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I keep coming back to Window Maker as a desktop environment. Why? Sometimes I ask myself the same question. However, there are a number of reasons.

Simplicity. There’s not a ton of things happening on the Window Maker screen; basically, there is the Dock and the Clip and minimized application windows. That’s it. This simplicity also translates into lower memory usage.

Light-weight. This is a biggie for me. First time I truly used Window Maker in any depth was on OpenBSD installed onto a Macintosh Quadra 800. It took a while to build, but it built and was comfortable – and in that environment, GNOME or KDE was out of the question.

Unique. This doesn’t sound like a positive aspect – but to me, I love learning a new environment. After a while, the other environments can blend together. The dock is also much better than any that have followed it; others like the MacOS X dock are too small and don’t work well in a user interface. Window Maker is very clean and simple and easy to use.

Since it is included as an available package on almost every Linux installation, what does it take to make a good Window Maker desktop? With Ubuntu, KDE can be installed by installing the kubuntu-desktop; XFCE can be installed by installing the xubuntu-desktop. There is no equivalent Window Maker desktop unfortunately.

For Ubuntu, you might want to install the following packages using Synaptic or apt-get:

The menu application makes sure that all of your applications that are installed with Ubuntu are also available in the Window Maker menus.

There are other packages you may like; search for packages that end in “.app” or begin with “wm” for starters.

For wireless management, you’ll want to stop the network-manager and then install wicd instead. This is because network-manager requires a KDE/GNOME style desktop. Do this with the following:

sudo service network-manager stop
sudo apt-get install wicd wicd-gtk
sudo service wicd start
wicd-gtk &

When you do this, you should be able to configure the wireless connections as you see necessary. Note that there is no graphic controls for VPNs at this time, but you can control them from the command line.

So what do I have in my dock? Here is a list:

  • firefox (application)
  • wmbattery
  • wicd (application)
  • wmdiskmon
  • wmclockmon
  • wmcpuload
  • wmwave
  • wmmaiload
  • wmcalclock
  • wmdrawer

All of these are part of the standard Ubuntu repositories; unfortunately, wmbatteries is not. However, you can get that dock applet (or “dockapp”) and more from dockapps.org.

There are a lot of resources for learning Window Maker, although some are dated; these are all good places to go:

Hopefully, this won’t be too many resources; most are quick overviews. Don’t be afraid to try out Window Maker today!