I’ve been looking for a decent “Now Playing” widget for my Ubuntu desktop for a while now, having been inspired by some Rainmeter setups I saw in a thread on Windows desktops.
And I finally found one — but it took some searching.
Now, I appreciate that the days of showing your currently playing track on your actual desktop is are gone. It’s 2021, and most Linux desktop environments (including GNOME, which Ubuntu uses) support MPRIS controls in some form or another.
Standalone now playing ‘widgets’ (like the much-missed CoverGloobus, pictured as part of a particularly impressive desktop below) are few and far between.
A few of you will be wondering why I want to see whatever track I’m playing on my desktop, and there’s not really a good answer.
Which is to say I WANT to show my now playing song on my desktop. I don’t want it hidden away. I like making my desktop look pretty, and now playing widgets are good way to help me do that.
Users of KDE Plasma have lots of choices (lucky things) in this department with Plasmoids and the like. On vanilla Ubuntu things are less bountiful.
The past has seen me blow the dust of a ton of old Conky ‘now playing’ scripts/widgets from GitHub, DeviantArt, GNOME Look, and anywhere else I could rummage (including in a few long-forgotten Dropbox accounts).
Sadly for me none of the widgets I found work properly, and those which almost work are either part of larger configs that are not really in my style, or lack support for Spotify, which is now my go-to music player.
So BOY was I relived to come across a not-entirely-archaic fork of the Now Clocking Conky widget on Github. It is simple, it still works, and —squee— it supports Spotify.
This is what it looks like on the creator’s desktop:
Pretty nice, right?
Sadly, it doesn’t look quite as flashy on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, not out-of-the-box:
Part of the discord is my fault: I’m missing the ‘Gotham Book’ font the script is coded to use (I could only find download links it on eh-looking sites).
A quick tweak of a few position values (to accommodate the Ubuntu dock) makes things look much nicer:
My attempts to use the Ubuntu font family hasn’t been entirely successful. Conky is a very finicky thing at the best of times, but with me involved? Eh, anything that involves maths (not my forte) generally leaves me frustrated and adrift.
I spent a good hour or so playing around with values and fonts and sizing to try and effect something like what I wanted in my head, which you can see
by the power of psychic energy in this mockup:
I didn’t succeed at getting close tot his, but hey: a functional, decent looking Spotify Conky script had eluded me until now so overall I’m still happy to have something!
I should note that this Conky script supports Spotify, CMus, and VLC. I only tested it with Spotify, however. Each of the players are coded independently, so if you want the set-up to work with multiple players you’ll need to tweak each player’s settings separately.
When a supported music player isn’t open the Now Clocking widget shows the time and date:
Now the name makes sense, right? 😉
If you’re keen to try it out on your desktop (and maybe have more success styling it than I) you can download the ‘Now Clocking’ Conky script from Github:
You will to install a few additional packages to get things working:
sudo apt install conky ffmpeg playerctl
To run, just extract the .zip,
cd into the extracted directory, and run the script inside.
Et voila, a bit of useless (but blingy) eye candy.
To adjust the positioning you’ll need to open the two
.lua scripts in the now-clocking/script conky folder. Everytime you save changes to the script the Conky widget will update to reflect them, which is as close to a WYSIWYG workflow as I know.
If anyone out there knows of some slick Conky scripts that might suit my needs, let me know in the comments or via Twitter.