I've had this low-level urge to try a new window manager for a few months now. I work on a Linux box (Ubuntu) daily and mostly run a number of terminals, GNU Emacs, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome. Nothing too fancy, really. Oh, and a shitty VPN client.
Most of the time I'm doing this in front of a 24" (or larger) monitor running at 1920x1200, so there's a lot of screen real estate. Yet I was always annoyed by how much time I spent moving windows around or trying to find the optimal layout--always reaching for the mouse.
Years ago when 1024x768 was the norm, I ran a heavily customized fvwm2 and enjoyed it. But then I made the move to Windows for a few years and came back to Linux with Ubuntu/Gnome as my "desktop."
Months ago I wrote about how I love my Samsung NC10. When I'm not at my desk, I'll often use PuTTY to login, resume my screen session(s), and continue working. For what it's worth, I find that the free DejaVu Fonts (specifically the Monospaced one) works exceptionally well.
What I realized is that my method of having one terminal in full-screen mode on each "desktop" (thanks to the VirtualWin virtual desktop manager) is surprisingly productive, even on the little 10" screen. At first I considered this a fluke and attributed it mainly to the novelty of working this way. But after a while I realized that it was the focus that this setup enforces. There simply isn't enough room to have a browser on screen to distract me while I'm coding something, reading email, etc.
I really need to focus one or a few tightly realted tasks. The cognitive overload of having the whole Internet available really gets pushed off-screen and mostly out of mind.
After a discussion in our chatroom at work the other day, I finally decided to give a new window manger a try: xmonad. A big help was Tom's Introduction to the xmonad Tiling Window Manager which gave me just the information I needed to get started.
I used it most of Friday and a bit off and on Saturday, both on my primary work computer and my "home" Linux desktop machine. The experience has been surprisingly positive so far. Most of the hassles have revolved around re-training my hands to learn some new keyboard shortcuts and finding replacements for the few GUI things that Gnome provided on my previous desktop.
On thing I particularly like is that most of the keybindings seem very sane out of the box with xmonad. I haven't really needed to customize anything yet. I have found that a couple keystrokes that I use in GNU Emacs appear to be intercepted by xmonad and I haven't found an easy way to undo that or at least discover what they're supposed to do: Alt-w and Alt-q are the two I've noticed.
I also needed to resurrect an old xmodmap file that I could use to turn my CAPS LOCK into a Control key and re-discover the right xset command to set my key repeat rate higher than the default: xset r rate 250 30.
Other than those few nits, it's been pretty smooth sailing. I definitely feel like I'll be more productive in the long run a result of switching.
Have you tried a tiling window manager? Did you stick with it?
Posted by jzawodn at September 20, 2009 09:25 AM