I got a chance to play with Xgl, an up-and-coming window manager on Linux. It's pretty cool. It's an X server architecture layered on top of OpenGL, to form a hardware-acclerated compositing window manager.
To the uninitiated, I'm sure that sounds really sexy. What it means is that a Linux desktop can now have the same cool/weird graphic effects as those in MacOS X and the (always in-progress, never finished) Windows Vista. You get:
- Semi-transparent windows and frames
- Fading/flexing/flopping window and control surfaces
- A mouse cursor that leaves watery "ripples" as it travels around the desktop
- Other cool and wild effects
Probably the coolest thing is the desktop switch: When Xgl is active and you switch between virtual desktops, the whole desktop zooms away a bit, exposing a cube, which then twirls to the next face of the cube, and then zooms back in. It's a clever effect, and if you hold down on the "desktop switch" keys, the cube twirls at about 400 rpm until you release the keys.
Xgl was probably put together to provide an alternative to the desktops of Mac OSX and Windows Vista's Aero interface. I think they did a good job. The picture I provided (not a picture of my desktop, by the way) doesn't really do it justice. A normal desktop set up with Xgl is much nicer looking.
The Xgl effects, along with the usability improvements that have gone into the latest version of Gnome (on Ubuntu "Dapper") makes for a pretty darn cool desktop environment.