Skip to main content

Linux: xmonad

xmonad is a tiling window manager. If you don't know what I'm talking about, take a peek at one of the screencasts. I've been using xmonad for the last couple weeks. It's been a couple years since I tried it last, and it's really improved:
  • It's now a lot easier to install on Ubuntu.
  • It's now a lot easier to integrate with panels such as gnome-panel or xmobar.
  • It's now a lot easier to try out various layouts, and there are more layouts to choose from.
Every time I try out a tiling window manager, I am reminded of the fact that I fundamentally disagree with the premise:
  • They think that maximizing a window as much as possible whenever possible is useful. I think that's true with terminals and chat windows, but less so for many other windows. For instance, I always want GVim to be 80 columns wide.
  • They think that minimizing windows to very small sizes is more acceptable than allowing windows to overlap. I disagree.
  • They think that forcibly resizing windows won't break them. Unfortunately, forcibly resizing windows makes the Gimp look terrible, and it often cuts off the last line of text in GVim.
  • They think that I don't care about having an integrated desktop environment such as the one GNOME provides. In reality, I like the idea of using weird window managers as part of my GNOME desktop. I really like all those things that Ubuntu puts on my gnome-panel such as the network manager, update manager, mixer, etc.
Fortunately, of all the tiling window managers, xmonad is the most understanding of my needs:
  • It works with the gnome-panel.
  • It has layout managers that can take hints from applications so as not to chop off the last line of text in GVim.
  • It can create exceptions for certain applications, such as the Gimp, placing them in a "floating" layer that is more suitable for such applications.
  • It has layouts that allow windows to overlap in useful ways.
Hence, xmonad is my favorite among all the tiling window managers that I've tried. There are a couple premises that I fundamentally agree with:
  • Having the computer help you manage your windows using smart algorithms is a good idea.
  • Trying bold, new ideas in user interface design is a great idea.
That last point is important. There's a great saying in The Myths of Innovation: "Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If they're any good, you'll have to cram them down people's throats!" Not every new idea is good, but trying out lots of new ideas is very good.

xmonad exemplifies what I'd like to see more of in the Linux world. Linux has always been a little behind in terms of user interface design. Instead of cloning Windows or OS X, I really like the idea of creating our own new, interesting, and clever approaches to user interface design. Do you remember the time when neither Windows nor OS X had virtual desktops? I like having things that those guys don't have, which is why I'm happy to see the innovation that xmonad is providing.


jjinux said…
I blogged about my xmonad setup here:
Unknown said…
You might want to also look at bluetile

It's based on xmonad, has GNOME integration out of the box, and window management is possible with the mouse as well as the keyboard.
Don Stewart said…
@Geoff : note that bluetile is a research fork of xmonad that is being merged in to the main line (the author is an xmonad developer).

Expect to see bluetile features in xmonad 1.0 (some are in 0.9)
jjinux said…
Interesting. Thanks!
jjinux said…
Bluetile looks very nice. I'm glad to hear it's being merged back into xmonad. I think Bluetile will open tiling window managers to everyday Linux users.
creativesumant said…
The xmonad dev team is very proud to announce that the bluetile merge was completed today. The Bluetile branch is an experimental xmonad variant whose:

focus lies on making the tiling paradigm easily accessible to users coming from traditional window managers by drawing on known conventions and providing both mouse and keyboard access for all features. It also tries to be usable ‘out of the box’, requiring minimal to no configuration in most cases.

Recently I just came across a good article on "Linux"
Here is its link.

Popular posts from this blog

Ubuntu 20.04 on a 2015 15" MacBook Pro

I decided to give Ubuntu 20.04 a try on my 2015 15" MacBook Pro. I didn't actually install it; I just live booted from a USB thumb drive which was enough to try out everything I wanted. In summary, it's not perfect, and issues with my camera would prevent me from switching, but given the right hardware, I think it's a really viable option. The first thing I wanted to try was what would happen if I plugged in a non-HiDPI screen given that my laptop has a HiDPI screen. Without sub-pixel scaling, whatever scale rate I picked for one screen would apply to the other. However, once I turned on sub-pixel scaling, I was able to pick different scale rates for the internal and external displays. That looked ok. I tried plugging in and unplugging multiple times, and it didn't crash. I doubt it'd work with my Thunderbolt display at work, but it worked fine for my HDMI displays at home. I even plugged it into my TV, and it stuck to the 100% scaling I picked for the othe

ERNOS: Erlang Networked Operating System

I've been reading Dreaming in Code lately, and I really like it. If you're not a dreamer, you may safely skip the rest of this post ;) In Chapter 10, "Engineers and Artists", Alan Kay, John Backus, and Jaron Lanier really got me thinking. I've also been thinking a lot about Minix 3 , Erlang , and the original Lisp machine . The ideas are beginning to synthesize into something cohesive--more than just the sum of their parts. Now, I'm sure that many of these ideas have already been envisioned within , LLVM , Microsoft's Singularity project, or in some other place that I haven't managed to discover or fully read, but I'm going to blog them anyway. Rather than wax philosophical, let me just dump out some ideas: Start with Minix 3. It's a new microkernel, and it's meant for real use, unlike the original Minix. "This new OS is extremely small, with the part that runs in kernel mode under 4000 lines of executable code.&quo

Haskell or Erlang?

I've coded in both Erlang and Haskell. Erlang is practical, efficient, and useful. It's got a wonderful niche in the distributed world, and it has some real success stories such as CouchDB and Haskell is elegant and beautiful. It's been successful in various programming language competitions. I have some experience in both, but I'm thinking it's time to really commit to learning one of them on a professional level. They both have good books out now, and it's probably time I read one of those books cover to cover. My question is which? Back in 2000, Perl had established a real niche for systems administration, CGI, and text processing. The syntax wasn't exactly beautiful (unless you're into that sort of thing), but it was popular and mature. Python hadn't really become popular, nor did it really have a strong niche (at least as far as I could see). I went with Python because of its elegance, but since then, I've coded both p