Compiz is a 3D desktop environment (that used to be called Beryl) that can be a very nice place to work. I’m a sucker for eye-candy, true, but even with most of it switched off the result can be a pleasant, and maybe even more productive, place to be. There are literally hundreds of videos on YouTube to give you an idea of what Compiz looks like – see here. One of the most noticeable effects is the ‘wobbly windows’. This give the windows some ‘flexibility’ and also gives the desktop some ‘friction’ The effect is quite stunning, especially as the contents of the windows update while they are being dragged.
OK, that looks nice but it’s not really that useful – one thing that is useful though is the desktop ‘cube’ effect. Your desktop can have up to 16 faces that are rotated in 3D. Now, I must admit that I also have dual monitors, so I have a lot of ‘desktop real estate’ already, but having the ability to have different ‘cube faces’ with work tasks grouped on them is great. I very rarely press Alt-Tab any more (even though the 3D application switcher effect is quite nice also) because my applications don’t stack on top of each other very often – they’re on different cube faces. I’ve also got my mouse setup so that if I rotate the mouse wheel while at the edge of the screen the cube rotates. This makes quickly switching between different applications very fast.
There are literally hundreds of different effects and settings and this can definitely be one of the downsides too. I spent rather a long time getting my desktop to work *exactly* the way that I wanted it too, and even now I can’t resist tweaking things now and again, just to get it to work ‘exactly right’! I definitely miss some of the Compiz niceties when I’m using Windows now and I can see, as more and more of us get super fast 3D video cards, that more of these effects will make their way into all operating systems.
If you interested you should definitely have a search around YouTube to see what’s possible and also download the Ubuntu 7.10 live CD as I think, if you’ve got the appropriate hardware, you can give Compiz a go without installing anything on your machine.