Why I use Window Maker

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!

10 thoughts on “Why I use Window Maker”

  1. I have made a seemingly successful switch over to StumpWM, which is a tiling window manager written in Common Lisp that should remind people of Ratpoison and Screen. I haven’t actually used any of the customizability that StumpWM offers – in principle, I could submit code to alter its functionality while it runs, but haven’t felt the need to do so.

    That said, for a goodly number of years, I kept trying out new window managers every so often, and returning to WindowMaker, just as you have. I’d try Enlightenment for a day or so, and conclude “well, that was cool, but I don’t feel like fighting with its configuration that much.”

    It’s pretty plausible that WindowMaker is heavier weight than it needs to be, but it certainly hasn’t gotten zillions of Gnome/KDE libraries larded into it, so it hasn’t grown the way a lot of the “more integrated” window managers have, and that seems pretty much an advantage. (One that StumpWM shares, of course!)

    I kind of wish that we’d had more growth of *simpler* extension mechanisms. I’d rather get icon bars and the likes out of *actually lightweight* mechanisms; TkDesk comes to mind, though I’m not sure it’s a logical choice these days, as it might well be undermaintained.

    The other window manager I kept coming back to was wmx, which was only configurable via editing the code and recompiling, which was fortunately pretty easy :-)!

  2. Good to hear that! I though I was the very last person using WMaker! I would add one more feature: it’s universal- runs typical KDE and GNOME programs (of course proper libs are required).

  3. I used wmaker for ever till I switched to ubuntu in 2006.. But now with this unity nonsense.. I think it’s time to go back.

    I do like the gnome network manager/applet over wicd because of its VPN connection front end. It works using the docker app. Sure that brings with it a bunch of gnome deps.. But its not any close to what you get with Ubuntu.
    Now I really don’t see any reason to use any of the bloated desktops.

  4. Since the domain of the former dockapps.org website has expired, it’s contents are now hosted over at http://dockapps.windowmaker.org instead. You might want to adapt the link in your list, accordingly.

    My very own WMLive project at http://http://www.rumbero.org/wmliverumbero.org/wmlive has also been updated recently and was much enhanced (=simplified!). Fresh torrents for i386 and amd64 WindowMaker Live CD ISO images are provided at the site.

  5. Thanks a bunch. I was so angry when ubuntu upgrade forced the new window manager. As a system admin, I find it awfull. This was the main reason for postponing the upgrade. I was unable to find options to disable “alt-tab” that group applications together by default instead of the navigate through them one at a time. When I have dozens of xterm windows, I dont want to start waiting 2 seconds for the sub graphical menu of all xterms to pop up. Anyhow, I use window maker on all my c600 (legacy dell laptops). This ubuntu new menu is restrictive, not easily customizable and cpu intensive. All quality that one would look for in a Microsoft Windows environemnt but not in Linux. I did not know that wmaker was available on ubuntu and I am very glad you showed me how.
    Thanks again.

  6. Been using WM, since it came out. Went back to KDE and had nothing but problems. Dumped it in a hurry.

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