I've seen some people complaining about how unstable CompizConfig Settings Manager ("CCSM") is and how it can break people's desktops if they're not careful.

What are some of the known problems with CCSM? I'd like to decide whether or not it's worth the risk for me.

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    Related Meta question regarding advanced tools in general: meta.askubuntu.com/q/2012/18612 Nov 18, 2011 at 22:34
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    Also, in case anybody didn't see this warning in time and already broke their desktop using CCSM, please see this question on how to restore Unity. Mar 6, 2012 at 1:44
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    Saying that ccsm is unstable isn't quite valid in my opinion. I've been a longtime user of ccsm and beryl/compiz fusion, and have always been able to fix any minor problems caused by misconfiguring things in ccsm. Nowadays ccsm is pretty good, however, back in the days of beryl it was much more unstable! Usually issues I have had turned out to be PEBKACs. However, recently with Ubuntu's Unity plugin there have been many instability issues, especially around enabling/disabling the Unity plugin. It appears to me that these are bugs and problems in Unity, and not ccsm in general.
    – TrinitronX
    Apr 30, 2012 at 16:35
  • I agree. The unity plugin is too picky about what else works in ccsm. Ubuntu is feeling more like a Mac all the time...
    – jpaugh
    May 17, 2012 at 12:23

2 Answers 2


I am an experienced Linux user, I've contributed to kernel and work on the Canonical OEM team; I only mention these facts to show my context, which is -- the other day, I did a fresh install of 11.10 on my laptop, and wanted to customize something (turning on focus-follows-mouse). I poked around in gnome-control-center for about 30 minutes before giving up and discovering the only way to do this was using ccsm.

After installing ccsm, I configured ffm, and then -- accidentally! -- my mouse cursor passed over the preferences button and the touchpad on my laptop registered a click.


Unity session dead.

Luckily I still had an irc window open and I could beg for help from my colleagues who told me how to recover (rm ~/.compiz-1). This is the same problem some people keep having:

I know that people are going to google for how to configure things and land up here and they're going to see lots of mentions of ccsm; or worse yet from another unreliable source. The horse is out of the barn already, and we can't go back. The determined users are going to find it anyway, and anyone that tenacious deserves to know how to get what they want (and if you break it you get to keep both pieces!)

But my point is that from now on, we can try and do better for our users.

  1. ccsm is dangerous; even if you know not to touch the bad thing, you might accidentally touch it anyway like I did.
  2. ccsm has no future; the future plans for Unity are to migrate all the useful configurability bits out of ccsm into safer, supported tools. These tools should start to appear in 12.04.
  3. the attitude of "recovering from your mistakes is a positive learning experience" is niche. Most normal people just want to use their computers without having them randomly break in mysterious, non-recoverable ways; most normal people do not share our culture of taking things apart to see how they work.

Again -- I know that people are going to find the dangerous stuff no matter what. But what we can do here is change our culture and give opinionated help, steering people away from the bad stuff and towards the good stuff.

It's easy to convey facts; it's much harder to convey wisdom.

Here, we should be aiming higher than merely giving the facts of what is possible; we should be sharing the wisdom of what is recommended.

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    The issue with opening "Preferences" has been fixed in compizconfig-python ( though atm it's still in oneiric-proposed. (in the current version clicking on Preferences immediately switches the profile from the 'unity' profile to the 'default' profile, deleting that dir. removed a file named config that reflected the profile change
    – doug
    Nov 20, 2011 at 22:12
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    +1 on experienced linux users getting frustrated trying to do (relatively) basic things in ubuntu, and either giving up, reverting to previous versions (<=10.10), or breaking the system beyond repair. It shouldn't be that way -- neither for new users nor experienced admins. Today I spend more time googling for answers on configuration (and fixing!) my 3 home ubuntu box's than I do on my work redhat/centos/windows/solaris box's, where I can basically read manpages to resolve (most) issues.
    – michael
    Jan 22, 2012 at 22:39
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    Interesting. Like most users I just want to "use my computer without having it break in mysterious non-recoverable ways", but I find the Unity dashboard in 11.10 completely unusable. It doesn't auto-hide when it should, and it is a HUGE annoyance. ...so I had to install GNOME...and ccsm...and tweak things to be usable. I hope the Ubuntu Devs take the hint from the fact that so many users will risk using this tool because the current interface is so poor.
    – Gerrat
    Mar 28, 2012 at 19:49
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    @achiang now that 12.04 is out, are the safer, supported tools you mentioned available?
    – Brad Cupit
    May 2, 2012 at 1:45
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    +1 for "the attitude of "recovering from your mistakes is a positive learning experience" is niche". I can't count the number of things I've learned how to do, but only for that one time I had to fix something, and then it became immediately irrelevant to my life as I never had to deal with that issue ever again, but was replaced with new one-off issues that required more niche learning.
    – Questioner
    Jul 4, 2012 at 9:16

You can also have other plugins conflicting with the unity one, like commands and such. We need to activate them still for the fallback session (like Alt+F2). So unity by default conflicts with other plugins that are enabled.

However, touching such a plugin in ccsm enables special artifacts like "do you want to remove the unity plugin?" and people don't read and say yes.

Even worse:

  1. Unity is depending on LargeDestkop:
  2. Wall and Cube are providing LargeDesktop, each one conflicting with each other.

What happens is that, if you enable Cube, ccsm will disable Wall. Then compiz thinks it's smart right know to check for dependency and will tell "oh, I can't have unity" and disable it. Then, it will enable Cube without reenabling unity which has now its "LargeDesktop" requirement matched.

In addition to this, compizconfig has a fragile configuration management, which can, in some unknown cases right now, remove a plugin from the current profile (probably due to a conflict check at start or on upgrade) without any warning…

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