-Compiz.


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