Brief: This beginner’s guide shows you how to use Conky in Linux desktop. Both GUI and command line methods have been discussed.
You might have seen such a screenshot of Linux desktop in various discussion forums. And you may wonder how did the other guy displayed CPU, memory and other information on the desktop. The answer lies in one word: Conky.
What is Conky?
Conky is a lightweight free system monitor available on Linux and BSD. It can display the system information and statistics such as CPU consumption, disk usage, RAM utilization, network speed etc in an elegant way. All the information is displayed on top of your wallpaper. It gives your desktop a live wallpaper feel.
The looks of the displayed information can be changed via Conky configuration file.
The problem with Conky is that it is more of a text-based application. Which means you have to change its configuration file to tweak the display. Though Conky is extremely configurable and you can change every aspect of it by modifying its configuration file. But the complex way of installing and configuring Conky usually scares away the Linux beginners.
Don’t worry! You can still use Conky easily thanks to a GUI tool called Conky Manager. I’ll show you both GUI and command line way of installing Conky themes.
Let’s start with GUI method first.
Method 1: Use Conky with Conky Manager GUI tool [Beginner]
Let’s see how to install Conky Manager.
Install Conky Manager in Ubuntu and other Ubuntu-based Linux distributions
You can install Conky Manager using the official PPA. Note that the PPA is only available for Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04. Use the following commands in terminal:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:teejee2008/ppa sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install conky-manager
Install Conky Manager in Fedora and Arch-based Linux distributions
Conky Manager is available to install from AUR. You can get it from there.
Fedora users can get the RPM from this link. I am not sure if it is well supported though.
You don’t need to install Conky prior to using Conky Manager. If you don’t have it installed, it will be installed with Conky Manager itself. In case you want to uninstall Conky Manager, you can delete or remove the PPA.
Using Conky in GUI with Conky Manager:
Once installed, you can start Conky Manager from the Unity Dash:
As I said before, using Conky Manager is same as using a wallpaper application. There are mainly three tabs to use: Theme, Edit and Options.
Change Conky theme
It comes with a predefined set of 11 Conky themes. Using them is very easy. All you got to do is to select a theme and check the “enable” box in front of it and it will be displayed on your desktop immediately. Alternatively, you can also preview a Conky which opens up in a different tab rather than on your desktop.
Some themes also give the option to enable/disable specific widgets on the such as memory usage, disk usgae thus giving you more control on what is to be displayed on the desktop.
Edit a Conky in Conky Manager
In Edit tab, you can change the alignment, transparency, size, time etc of the displayed Conky theme and/or its widget. This is important as most of the themes have a predefined settings which might not be suitable for all. So if you want the Conky to be displayed at centre rather than on the right side of the screen, you can do that here.
Using additional options for autostart or importing new Conky files
Options tab has three main functionality. You may want to start the Conky at startup time so that you won’t have use Conky Manager each time. You can select this option here by checking the Run Conky at system startup box. If you want to stop using Conky, you can choose the option of Kill Conky.
Conky Manager comes with 11 default Conky themes. What if you want more Conkys? Conky Manager gives you the option of importing other Conky themes in it. The only restriction is that it must be in .cmtp.7z format.
Method 2: Use Conky in command line [Intermediate to Expert]
I am going to assume that you are familiar with basic Linux commands such as copying files and changing directories for this part of Conky tutorial.
Let’s first install Conky in your system. Most Linux distributions have the conky-all package. You can use this package to install Conky and other packages that many Conky scripts use.
In Debian and Ubuntu based systems, use the command below:
sudo apt install conky-all
Once you have installed this package, you can run the Conky using the following command:
It will display the default Conky installed with the above-mentioned package. The default config file is located in /etc/conky directory. Conky actually relies on the config file .conkyrc located in the home directory. If there is no such file in the system, it uses the /etc/conky/conky.config file.
And as you may see, it might not be the best looking or well integrated Conky for your system.
So, what’s the solution then? Well, you have two options. Either you modify the Conky on your own or you download a Conky theme from the internet and use it.
To modify the Conky on your own, you need to know a thing or two about the Conky settings. I’ll show you some basics later. Let’s first talk a bit more about using Conky.
Where can you find Conky themes? How do you use different types of Conky themes?
You should note that most of the Conky themes are created by hobbyists and at times these will be outdated. You may be able to tweak it to your need but if you are looking for something plug and play, not every Conky theme will do that.
Using these Conky themes is similar to using source code installation. A good Conky theme will come with a README or other help file that tells you what to change in the Conky theme files and other important things about using the Conky theme. Most of the time you have to change the path to image files or Lua script.
Some Conky themes don’t have any instructions and you have to manually explore what needs to be changed in the Lua script or conky configuration files.
Most of the Conky themes will come in the following formats:
- Just a single file named conkyrc or conky.conf or something similar
- Complete package for Conky Manager: simply import it in Conky Manager.
- Conky package with Lua scripts, wallpapers etc
- Shell script or make install: should have a readme file to help you out.
Let’s discuss the two of the common kinds with examples.
Install qclocktwo conky to display time in words
Go to DeviantArt and download the qclocktwo conky. Extract the downloaded file and you’ll see a file named qclocktwo.
Now you have two option to run this conky. Either you use a command like this:
conky -c ~/Downloads/qclocktwo
Or you rename the file qclocktwo to .conkyrc and move it to the home directory i.e. ~/. This way when you run the command conky, the qclocktwo conky will be run.
The problem with the second approach is that if you ever use another conky by renaming it to .conkyrc, you’ll lose the previous conky.
In either case, you’ll see a beautiful conky theme displaying time in the following fashion:
Install Conky with Lua script
You’ll find many Conky themes that have their own wallpapers, images along with a Lua file and conky configuration file.
Using Lua scripts, Conky themes can create some graphics (if I can call it that) such as rings, clocks etc. This further enhances the capability of Conky where you see the system information with more animated elements.
Let’s see it with an example. Download the Kit-Kat conky. After extracting the downloaded files, you’ll see that there is conkyrc file and a lua file under the scripts folder.
The main thing to look for here is the path to the lua file in the conky configuration file. So if you open the conkyrc_Kit-kat file, you’ll see that the path in lua_load expects the lua file to be in the location ~/.conky/Kit-Kat/scripts/lua.
You have two options here. Either you copy the entire Kit-Kat folder to ~/.conky directory or you change the conky configuration file and set the path to current location of the lua script file. It is always better to put the files in ~/.conky to avoid unnecessary troubles.
Once you have done one of the above two things, you need to use the conky command with the path to the config file of Kit-Kat conky.
conky -c .conky/Kit-Kat/conkyrc_Kit-Kat
And then you’ll see an analog clock ticking in the top right corner of your desktop.
Few things to keep in mind about Conky
Before you start experimenting with Conky, here are a few more things you should know:
- Most Conky themes on the internet are outdated. Be prepared to be disappointed when you see issues after issues in the conky.
- You can have more than one Conky in use at the same time. Just use the conky command in the following fashion: conky -c path_to_conky_1 path_to_conky_2
- You can also set conky commands to run them at startup.
How do you use Conky?
Overall, I found Conky Manager easy to use and quite useful. It has some nice Conkys to start with. It is a nice app for beginners to use Conky in GUI. What do you say? Do you like it? Let me know of your views.