Window Managers

List of short opinions on various window managers, with a bias for tiling WMs.

Over the years, I have tried many window managers.

Fvwm2

In retrospective, it was the best overall window manager. It was very mature and had no problems. I couldn't get my old configuration file to work for a while, but after exploring the following window managers for a few years (!) I decided to get back to Fvwm2. Meanwhile, Fvwm2 got increasingly sophisticated. It is extremely configurable, very mature, and quite powerful. It's just not tiling.

Ion

The "father of all tiling window managers". Was nice while it lasted. It almost handled floating windows OK. (For a tiling manager, that is. Meaning: not very well.) The problem is that the author insisted on using Lua for its configuration files. Sorry, general-purpose programming languages as configuration files is a bad idea. Why? Because you end up exposing your API, so your configuration files end up being unusable with the next release. That's exactly what happened to my Ion bindings.

wmii

The next step after Ion was to try wmii, another tiling window manager that purported to be "minimalistic".

Awesome

Another tiling window manager with a palatable configuration syntax. Unfortunately, it had severe usability issues. Not so awesome, after all.

Ratpoison

Might have been nice except that (a) the default bindings, being horrible, need significant work and (b) doesn't handle floating windows, which is a definite no-no for anyone doing any kind of graphical work, even occasional. (No, I'm not going to launch Gimp in Xnest and I'm not going to restart in another window manager).

WindowMaker

A relatively stable classical window manager with an old-style look. However it wastes space on my screen due to its use of icons. Also, it isn't as configurable as it should be.

PekWM

A small window manager written in C . Seems nice, but has trouble navigating between windows.

IceWM

Boring. But stable.

Fluxbox

A non-tiling window manager with lots of features, quite slow, and extremely severe usability issues , but overall good configurability. Usability issues include refusal to display windows, transient and erratic behaviour, crashes, etc. This is what I was using until switching back to the good old Fvwm.

StumpWM and Clfswm

Could have been pretty nice, except that these tend to crash pretty quickly for strange reasons. StumpWM absolutely, positively requires a prefix key. I don't use prefix keys. Clfswm works without a prefix key. Both crash due to what appears to be LISP runtime or compatibility issues.

2009-02-07