Is there a way to put an active website, such as Gmail, as your Desktop background in Gnome, running Ubuntu 10.10 64-bit? MS Win calls it "Active Desktop".

  • @AthloX: I have a question as there is something not quite clear. When you set your desktop wallpaper how do you expect to trigger changing websites (you elude to an need for multiple websites). There are more practical options to achieve what you need "I want to see the live feeds of any of the selected site" like creating a Fogger launcher and running it on startup for example. Can you edit your question to provide more clarity as I think there maybe 2 questions above Aug 11, 2012 at 9:46
  • 2
    @StephenMyall: Is now my question asked correct or still confusion.I want website to show as active background even though i wont be interact with it just a update to show so that i get in touch always no need to open website in browser always
    – Amit Rane
    Aug 11, 2012 at 9:52
  • Did you ever find a solution to this?
    – William
    Sep 30, 2018 at 23:01

8 Answers 8


The easy way

(which installs a graphical program that does the job for you)

Wallch has this feature now implemented! You may download and install the PPA:

For 13.10/14.04:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:wallch/3+
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install wallch

For 12.04:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:wallch/12.04-3+
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install wallch

Newest addition is the wallch-daily PPA for the more recent Ubuntu versions

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:wallch/wallch-daily
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install wallch

The hard way

(which installs only what is needed and requires a little bit of command line usage)

My answer will guide you through on how to have your desktop background updated on an interval of your choice of a website of your choice.

After a search on the source code of the program Shutter so as to see what trick does it do so as to capture a web site, I found an easier way to do it, so I've edited my answer.

The easiest way around is the following:

First, install a small package:

sudo apt-get install gnome-web-photo

When the above command finishes running, then run the following inside your terminal:

mkdir -p ~/Documents/web_image
cd ~/Documents/web_image

Now, a folder under your ~/Documents folder named web_image has been created.

In this folder, place the following script, called update_background.sh:

screen_width=1280 #<--set here your screen's width dimension
interval="300" #<--set here the seconds you want to sleep till the next update

while true; do
   gnome-web-photo --timeout=30 --mode=photo --width=$screen_width "http://google.com" $HOME/Documents/web_image/output.png
   gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background picture-uri file://$HOME/Documents/web_image/output.png
   echo "Sleeping $interval seconds till the next update..."
   sleep $interval

In the above bash script, you may edit 4 parameters: screen_width is your screen's width (the same width will be the site), interval is the interval to wait till the next update of the picture, the timeout (which is a parameter on the gnome-web-photo command) which is the timeout to wait for the creation of the picture to wait, and also edit the site, which, by default I have set it to be http://google.com. You may change it to whatever you want.

After saving the script, give it executable permissions (chmod +x update_background.sh or right click on it->properties->permissions->allow executing file as program) and run it through a terminal.

This is how it looks like at my desktop background, with the site askubuntu.com:

enter image description here

NOTE: Sites' first page can be very long, take for example askubuntu.com. This is apparently a problem, you can solve this problem with programs like imagemagick. You can edit/crop etc. the image before setting it as desktop background (before the gsettings command). You can crop the image like this:

convert $HOME/Documents/web_image/output2.png -crop 300x300+0+0 $HOME/Documents/web_image/output2.png

The convert command is at the imagemagick package (sudo apt-get install imagemagick). Note that you have to find the dimensions that fit best (e.g. 300x300 is very small in this case, it is just an example...)

PS: You can set the update_background.sh script to start on login: Run simple bash script to start applications at login, but it would be nice to wait till you have internet connection. So, before the while loop in that script place this:

while ! ping -c 1 google.com > /dev/null 2> /dev/null; do
  echo "Waiting for internet connection..."
  sleep 3

So, along with the above, if you set the script running at startup and you want to crop the image, then the update_background.sh should look like something like this:

screen_width=1280 #<--set here your screen's width dimension
interval="300" #<--set here the seconds you want to sleep till the next update

while true; do
   gnome-web-photo --timeout=30 --mode=photo --width=$screen_width "http://google.com" $HOME/Documents/web_image/output.png
   convert $HOME/Documents/web_image/output.png -crop 300x300+0+0 $HOME/Documents/web_image/output.png
   gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background picture-uri file://$HOME/Documents/web_image/output.png
   echo "Sleeping $interval seconds till the next update..."
   sleep $interval
  • I tried it and it works fine :)
    – hytromo
    Aug 11, 2012 at 10:13
  • 1
    +100 Very Impressive work and well studied. Wow @hakermania: you have done your home work really excellent. I m going to try this now. Thanks your answer is the best
    – Amit Rane
    Aug 11, 2012 at 10:22
  • Thanks @AthloX, remember to first try an answer and then set it as correct! Also, keep in mind that I found how to do it in a blog (as I say in my answer), so I didn't do anything impressive. I just connected some things (wait for internet connection, get image, crop image, set it as desktop background) so as to fit your situation...
    – hytromo
    Aug 11, 2012 at 10:25
  • ITS WORKING what i wanted so i set as correct answer @hakermania
    – Amit Rane
    Aug 11, 2012 at 10:26
  • But this wouldn't be live right?
    – William
    Feb 28, 2017 at 5:35

Your best bet might be the screenlet project. The webframe screenlet does indeed allow you to embed your gmail, albeit, it's the mobile version by default. Perhaps you can find a way to change it. Screenshot below.

Screenlets can either sit on your desktop directly, or combined with the widget layer of Compiz, called up over existing windows, like the Mac handles its gadgets/widgets (whatever they're called - I've forgotten).

sudo apt-get install screenlets

Install via the software center

You'll have to visit the site to download the third party webframe screenlet. I've just tried it and the installer will complain that webframe isn't packaged correctly, but it installs perfectly nonetheless:

enter image description here

Might also be worth noting that I'm fairly sure that KDE bundles this kind of functionality out of the box with its "plasma" framework. Just a thought.


You can use xwinwrap to get any application on your desktop. It was made with a "videos for wallpaper" idea in mind but I think that it can stick any application on your desktop just fine (so you can just stick a fullscreen browser on your desktop)

You can find xwinwrap here but I think that there is a newer version around; couldn't find it though.



Conky is probably one option you should explore. I cannot give you exact instructions as its something I have never tried.

Conky is a system monitor that displays on your screen's desktop. It's also very modular. It can display the output of any command line program. You can view RSS feeds by using a the Conky RSS functions, or a separate program or script.

You can find instructions here. How to create an RSS feed using Conky

  • Can CONKY would display whole website as my desktop background ?
    – Amit Rane
    Aug 11, 2012 at 9:31
  • @AthloX: I have been very specific in my answer to point out that I have never tried this AND its only an option. This option meets your need "I want to see the live feeds of any of the selected site" Aug 11, 2012 at 9:39
  • Sorry my mistake.. i Changed feeds to update now.. I want live updates to get on my desktop as they come alike those questions ask here
    – Amit Rane
    Aug 11, 2012 at 9:46

There is no way to do this with standard gnome. The wallpaper is a solid image and isn't doing anything special.

I am reading this a few years later.

Before I get jumped on for not reading the original post - I did and I know the OP asked about GNOME. But a lot of the discussion was about KDE so I'll add a foolproof way to do it in KDE and someone with GNOME can check and see if the right click on the title bar works there too.

I'm not sure if this is possible in Gnome etc, but in KDE there is nothing special to it. In fact I am typing this reply in Firefox which is set as my desktop background in Mint 17 KDE, but have been using it in earlier releases.

Ok, so in KDE all you do is:

  1. Right click the title bar of your browser.
  2. Choose More Actions
  3. Choose Keep Below Others
  4. Choose More Actions again
  5. Choose Fullscreen
  6. Read the warning that tells you you probably won't get back out of fullscreen.
  7. Take note of the Alt+F3 shortcut to get out of fullscreen.
  8. Click ok.
  9. See point 6. Make a text file in /home to remind you.

To get out of Full Screen use Alt+F3
Choose More Actions then get rid of the tick next to Fullscreen.
You might want to get rid of Keep below others as well.

I have been using this method to set VLC to play videos as wallpaper for years, but now I see it has a built in Wallpaper Mode.


There is no way to do this with standard gnome. The wallpaper is a solid image and isn't doing anything special.

If you would like to see the feature, you can add your voice to the existing bug. But the developers for gnome have said that they think the desktop web page is a really bad idea and that really what's needed is better tools to get you to your email on the desktop.

  • 1
    Where's the existing bug?
    – Erigami
    Feb 13, 2011 at 5:50

Because I don;t use Gnome, there's not much point my adding to it. But for Gnome users, the Gnome developers don;t actually need to 'add' video wallpaper as a feature.

All they have to do is add "Keep Below Other Windows" to the right click menu for the Title Bar. And have an option for "Full Screen" in the same place.

About the only problem I can see is that Gnome might not have ALT+F3 to get out of full screen, but it probably has something else.

Anyway, As the post shows, it is dead easy in KDE without a special program.

For now - try this: Before I discovered the title bar thing in KDE, I used to set 'Wallpaper Mode' under Video in the Advanced tab on VLC Preferences.

Maybe it will work in Gnome will do the same thing I think.

Again - Dead Easy if you can find it. I will try to make it step by step.

Open VLC Open 'Tools' Menu Open Preferences At the bottom on left you see 'Show Settings' Click (.) in All (takes you to advanced preferences) Scroll to bottom of list on left side and click 'Video' On Right side, under 'General video settings' There is a list of things that can have a check mark to turn them on or off.

For the The three settings at the bottom Turn OFF 'Always on top' - NOTE this one is VERY IMPORTANT !! Turn ON 'Enable wallpaper mode' Turn ON 'Disable Screensaver' Turn OFF 'Show media title on video'

You shouldn't have to mess with stuff after Show video title etc.

Please try this on Gnome and if it works or not, add it here so any other poor devil trying to do this knows. Because if it works in Gnome it should work in the others.

Remember if you do this any video you open in VLC will play full screen behind everything including panels. So you might want to install another player for windowed videos.

You should be able to get out of VLC Video Wallpaper any time by right clicking and choosing Quit. Or whatever the keyboard shortcut is for leaving full screen in Gnome.




You take a snapshot of the website with gnome-web-photo or you download it with wget. You can put that in /etc/cron.hourly:

wget  --directory-prefix=/home/user1/Pictures http://image.weather.com/images/sat/germany_sat_720x486.jpg

Then you choose that picture as the background.

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