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How to display real-time system stats on the Linux desktop

In past Linux articles on AddictiveTips, I’ve talked about different apps that can display system information. However, we’ve never gone over how to display system stats in real-time on the Linux desktop.

There are a few apps out there that can display real-time system stats on the Linux desktop. However, the best one for the job is Conky. Why? It’s highly customizable, easy to set up, and is supported on nearly every Linux distribution out there, from Ubuntu to hobby distros like Arch Linux.

Note: Conky does not support the Wayland desktop protocol. If your desktop environment is using Wayland, log out of it and choose the X11 session instead, which is supported.

Install Conky

The Conky application must be installed on your Linux PC before continuing, as it is not loaded up on any mainstream Linux operating system by default. Thankfully, installation is quite simple and will only take a few terminal commands.

To start the installation of Conky for your Linux PC, open up a terminal window by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T on the keyboard. Then, once the terminal window is open and ready to go, follow the instructions outlined below that correspond with the Linux operating system you currently use.

Ubuntu

On Ubuntu, the Conky application can be installed with the following Apt command.

sudo apt install conky

Debian

If you’re using Debian, install the Conky app with the Apt-get command below.

sudo apt-get install conky

Arch Linux

Arch Linux users can get the Conky application through the “Extra” software repository. Using the Pacman command below, install Conky.

sudo pacman -S conky

Fedora

Fedora Linux has the Conky application in the primary software repositories, as it is an open-source program. To install this app on your Fedora PC, use the following Dnf command.

sudo dnf install conky

OpenSUSE

Need to get the Conky app installed and working on your OpenSUSE Linux PC? If so, use the Zypper command below.

sudo zypper install conky

Generic Linux

The Conky application is open source and on GitHub. If you’re using a Linux operating system that is not as well supported as the distributions covered in this article but still want to use it, head over to the project’s page and learn how to compile it yourself.

Alternatively, search the software sources on your Linux PC for “conky” and install it the way you’d typically install other apps.

Configure Conky

After installing the Conky application, you must configure it so that it will display system data on the Linux desktop each time you log into your PC. To do this, open up a terminal window by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T on the keyboard. After that, use the commands below to create a new startup entry for Conky in the “autostart” folder.

mkdir -p
touch ~/.config/autostart/Conky.desktop

Once you’ve made the new “Conky.desktop” file, open it up in the Nano text editor with the following command.

nano ~/.config/autostart/Conky.desktop

Paste the following code below into the Nano text editor. You can paste items into Nano with the Ctrl + Shift + V keyboard combination.

[Desktop Entry]
Type=Application
Exec=conky
NoDisplay=false
Hidden=false
Name[en_US]=Conky
Comment[en_US]=Conky displays any kind of information on your desktop.

When you’ve pasted the code into the Nano text editor, save the edits by pressing the Ctrl + O keyboard combination. Then, exit the Nano text editor with the Ctrl + X keyboard combination.

Now that the Conky startup entry has been created and moved to  the “autostart” directory, you must update the permissions of the startup entry, or it will not launch correctly at startup.

To update the permissions of the startup entry, open up a terminal window, and use the CD command to move the session into the autostart directory.

cd ~/.config/autostart

Inside of the “autostart” directory, run the chmod command on the “Conky.desktop” file to change its permissions so that it is executable.

chmod +x Conky.desktop

With the permissions updated, log out of your Linux PC and log back in. As soon as you are logged back in, the Conky application will begin displaying your system stats right on the screen.

Don’t want to log out? You can instantly start Conky without logging out of your desktop session by pressing Alt + F2 and writing the command below into the quick launcher box.

conky

Conky themes

The default look for Conky is functional, but not pretty. If you’re not a fan of the default look, you’ll be happy to know that there are different themes available for Conky online. Head over to Gnome-look.org to browse available Conky themes to install them on your PC. Be sure to also check out Deviantart, as they have some beautiful Conky themes available too.

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