zondag 9 december 2012

Linux: What window manager should I use?

The reason I write this is because I was browsing the web for a while, and I saw this post about what distro is best for you. In the comments, someone said they didn't like distro's, that put your taskbar at the top of your screen. Apparently, some people think that this is because you use a certain distro, but that's not true.

The reason you are using linux is probably because everything is customizable. You can change anything you don't like about the os. This quest for the perfect computing experience started, when you started comparing different distro's when you installed linux in the first place.
After a while messing around with the same desktop might have bored you, and you are searching for a new "hey linux is awesome and innovative!" stimulus. Don't look further, it's time to see what window manager is best for you!

Window managers and desktops, know the difference

A window managers is software that simply arranges the way you see the windows on your desktop.  A desktop environment contains a window manager, and every application that you will going to need for your desktop experience, the docks, the tools ect. As an example KDE, GNOME and XFce are desktop environment.  We will mainly talk about window managers in this article.  You can change the window managers, while keeping the same desktop environment, but most desktop environment come with a window manager.

Lightweight vs eye-candy

The first thing you have to ask yourself is, what am I expecting from a window manager? Am I going for looks or performance? If you have an old computer, the choice is easily made.

You might have started using linux because of the cool looks of compiz-fusion, the desktop cube effect and other interesting effects. A lightweight window manager at the other hand is very practical and doesn't use much memory and processor power, that you would want  to use for your computer tasks. The more lightweight simple window manager can be nice looking too, if you like a very sleek design.

Tiling vs floating

The next thing you want to have a look at, is the difference between tiling and floating window managers. Some window managers manage your windows in a very strict way; Every window gets a fixed place on the screen.
These window managers are called tiling window managers
(The windows are like tiles on the screen). Some tiling window managers tile the windows in a very dynamic way, others have fixed tiles that the user sets.

The other style of managing is floating windows, it's the way MS Windows has managed your windows. A lot of window managers have floating windows, the windows are appearing on the screen, and the user can easily move and resize them.

Some window managers you should take a look at

Fluxbox: A lightweight floating window manager, very sleek design and incredibly fast. The thing I liked particularly is the ability to bind commands on shortcuts in a really easy way. There is no traditional menu, you have to right click on the desktop to get a menu right on your mouse, something you have to get used to, but it's actually really nice to have applications a few keys away, especially on your laptop.

Compiz: A floating window manager.
You have probably seen some of the effects of desktops with compiz effects on youtube. It really looks great,  and it's really something to show your friends, but it might get annoying at some point.

Icewm: A lightweigt window manager written from scratch and fairly popular. It's Gnome-aware so you should have no problem combining the two.

 There are a lot of window managers, please take a look here for more:

Do I need a desktop environment?
Well, that's a question you have to answer yourself. I just use a window manager without a desktop environment at the moment. Just try it without a desktop environment for a while, if you feel you aren't missing something from the desktop you used or can find alternatives, just do your processor a favor and don't run a desktop environment, and feel the power that you get put in your hands.


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