Looking for something lighter?
In my home office, I have a very powerful workstation/server with a ton of RAM. It never slows down, no matter what I throw at it! The rest of the boxes on my network either have adequate hardware for their designated tasks or have no GUI interface at all. Hence, I have never had to pay much attention to the resources that my window managers of choice use.
That all changed when I decided to dig out my old laptop and put it to good use. It's an older Toshiba Ultra Thin that came pre-loaded with Windows 95. Now, it's a very functional laptop, but it's no power house by any means. That is to say that it will not easily run Windows versions newer than Windows 98. Furthermore, the older versions of Windows are a little light on features. So it's Linux to the rescue.
While Linux provided the right mix of flexibility and feature richness, I still needed to select a window manager. There is certainly no shortage of available window managers for Linux, but given my hardware limitations I had to be very careful with my resources. The lighter ones tend to be so featureless or unintuitave that productivity is hindered. Some I found to be so unattractive that it hurt to look at them. On the other hand, many of the feature rich graphical interfaces are too demanding on the system resources for older hardware. So, I began my search for a window manager that met the following four criteria; light on resources, feature rich, intuitive and good looking.
Does such a window manager exist for Linux?
XFce4 - A pleasant surprise
If you have ever used the CDE graphical interface for UNIX, than XFce will be like running into an old friend. Although just one of several CDE clones for Linux, there is something that makes XFce stand out; It keeps getting better! XFce version 3 was not the prettiest to look at, but it worked well. The latest version, XFce4, has been completely rewritten, and it looks great!
The XFce development team seems committed to making a powerful desktop environment without unnecessarily weighing it down. The result is a very light, yet full-featured desktop environment that is ideal for systems unable to handle the heavy loads that most popular desktop environments place on system resources. It will also likely appeal to people who like attractive, uncluttered, configurable and extremely responsive desktop environments.
The current beta version is quite stable and is more than capable of handling the daily tasks of even the most demanding power users. With that in mind, I would still caution anyone contemplating the use of a beta program, of any kind, in a production environment.
The following article documents the installation of XFce4 (rc2) from binary (RPM) packages. Although this document is specific to SuSE 8.2, it is, none-the-less, applicable to any KDE based distribution.
Why this document?
Upon installing XFce I found that I had no way to launch it outside of killing X-windows and starting it from the command line. There are plenty of threads, HOWTOs and documents written on adding additional window managers to KDM. Oftentimes these sources are not written in English and require serious translating, only to find out that they contradict to each other or are out dated. In the end, you may end up without a working window manager.
I have spent hours breaking my system following such documents and hours more fixing it. After the initial install of the Xfce4 RPMs you should be able to add it to the KDM drop-down window in under five minutes. Even though this document is titled "Installing XFce4 on SuSE 8.2", it could serve as a document for adding additional window managers to KDM as well.