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Transparency on the screen is a question of compositing.

If the OS or window manager supports variable transparency of application windows/dialogs, then it should be trivial for an application to enable and use this feature. But OS-level transparency isn't the only way to create the "transparent" effect.

Consider an image editor like the GIMP that can make use of layers with variable transparency. The transparency of these layers is really just a filter applied to the layer to provide a particular result when a semi-transparent layer (aka "a layer with an alpha channel") is composited with a layer behind it.

For more information (and some fun math), take a look at the Wikipedia page:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_compositing

Most popular OSes/GUIs of today support the feature, including:

  • Mobile: Android, iOS, Windows Mobile
  • Desktop: OSX, Windows, GNOME, X, Unity, KDE Plasma