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NME
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 6:50 pm    Post subject: [FAQ] Window Managers: A comparison Reply with quote

Basically, i am really getting fed up with people asking "wich WM is best fit for my needs?"
Really, there are so many topics on this subject that i wanted to put an end to our misery and post a comparison of window managers and their desktop environments. I know i'm a chaotic kind of guy and so i will use version numbers and a changelog. Please post your corrections and thoughts, I'm sure there are people (yes you, taviso :P) who know a lot more about their favorite WM than me and i will probably have forgotten to include a (popular) WM.

Of course, the giants go first:
KDE and Gnome
for your consideration:
Poll: KDE vs Gnome

GNOME
Gnome uses Metacity to manage its windows.
The Metacity WM is supposed to be a "crack-free WM": the developers don't want any features that, they think, you won't need.
Gnome's main characteristic over the past years, however, is that it uses the GTK library. GTK was originally developped for The GIMP and adopted by the Gnome project. It generally has a very clean look, something that's found throughout the whole Gnome DE. Gnome tends to be less eye-candy but more productivity; they have guidelines on how a user-interface should behave and be set up, and the project has been modified by Ximian to be fit especially for the office. Ximian, i might add, was recently bought by Novell.
Although Gnome doesn't really start at eye-candy you can get some. Try gdesklets for instance, its in portage. Or pay a visit to art.gnome.org for some nice themes.

KDE
KDE uses the QT library (plus some enhancements), developed by Trolltech. QT is a tidbit faster then GTK+ and is able to show off some more eye-candy. It's typically used by people who want a full-featured desktop/wm and then some. Also, it seems to be the desktop environment in wich people get to know their way around the fastest. KDE uses it's own KWin to show window-decorations, a WM that has all the functionality Metacity has. The two don't differ a lot.
When you're into eye-candy then KDE really is your DE. You probably know of (super)Karamba. Karamba introduced the concept of sensors and display's on your desktop to a wide audience for the first time. In no time people were installing all kinds of cpu/memory sensors, calendars etc.. on their desktops. The same idea was later taken to Gnome with gdesklets.
Your link for eye-candy on KDE: KDE-look.org

The Rest
Most people use Gnome or KDE. Another big group is the "Non-DE" group.
Some users don't want a big Desktop Environment running all the time. After all, DE's tend to suck memory. All their supportive apps running in the background add up to quite a heavy load, especially for older systems. People with say a Pentium 2 probably don't want to use either Gnome or KDE. Then there's of course users who just want to have very simple and very effective WM. They want their apps to work for them and fast! In the following list I discuss only (fairly popular) WMs that are in portage, the other ones you probably won't use if you've read anything new so far.
The poll that is supposed to back up my yacking:
Poll: The other window managers

The *BOX-es
Once upon a time a WM existed, it was called BlackBox. It's main feature was functionality, it's second was speed. This was touched up with simplicity. Many people used this WM, but eventually some wanted to see some new things, or existing things only in a different form. These people started working on their own derivatives of BlackBox, like Fluxbox. Fluxbox is still very popular for the one feature that makes it great: tabbing. Tabbing allows you to hang multiple windows in one space. you can then switch between by touching the tabs that appeared above the window. Again, this wasn't made to be beautiful; but it is functional.
Another derivative is Openbox. It supports some new features and isn't directly build on Blackbox, the 3.0 release was build from scratch. Most importantly however it was, as it states on the website, "written first to comply with standards and to work properly." What did i tell you? These people want functionality.
One last thing: if you put your soul into it (like many *box-users do) these WM's can be made absolutely beautiful, and 100% customized. You just have to make an effort first.

Kahakai
Kahakai was forked of off Waimea (wich was based on BlackBox!). Its codebase is still Waimea for a big part, but its main feature is or will be extensibility using languages like Python, Ruby and Perl. It's fast, light and flexible. There aren't many themes though, it's userbase isn't very big and it doesn't seem to care for really juicy themes, the default just works for them. Of course kahakai can be used with a panel like PyPanel and a desktop-icons manager like iDesk to juice it up a bit... hell, you can use gdesklets if you want. Most kahakai users probably won't though.

FVWM
Yes,it does get more extreme in terms of configurability and the need to customize. Fire up FVWM for the first time and see.. well nothing really. This WM needs to be customized to be useable at all.
But just wait when you have. The options are endless, once you have worked your way through the text-based configs you will have a truely unique desktop. You will know exactly what it will or won't do and that will be how you like it. Actually, about every feature found in any other popular WM can be reproduced with FVWM. All it takes is a lot of patience working your way through the configuration. Naturally, idesk, pypanel, gdesklets and a lot of other desktop-enhancing apps apply.
There's a thread in the fora where users are showing off configs and helping each other enable the various options.

XFCE4
Favored by many former Gnome users in search of something a bit light but still with that "complete" feel. The latest release is XFCE4, a radical rewrite from XFCE3. It provides about the same look and feel Gnome does, since it uses the GTK library. It's not very configurable, but has a lot of nice skins in stock. If you like ease of use and have a lightweight system or just want things to be a bit snappier for you than this could be the way to go.
Your themes, sir.

WindowMaker
WindowMaker was, as it states on the website, designed to give users the look and feel of the NeXTSTEP environment but with better compatibility. It can be configured using its own GUI. The setup of WindowMaker is slightly different from the usual bars in WMs. WindowMaker makes a box out of every iconified application and stocks it neatly in the corner. You can then reorganise the boxes just the way you want, stick all your dev-apps in one corner and your porn in the other! The userbase is loyal and there are lots and lots of themes to be found.

IceWM
When you want a plain WM that just manages, and is fast when it comes to that, then IceWM could be for you. It combines a starterbar with a windowmanager and that's it. It aims to be customizable but not drown you in options like FVWM might do. It is of course very lightweight so if you want to use X on that really old computer that still works you could consider IceWM. It's fully useable with only the keyboard for when you've ran out of old mice.
For your themeing pleasure go here.

PekWM
Yet another lightweight windowmanager is PekWM. It has about the same basic functionality the *BOX-es have (like tabbing and key-chains), and the author knows that. The question of why he made this WM is answered on his website with a simple "why not?". The more choice people have, so says the author, the better. It might be slightly faster than, for instance, OpenBox. This may or may not be noticeable, depending on your hardware. It is, of course, themeable. From the website:
[here]
[here]
[here]
[ and here]

--Version 1.2

Changelog
Feb 05 -- added WindowMaker, IceWM, pekwm and minor changes.
Feb 04 -- added XFCE4
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Last edited by NME on Thu Feb 05, 2004 8:36 am; edited 4 times in total
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 7:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't forget about xfce4! The super light weight but still good looking windowmanager: http://www.xfce.org There are probably others but I use xfce4 so I'm a bit biased.
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NME
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 7:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I knew i had forgotten an important player in the field :oops:
thanks.
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WebsterRF
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aww, no IceWM? I'd still be in the playing around phase with different window managers, and Ice was one of the ones I was enjoying. However, the computer crapped out on me, and since I'm trying to get somebody else's up and running before I fix mine (alhtough I do have the new mobo already...) I haven't had the chance to continue fooling with things.

Thanks for the nice preview.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 9:09 pm    Post subject: Re: Window Managers: A comparison Reply with quote

Very nice overview. Just one little nitpick:

NME wrote:
KDE uses it's own library, QT.


Qt is actually made by Trolltech, and is released under 4 separate licenses.

Of course, this doesn't really affect your choice of WM/DE, unless you're RMS and can't stand any code that's been within 20 miles of a proprietary license.

-Adam
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 9:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

However, QT is accepted by the OSI as a valid open source software liscence now. This used to not be the case but they changed it because of developer concerns. http://www.opensource.org/licenses/qtpl.php

So QT used to be not "real" OSS but now it is.

And last time I checked, RMS uses emacs in a console for his gui so i guess that should go in the options somewhere. :P
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

you forgot my favourite... pekwm :) even slimmer that the *boxs, and has some neat features. pekwm.org
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 11:52 pm    Post subject: Window Managers Reply with quote

Personally I use WindowMaker. Slim enough for a slower machine, yet themed easily enough for a newbie.

Slashdot recently had a bit on Stallman going to India and this link: http://faifzilla.org/toc.html

It's a good read at the least, inspiring at most. -Happy Hacking!
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2004 6:23 am    Post subject: Re: Window Managers: A comparison Reply with quote

aroben wrote:
Very nice overview. Just one little nitpick:

NME wrote:
KDE uses it's own library, QT.


Qt is actually made by Trolltech, and is released under 4 separate licenses.


But don't forget that KDE uses an enhanced version of Qt - it has some unique Dialogs and Widgets to give an application the typical feature-rich KDE-look (like KFileDialog .. in my eyes too many buttons, just to choose a file ;-) ).

@NME: You really forgot WindowMaker :-( I think, their user-base is as least as big as *Box's.
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NME
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2004 8:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just posted an update including windowmaker, icewm and pekwm.
I'm considering including Enlightenment tonight.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2004 9:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

On the lowest end of the scale, in the "almost not a window manager anymore" category, you'll need Ratpoison and Ion and Ion2, and maybe a word about LarsWM, a port of Plan 9's 9wm for Linux...

By the way, here's a good overview of window managers in existence.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2004 12:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

psst....afterstep
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2004 4:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh! Why no Enlightenment? It's SO pretty AND fast and useable and and and...

*ANNOUNCEMENT : Please ignore the Rasterman fanboy, thank you.*
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2004 11:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

NME wrote:
Just posted an update including windowmaker, icewm and pekwm.


I use WindowsMaker on Cygwin - excellent. It just does its work, but it does it in a way to make my Windows-centric co-workers to love it.

NME wrote:
I'm considering including Enlightenment tonight.


I gues that wasn't that night. How about this night?
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2004 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And sawfish?

http://sawmill.sourceforge.net/

Quote:
Sawfish is an extensible window manager using a Lisp-based scripting language --all window decorations are configurable and all user-interface policy is controlled through the extension language. This is no layer on top of twm, but a wholly new architecture.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2004 2:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

timfreeman wrote:
And sawfish?

http://sawmill.sourceforge.net/

Quote:
Sawfish is an extensible window manager using a Lisp-based scripting language --all window decorations are configurable and all user-interface policy is controlled through the extension language. This is no layer on top of twm, but a wholly new architecture.


Last time I've checked it's development was frozen. For example you are in trouble if you try it with recent GNOME.

Too sad - I like it's functionality which I believe was possible only due to its Lisp-like scripting. Although I belive that it's failure is also due to it's Lisp-like language - they should use one of portable either common lisps (SBCL?) or schemes (Guile?), but not that stranger "librep".
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 3:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

axxackall wrote:
Too sad - I like it's functionality which I believe was possible only due to its Lisp-like scripting. Although I belive that it's failure is also due to it's Lisp-like language - they should use one of portable either common lisps (SBCL?) or schemes (Guile?), but not that stranger "librep".


no it failed because GNOME 2.0 replaced sawfish with the vastly inferior metacity as the main window manager, instead of fixing the problems with sawfish. Development of sawfish was strong until then.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 4:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Never forget Enlightenment! DR17 will rule!
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 4:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, that's actually a fair and insightful preview -- good work.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 4:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I'll be able to run DR17 on my nice HURD box.
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PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2004 8:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the full performance comparison can be found at:
http://www.windowmaker.org/features-performance.html

they ran the numbers on april 5, 2003 on a p2 233 with 32mb of ram using debian and the default configs for each.

Code:

Name                Version        Total Memory Size   Load Time
AfterStep           1.8.8          2556K               4s   
Enlightenment       0.16.5         3784K               8s
Blackbox            0.61.1         1568K               2s
FVWM                2.2.5          1428K               2s
Window Maker        0.65.1         2376K               2s


i wonder if anyone has more recent numbers.
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PostPosted: Tue May 11, 2004 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluxbox vs windowmaker: my numbers

https://forums.gentoo.org/viewtopic.php?t=171935&highlight=
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 11, 2004 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really think you should add ratpoison and wmi to the list.

Ratpoison is a whole new paradigm for window management. it's designed to act for X like 'screen' does for terminals. ratpoison requires no use of the mouse for window management (actually, it practically forbids it). This is good if you're a programmer and have to deal with editors, xterms, and web browser windows. but can be an issue if you have to deal with lots of floating palettes (gimp)

ratpoison's homepage:
http://ratpoison.sourceforge.net

an impassioned article about using it:
http://handhelds.freshmeat.net/articles/view/581/

finally a screenshot of my custom frameset so I can run some dockapps with it:

http://desertsol.com/~kevin/screens/040709_ratpoison.jpg
wmi is a new, fairly immature project, which tries to get ratpoison-like operation but still have traditional mouse interaction and title bars too.

wmi has two modes; a ratpoison-like mode, and a 'floating' mode. that way you can easily run programs like the gimp (in traditional, floating mode) as well as full-screen mode apps (like xterm, etc)

http://wmi.berlios.de/
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2004 12:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

THANKS!
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2004 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For now, E17 isn't so much of a big deal since they're working on E16.7 so rapidly. They have a new release every week...quite nice.

That's not to say I don't want E17 right now, because I do. I'm just being realistic.
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