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Unix Data Splashing Tool

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Unix Splash Screen Tool - turn your desktop into a 2D / 3D canvas

Made in C++

See below for distro / DE compatbility


splash is a generic tool that provides a command-line interface for rendering non-windowed raw data directly onto your desktop environment.

splash transforms your entire desktop into a 2D / 3D canvas, for dynamic data or simple static overlays that can interact with your mouse and keyboard and trigger commands.


Example of splash displaying an animated GIF on the desktop background.


Example of splash displaying a full 3D OpenGL application (albeit a very basic one) with user interaction.


Example of splash rendering truetype font text, with a bunch of options, in the foreground on the desktop.

This was originally written because I wanted to have a custom "splash screen" like those fancy, super expensive software packages have when starting up, with transparency and everything. Now it supports a full OpenGL context.


Splash requires specification of an execution mode.

  []      Required
  <>      Optional

splash [mode]

Modes (built-in):

help Display help message

fidget Display a 3D fidget spinner (lol) : None

img Display .png image [data]: Image file name

gif Display .gif image [data]: GIF file name Note: Only works for full replacing gifs!

text Render truetype text (static) [data]: Text to render


-p [x y w h] Position Splash Quad -t [s] Splash timeout in seconds (integer)


--t Test configuration file --v Verbose mode

--bg Place splash in background --fg Place splash in foreground (default) --ni Splash no-interact --ns Disable splash shadows (compton) --a Display splash on all desktops

Program specific flags:


-ff [font] Font face (searches in ~/.fonts/, default "arial.ttf") -fc [hex] Text color (hex code, e.g. 0xFFFFFF) -fs [size] Font size, positive integer -v [0,1,2] Vertical Align [center, up, down] -h [0,1,2] Horizontal Align [center, left, right]


Check the

folder for example programs to splash some data onto your screen.
  #Default desktop fidget spinner (no shadow, foreground)

splash fidget -p 710 290 500 500 --ns --fg

#Animated SMB wallpaper gif (no interact, all screens, no shadow)

echo "smb.gif" | splash gif -p 660 340 600 400 --bg --ni --a --ns

#Display an Image (with shading, blocks mouse input)

echo "image.png" | splash img -p 360 140 1200 800

#Display some text on your background

echo "splash" | splash text -p 100 100 800 400 --bg --ns  -ff "arial.ttf" -fs 100



Compiler:         g++
Rendering:        OpenGL, glX, GLEW
X-Server:         X11, Xfixes, Xrender
Boost:            boost, boost_system, boost_filesystem

All of these should be available as packages for your favorite distro.


Run the script
with privileges.

The script will make sure that the required directories exist and will setup splash at


The script will also ask if you wish to compile splash and the execution modes.

The execution modes are placed in

and splash is placed in

Manual Compiling

If you wish to compile manually, use the makefiles in

  make splash

./program: make [mode] make all

Note that splash is separate from the actual execution modes. Execution modes are compiled separately (linked at runtime by splash).

Compilation Issues

If you have problems with compiling search the closed issues to see if there is a solution and otherwise feel free to open a ticket.

Common problems might include: Incorrect linking in the make files, because your distro places libraries in a different location, and slightly different names of the libraries in


Compabitibility / Requirements / Configuration

This is just from some basic tests I can run on my computer. If you can compile / test on other distros and DEs, please open an issue so I can add it here.


    Ubuntu 18           Compiles successfully
    Arch / Manjaro      Compiles successfully (see issues)
    ...                 feel free to open an issue for your distro!

Desktop Environments:

    Gnome / Ubuntu      Works fully
    Openbox             Works fully
    XFCE                Works fully
    bspwm               Works fully (requires config, see below)

i3                  *Restricted (see below)*
i3-gaps             Not tested

...                 Feel free to open an issue for your DE!

Note: Some WMs require additions to their config (see below)

Sidenote: The various degrees of compatibility depend on how strictly the window manager conforms to the X11 extended window manager hints specification (EWMH). Particularly tiling window managers don't adhere entirely, making it more difficult to produce consistent splash behavior. There are work-arounds using the WM configs.

Splash xprops

Splash will spawn an X window with a number of additional properties that your WM / compositor / other programs can target to get expected visual behavior:

  SPLASH_SHADOW = [0,1]       set to 0 if --ns is set (1 by default)
  WM_CLASS = SPLASH           for every window spawned with splah

Note: You might want shadow on for a splash for e.g. an image overlay.

Compositor config

To enable shadow toggling, add the following rule (or similar) to your compositor config (e.g.

#Enable shadow toggling
shadow-exclude = [
  "[email protected]:32c = 0",

If you don't add this the compositor will always shade splashes, and it can't be deactivated with


Other compositors (check where to set shadow exclude rule):


Note: Other compositors might support features such as kawase blur. Use the same flag above to target splash for exception.


Add the following rules to your

# Splash Float
bspc rule -a SPLASH:SPLASH state=floating
bspc rule -a SPLASH:SPLASH border=off

This is necessary to make sure bspwm immediately floats splashes. Otherwise you get unintended behavior.

i3 and i3-gaps

Add this line to your i3 config to make splash semi-compatible:

# splash config       
for_window [class="SPLASH"] border none
for_window [class="SPLASH"] floating enable

A number of issues mentioned below will persist.

i3 / i3-gaps compatibility problems

Problem: These window managers do not support the EWMH specification for specifying a preferred order of floating windows (specifically

). It ignores these hints and forces its own order.

Effect: The

options do not work as intended (splashes will be permanently on the floating window layer). Splashes will never "disappear" behind tiled windows. Splashes will conflict with other floating windows too, and not stay above or below other windows.

Problem: i3 does not seem to properly support the X shape extension.

Effect: Disabling user input / hover focus for the window is non-standard (read: difficult), so the

flag will not work. For some reason, i3 decides that a window with no input area has its entire area instead be it's border, so dragging on a splash after setting the
flag will instead resize it in a wonky way.

All other options work as intended. If you never use other floating windows and use splash just for overlays (with no click-through), the program works as intended.

Currently this issue is will not fix, because it seems that it will require a substantial rewrite for a WM that does not follow the X spec. Consider forking and proposing a solution!

Read the following discussion for possible fixes:

See also:

Customization & How it Works


I am currently working on a configuration system to make the display behavior more easily customizable.

Possible configuration options include color-schemes, transparency options and event triggers.

Custom Mode

Currently, building custom execution modes requires knowledge of C++ and OpenGL. If you don't have the experience but you have an idea for a type of visualization you would like, let me know.

splash provides a "windowless"* OpenGL context and a system for modularized data visualization using small shader programs ("execution modes"), which have access to the piped-in data and user-input events.

Note: An X11 window technically exists, it is just made "transparent" to the desktop.

A generic "program" base class is exposed to user input (piped data, commandline, X11 events). It contains an event handling callback and a rendering callback.

The program class is exposed to an OpenGL rendering context for visualization, as well as a number of utility classes that intuitively wrap boilerplate OpenGL (taken from TinyEngine ).

By defining a derived class with specialized callbacks (and any additional desired members), arbitrary behavior can be achieved using the data piped in, on the "windowless" OpenGL window.

The derived classes are precompiled and placed into

where they are found and linked by splash at run time.

You can build your own visualization programs by defining a custom derived class, compiling it and placing it in the

folder. Check out the
folder for examples (as well as the makefile).

Interesting Reads:

If there is a desire for more detailed information on how to build a custom visualization, I can update the Wiki (if I get requests).



  • Proper configuration file system, to expose the programs to static user settings
  • More well tested execution modes
    • Plotting methods
    • .obj file load and display
    • Particle system
  • Dynamic data streams by active pipe listening



check out my dope desktop fidget spinner, man

splash fidget

A terrible Idea

One could theoretically add a whole DearImGUI menu to your desktop using splash. Why? I don't know. But it's possible. Everyday I stray further from the light.


If you find this interesting and would like to contribute that would be awesome. A number of places where contributing would be nice:

  • Designing use cases for different execution modes
  • Testing portability for other window managers / desktop environments


MIT License

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