I'm working with many GIS applications under Gnome. It sometimes is very convenient to place one map over another to quickly spot differences.

There used to be a KDE trick to make any window (not just a terminal!) transparent, thereby allowing me to make one map semi-transparent and place it on the window of the other mapping software. Is there a similar trick for Gnome?

4 Answers 4


Gnome extensions are OK, but if someone want use opacity/transparency occasionally - it is better use xprop command.



and then click on window to set it to 50% opacity.

  • 0x7FFFFFFF - 50% opacity
  • 0xFFFFFFFF - 100% opacity

Set opacity via providing window id (obtained from xwininfo):

xprop -id 0x3a00006 -format _NET_WM_WINDOW_OPACITY 32c -set _NET_WM_WINDOW_OPACITY 0x7FFFFFFF
  • this is best, as it works everywhere! (compiz transparency feature is missing for me)
    – Nicolas
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 18:39
  • 1
    xprop -f _NET_WM_WINDOW_OPACITY 32c -set _NET_WM_WINDOW_OPACITY \ $(printf 0x%x $((0xffffffff * 30 / 100))) Conveniece extension using printf for percentage to hexadecimal conversion. I have also made a short script as a desktop shortcut documented here Commented Mar 25, 2021 at 11:07

I am not sure about Gnomw itself, but in Compiz, there is a plugin called "Opacity, Brightness and Saturation adjustments", which allows you control transparency of windows any way I can imagine, including Alt + {sroll} as Andrea Lazzarotto said.

  • Also, make sure you enable Animations, found under Effects.
    – earthmeLon
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 2:41
  • Note that this solution is not desirable with Gnome 3. compiz worked a lot better with the Unity desktop.
    – Todd
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 19:58

For newer versions of Gnome (Gnome 3/Gnome Shell), you can use this extension to make windows transparent:

EDIT: To install in Gnome 3.14+

Gnome extensions have a file containing which version of Gnome they are compatible with - this is not always correct as the extension may work for other versions not specified in the file, so you need to get the extension from outside the gnome extension site, and modify the file and install it manually - this works a lot of the time with other extensions.

  1. Go the the extension page, and download the extension zip file.
  2. Extract it, and modify the shell-version line in the /transparentwindows-master/transparentwindows@ellen/metadata.json file to make sure it includes your shell version (e.g. 3.14):

     "shell-version": ["3.10", "3.12", "3.14"], 

    You can find your shell version if needed using gnome-shell --version

  3. Move the extracted files to ~/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions, so it looks like this: /home/wilf/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions/transparentwindows@ellen
  4. The extension should now work, though you may need to restart the shell with Alt+F2+r+Enter, and enable it in Gnome Tweak Tool or similar.

Also note that you can do a issue/bug report to the developer to ask for the extension the Gnome Extension site to be updated - in this case there is one here. You can also make your own commit to the extension to include 3.14+ versions.

  • this extension, does not work with GNOME 3.14 and LATER versions ... do you know extension compatible with current version ? Commented May 24, 2015 at 16:20
  • @Jiff - it does (i have used recently in 3.14), you just can't install it from the extension page. I''ll add how to install it in my answer
    – Wilf
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 21:26
  • This extension is abandonware but it DOES work if you follow the instructions above
    – Jonathan
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 20:28
  • 1
    I have tested on 3.26.2
    – Jonathan
    Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 1:05
  • 2
    The guy fucking deleted the entire repo. All hope is lost! Back to KDE ?? Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 4:28

Hold down the Alt key and then scroll with your mouse wheel.

  • I believe this is Unity only and doesn't work in Gnome
    – Jonathan
    Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 19:44

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .