Getting the most out of TWM, X11’s default window manager

Graham’s TWM page has been around for like two decades or so and still isn’t even remotely as old as TWM itself, and in 2021 they published an updated version with even more information, tips, and tricks for TWM. The Tab Window Manager finds its origins in the lat 1980s, and has been the default window manager for the X Windowing System for a long time, now, too. Yet, few people know it exists – how many people even know X has a default window manager? – and even fewer people know you can actually style it, too.

OK, so TWM is fairly easy to configure but alot of people, upon seeing the default config, scream ‘Ugh, thats awful!’ and head off to the ports tree or their distro sources in search of the latest and greatest uber desktop environment.

There are some hardcore TWM fans and mimimalists however who stick around and get to liking the basic feel of TWM. Then they start to mod it and create their own custom dekstop. All part of the fun in Unix :).

↫ Graham’s TWM page

I’ll admit I have never used TWM properly, and didn’t know it could be themed at all. I feel very compelled to spend some time with it now, because I’ve always liked the by-now classic design where the right-click desktop menu serves as the central location for all your interactions with the system. There are quite a few more advanced, up-to-date forks of TWM as well, but the idea of sticking to the actual default X window manager has a certain charm.

I almost am too afraid to ask, because the answer on OSNews to these sorts of questions is almost always “yes” – do we have any TWM users in the audience? I’m extremely curious to find out if TWM actually has a reason to exist at this point, or if, in 2024, it’s just junk code in the source repository, because I’m looking at some of these screenshots and I feel a very strong urge to give it a serious go.


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