How to display your system info on your Linux desktop

by Ross McKillop on May 20, 2008

Linux

This tutorial will guide you in downloading, installing and setting up conky, a free, light-weight system monitor for X11 that displays system information on your desktop. And it’s also worth noting that the title is slightly misleading, conky also works in various BSD and X11 supported operating systems as well.

conky in Ubuntu

Conky can be used to display everything from your CPU and memory usage to the currently playing file in your media player. It can check your POP email account, CPU temperature, battery percentage remaining, network usage and much, much more.

Installing Conky

Debian/Ubuntu

Open a terminal and enter:

sudo apt-get install conky

installing conky in Ubuntu via the terminal
click to enlarge

Gentoo

Open a terminal and enter:

emerge app-admin/conky

Compiling from source

You’ll need the X11 development libraries, version 6.8.2 or later.

Download conky from http://conky.sourceforge.net/, uncompress it and then from a terminal run the commands (from inside the conky folder):

./configure
make
make install

The last step is optional, if you don’t do this, the conky executable will be in src/


Configuring Conky

The first time you run Conky a blank .conkyrc file will be created in your home folder. Rather than work from an empty configuration file, you can download this example (default) conky configuration file. Save it in your home folder and rename it to .conkyrc

Alternately, you can use my somewhat customized .conkyrc file (to download right click the previous link and choose “Save As”). Save the file to your home folder and then rename it to .conkyrc

rename conkyrc to .conkyrc

Using my customized .conkyrc file conky will look something like the screenshot below (transparent, borderless, upper-right corner of your screen with mostly the default resources being displayed).

conky in Ubuntu via the terminal
click to enlarge

There are dozens, possibly hundreds, of variables and config file settings. You may want to run conky once before you jump into adding additional variables and options.

For Ubuntu users, when you do edit the .conkyrc file using the Text Editor, hold down the ctrl key and hit the letter h to display hidden files (files that start with .) That way you can select and open .conkyrc

opening the .conkyrc file in Ubuntu with the text editor
click to enlarge

Running Conky

Depending on which OS you’re running conky on, locate the executable file and run it by entering ./conky &

If you’re an Ubuntu user you can launch conky by holding down the alt key and then hitting F2. Enter conky in the space provided and click Run

run conky from Ubuntu

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  • http://dnncrew.mine.nu/proxy dnncrew

    hi ross..
    i’ve try this conky
    and come out with problem where at 1st it working fine..
    but is it normal it just missing when i click at other part of my desktop (not at conky display)

    i’m using Ubuntu hardy amd64

  • drew

    Yeah, I am having same problem. Starting conky is no big issue. But only it’s running, and I click on the screen, it disappears.

  • zigward

    I`l use Ubuntu 8.04 and it works fine. Thank You!

  • vlad

    me too, dissapears after clicking on desktop, .conkyrc file wasn’t created on first stsrtup, when i create it conkey get stucked

    Ubuntu 10.04.4 LTS