posted by Rahul Gaitonde on Thu 22nd Jul 2004 18:23 UTC

"IceWM, Page 6/6"
4. IceWM Themes

IceWM has hundreds of themes written for it! As I said at the beginnning of this page, IceWM is very themeable. Find links for two sites chock-full of IceWM themes in the next section on Links for IceWM. You can even write your own themes - it's very simple. There's a guide at

Here are a few of my favourite themes. Most have been lightly hacked to suit my desktop. I haven't changed any accompanying documentation, so the names of the original authors, their contact addresses and email addresses have been preserved. In fact, none of these even contain any references to me. Use them all you want - all of them are freely distributable - but contact the original author in case of problems/anything else!

I've also heavily hacked a theme named "Fake95", and made it look as much as possible like Windows NT 4.0, based on a bunch of screenshots that I had. Here's the tarball.

IceWM Links

The home page.

Manuals from IceWM's Home Pages.

Theme sites.

Some useful IceWM pages.

Window Managers v/s Desktop Environments

The X Window System (often just X) is the program that provides the capabilities for running graphical applications on Linux (for that matter, UNIX). It controls the hardware - keyboard, mouse, touchpad, monitor. This is so that the apps themselves don't need to bother about the underlying hardware. All they do is "talk" to X. X makes applications display their interfaces on screen but doesn't bother about how the apps are displayed, or the windows themselves. This is the famous "mechanism, not policy" distinction that the X Window System makes.

The program that does control the displaying of windows on the screen is the Window Manager, which in essence is an X program. The window manager (WM) controls the look and feel of the windows - the decorations. It also controls how the windows act. So it manages the moving, hiding, resizing, iconifying and closing windows. It determines which window is on top, handles the overlapping, determines which window gets the input from the user. Finally, it controls the manner in which the above tasks are initiated - that is, which keyboard/mouse buttons correspond to which actions.

Additionally, a WM may provide additional capability - mapping key combinations to launch arbitrary applications, or providing a task bar and menu, like IceWM, or providing a number of Virtual Desktops, and so on. These are not strictly required of a WM. Metacity, which is GNOME's default WM, does not provide a menu or taskbar and leaves that to gnome-panel.

Examples of WMs are IceWM, Fluxbox, WindowMaker, FVWM, Metacity, Sawfish, AfterStep, Blackbox, OpenBox. There are literally dozens more, all with different aims (eye-candy, productivity, low resource usage...)

Optionally, a window manager may be part of a larger suite of tools called a Desktop Environment. The Desktop Environment, manages the entire desktop, in addition to just the windows. A Desktop Environment may provide its own graphical toolkit (the way GNOME uses GTK+ and KDE uses QT), features such as icons on the desktop, screensavers, a file manager, a framework for inter-application communication (the way GNOME's got Bonobo and KDE's got DCOP and KParts), and so on. However, a WM must still manage the windows. GNOME uses Metacity as its default WM, but it's used WindowMaker, Enlightenment and Sawfish in the past. It's usually quite easy to change GNOME's default WM, but KDE's WM, kwm, is tightly integrated into the DE. That makes it a real pain to change, and an even greater pain to live without later.

About the author:
Rahul Gaitonde is a developer at IBM Global Services, Pune, India. While his first experience with Linux was RedHat 6.0 in 2000, today he uses Fedora Core 2. He often writes about Linux-related issues, especially pertaining to usability, and has previously contributed to Find all his articles and essays at

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