Have a pleasant desktop and keep yourself sane with Variety

:ubuntu_mate: This article is about the desktop wallpaper cycling software known as variety.

:stethoscope: This is not medical advice. While there is discussion about mental health in the contents below, and while there are things one can do with their computer to improve or sustain their mental health, if you are truly suffering from mental-related issues beyond mild depression and / or mania, you should seek medical attention for an evaluation and chemical balancing of your brain through prescription drugs. Remember; your life is your responsibility.

:ubuntu_mate: Introduction

Many say variety is the spice of life. If being cooped up in the house for many weeks is literally driving you mad, and if you don't know what else to do... well, why not make your desktop background nice to look at with a random selection of images from the Internet?

I know, it's a weird correlation. But as I've been sitting here, my desktop has been cycling through various kinds of flowers and surprisingly, that's been helping my mentality. So let's get to it.

:package: Installation

16.04 and newer

:heavy_dollar_sign: In x-terminal-emulator:

sudo apt install variety

15.10 and older

In x-terminal-emulator:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:peterlevi/ppa
sudo apt update
sudo apt install variety

:framed_picture: Image organization

There are two directories Variety will use as primary image sources on local file system, of those, one which is based upon preference:


$HOME/.config/variety/Fetched is another place where images might go, presumably for the preview feature when adding new sources as a results display. But presently for me that's empty, so i assume it's nothing to worry about. If you use smaller parts for home and system, or simply want to reduce utilization of the partition where /home is, these commands should help prior to execution:

:heavy_dollar_sign: In x-terminal-emulator:

mkdir -p $HOME/.config/variety
mkdir -p $HOME/Pictures/variety/Favorites
mkdir -p $HOME/Pictures/variety/Downloaded
ln -s $HOME/Pictures/variety/Favorites $HOME/.config/variety/Favorites
ln -s $HOME/Pictures/variety/Downloaded $HOME/.config/variety/Downloaded

This will link the directories intended for use with variety in $HOME/Pictures into Variety's working directory of $HOME/.config/variety. Modify to preference! The above can also be included in a post-install script if reinstalling your Ubuntu MATE / Debian-alike system.

Afterward, run variety. Browse about through the configuration dialogues and you will eventually find out what services allow you to find an image based on keywords. Punch in your favourite topics, or whatever brings you comfort and see what comes up — you may be surprised by its results!

:hammer_and_wrench: Other settings

While nowhere near as configurable as a clock rendered by Conky and not nearly as functional compared to the clocks available for your system, Variety can supplement your system clock — Simply enable the clock function and make it use whatever font is installed on your system.

Variety can also render quotes on images, which may or may not make sense compared to the image used. having a play with this may produce unintended consequences — Exercise some caution.

:globe_with_meridians: l10n

Some regions of the world may spell Favorites a bit differently. For those people, creating a symbolic link similar to the steps above using Favourites instead should aid people who prefer to use the i11n spelling of the word.

1 Like

Yes, I keep myself sane.

I've been using Variety for a while.
It can display (wise and funny) quotations. With Ubuntu 20.04, for some reason the default font seems broken and has to be changed in the Variety Preferences.

If you think Variety could do with using the default system fonts (as defined in desktop appearance properties), address that to Peter Levi and see if he'll bother to include it. Far as I am concerned, so long you can change the font, it works.

It works for me too.
I was telling that just so new and old users who want to try this feature are not surprised.