Over the past few years, 3-D rendering in window managers has become a new trend in the desktop environment. OS X was the first to make fancy visual effects prominent in the way users interact with the windows in their desktop. Windows Vista has also jumped on the bandwagon with its Aero interface, though it has some performance issues to work out. Linux users do not have to feel left out if they too want their desktop to be a little prettier. Beryl (formerly Compiz) gives many customizable features for users that want 3-D rendering in Gnome, KDE, or other window managers.
Beryl has many animations, window effects, and just plain useful features to allow Linux users to show off. However, it's not without its shortcomings. First, installation is not necessarily smooth. If a user has an Intel or Nvidia graphics chipset, a few simple edits to the X-windows configuration files and the installation of the Beryl software usually does the trick. These chipsets are capable of using Xorg's default 3-D manager, AIGLX. However, ATI users have a much larger task at hand. ATI's proprietary FGLRX drivers do not support AIGLX. ATI users either have to use the much weaker open-source drivers or install a specially modified Xorg using GLX.
Unfortunately, GLX is not very well-supported at this time. It's quite unstable and KDE's login manager simply doesn't work well under GLX. Save your work often.
Under AIGLX, Beryl is more stable. Fatal crashes to console are infrequent, and the majority of failures result in a simple replacement of the Beryl window manager with the default KDE or Gnome window manager (with no loss of data). Such crashes are handled very gracefully by the Beryl Manager, Beryl's configuration utility.
Once running, Beryl is very customizable. There are a plethora of options allowing users to tailor their visual effects to their liking. However, Beryl has more than just fancy effects—it has features useful to helping make some tasks easier. Users can set hot corners like in OS X, allowing for quick minimizing to desktop, an OS X-style display of all windows currently open, or many other options. All of these can also be given global shortcut keys for those who don't want to use a mouse.
Window transparency is another useful feature. If the mouse pointer is moved away from the top window, it fades to allow the window or windows beneath it to be visible simultaneously. This is especially handy when copying information from one window into another, as the top window remains focused.
Beryl is perfect for users wanting their desktops to have a little flair. Especially given Beryl's ability to perform well on hardware that Vista's Aero doesn't even pretend to support, it's worth looking into for any user with a little time on his or her hands.