Home > Desktop environments > Window Maker development starts up again Window Maker development starts up again Thom Holwerda 2012-02-17 Desktop environments 40 Comments After six years, development on Window Maker has picked up again. Other than mere bug fixes, the two new releases (so far) also include lots of code cleanup and, yes, new features as well. Welcome back! About The Author Thom Holwerda Follow me on Mastodon @email@example.com 40 Comments 2012-02-18 12:04 am raindogsoftware I’ve been waiting so long for this. I’ve professionally reviewed nearly ever *nix DE/WM out there and Window Maker is still my #1. 2012-02-18 12:20 am Thom Holwerda Is there a good distribution for Window Maker? One that caters to it? Always been fascinated by it. 2012-02-18 1:50 am unix_joe Is there a good distribution for Window Maker? One that caters to it? Always been fascinated by it. Last year at this time, I was using Window Maker on FreeBSD. That’s because they still had a lot of the old dock apps in ports, but these apps had not been updated in the better part of a decade. I would not be surprised if they have been removed from ports at this point, in which case, try it out on your favorite distro. Window Maker is an outstanding window manager, IMO the best stand-alone interface that there is. I would hesitate to consider it anything more than a window manager, however. Some people like to throw it in with GNUstep as a complete desktop environment, but they are two separate projects that don’t always work well together. Off the top of my head, there are going to be problems with GWorkspace wanting to control the root window that Window Maker already owns. People pair the projects because they look the same, but this is like pairing fvwm95/qvwm with WINE because they look the same. My best desktop was running standard GTK/Qt applications with a theme that closely resembles the Window Maker color scheme. Check out box-look.org for more recent schemes. Any effects / drop shadows could be added later with xcompmgr. Have fun with it, everybody’s different. 2012-02-18 5:16 pm Doc Pain Last year at this time, I was using Window Maker on FreeBSD. I’m currently using it on exactly that platform. 🙂 Window Maker is an outstanding window manager, IMO the best stand-alone interface that there is. I would hesitate to consider it anything more than a window manager, however. That’s correct, in my opinion and experience, because I’m not using it for anything more than managing windows. I personally don’t care about menu generation because I have the few things I need to access available in the dock. To me, “just” a window manager is a great benefit. It stays out of your way and let’s your workflow be elegant, efficient and free of fiddling with details. It’s configurability is really outstanding. Especially the excellent combination of mouse and keyboard options is great. I’ve not found those features yet among the “big ones” (like Gnome or KDE or Xfce). For example, I’m using a Sun USB keyboard with lots of extra keys on the left here. They are programmed using the Window Maker’s configuration program to perform window actions (like hiding, shuffling foreground / background, switching virtual desktops, starting programs, setting audio levels, locking the system and so on). This means: pointing into (!) a window and pressing a key can cause some action. Together with “focus follows mouse” and the nice distinction between “window is in foreground” and “window has focus”, managing windows across several workspaces and monitors is really easy. This kind of well-tought integration is one of my main reasons for keeping it in daily use. Finally, Window Maker loads really fast and doesn’t get hickups even if sessions last several weeks. It also doesn’t have trouble managing windows from programs using many different toolkits (KDE applications using Qt, Gtk-based programs or even Xaw programs). Some people like to throw it in with GNUstep as a complete desktop environment, but they are two separate projects that don’t always work well together. Window Maker is the official window manager for the GNUstep desktop, if I remember correctly, not more and not less. There has been a live system CD, I think it was called Ã‰toilÃ©, containing a GNUstep based desktop (with Window Maker as its window manager, accompanied with many applications, running on Linux). People pair the projects because they look the same, but this is like pairing fvwm95/qvwm with WINE because they look the same. Maybe programming languages (Objective C) also plays a role here. 2012-02-19 4:11 am shmerl Is there a way to use Sun Type 5 keyboard through the USB adapter on Linux? It works nicely on OpenIndiana with all the extra keys in Gnome in KDE, but on Linux those keys aren’t even generating any events. 2012-02-19 12:15 pm Doc Pain Is there a way to use Sun Type 5 keyboard through the USB adapter on Linux? Erm… Type 5 isn’t USB, if I remember correctly. Only Type 6 and 7 have the standard (Sun) and USB plug variants. I’ve only been using the USB variants (Type 6 in the past, Type 7 currently). There are some interesting building projects to make the non-USB Sun keyboards work on PCs, which is relatively easy as they are serial keyboards: http://www.buzzard.me.uk/jonathan/sunkbd.html http://www.snafu.priv.at/mystuff/sunkbd.html It works nicely on OpenIndiana with all the extra keys in Gnome in KDE, but on Linux those keys aren’t even generating any events. That might depend on the keyboard driver. In X, check the output for the keys using the xev program, then assign them symbols using xmodmap that can then be picked up by the desktop environment. In my case, I assigned “add mod4 = Multi_key” for the Compose key, And F13…F27 for the other keys, as well as Meta_L, Meta_R and Multi_key (which is the compose key that really works). Window Maker will then pick up those symbols when the key is “captured” in order to be connected to a window management function or a program to launch (through the menu). This can easily be done using Window Maker’s configuration utility. Just make sure you load your ~/.xmodmaprc file on X startup. In Linux, it should work similar as I assume my approach depends on X, not on actual Linux keyboard drivers (which may be different from what FreeBSD offers, but X should be basically the same in this regards). 2012-02-19 7:47 pm shmerl Yes, Sun Type 5 uses 8-pin miniDin connector. I’m using this adapter to connect it to USB: http://www.networktechinc.com/pdf/man015.pdf My problems seems to be the Linux driver. On OpenIndiana this setup generates events in xev for the extra keys. On Linux – nothing is generated for them. 2012-02-20 2:03 pm bogomipz People pair the projects because they look the same, but this is like pairing fvwm95/qvwm with WINE because they look the same. Maybe programming languages (Objective C) also plays a role here. No. Window Maker is not written in Objective C and does not share any code or libraries with GNUstep. It uses its own widget toolkit named WINGs, which is a recursive acronym for WINGs Is Not GNUstep. The comment that they are paired because they were in fact meant to be used together is true. Window Maker even puts its config files in ~/GNUstep/Defaults. 2012-02-18 6:51 pm zima Some people like to throw it in with GNUstep as a complete desktop environment, but they are two separate projects that don’t always work well together. […] People pair the projects because they look the same, but this is like pairing fvwm95/qvwm with WINE because they look the same. Window Maker & GNUstep pair doesn’t seem to be quite like that – from the opening line of http://windowmaker.org/ Window Maker is an X11 window manager originally designed to provide integration support for the GNUstep Desktop Environment. 2012-02-18 7:46 pm danieldk I used Window Maker on NetBSD and Slackware for many years. There are still some screenshots of my desktop floating around on the NetBSD website : http://www.netbsd.org/gallery/in-Action/daniel-cxoffice.jpg http://www.netbsd.org/gallery/in-Action/daniel-heretic.jpg http://www.netbsd.org/gallery/in-Action/daniel-wp8.jpg http://www.netbsd.org/gallery/in-Action/daniel-moneydance.jpg 2012-02-18 6:59 pm zima Is there a good distribution for Window Maker? One that caters to it? Even if I wouldn’t call it exactly “good” (“fun” sure), there’s this GNUstep live CD floating around, obviously catering to Window Maker too – quite straightforward way to check out that boxy, grayish world. (but – what after a quick search appears to be its present homesite, seems also down… http://io.debian.net/~tar/gnustep/ ) 2012-02-18 8:36 pm robertson I’ve lost track of the Live CD efforts, but I seem to remember one in addition to the one above whose link is broken. Now there is “One Step to GNUStep,” a VM image. http://www.rstonehouse.co.uk/extras/GNUstep-VM-0.9/index.html As Sodki mentions below, http://etoileos.com/ is a GNUstep based effort to develop something that’s not really a desktop environment, but something much different–a document-centered interface. When I read their goals, I am reminded more of things like the Canon Cat and Jef Raskin’s The Humane Interface. It’s worth looking in to their goals, as what they’re trying to create is very different from the way we normally interact with computers, but not in a GNOME 3 way. (: Also worth looking in to is http://www.midnightbsd.org/ . It’s a fork of FreeBSD which aims to create a BSD optimized for desktop use. While development seems to be slow (it may be a one man show), the eventual goals include integration with GNUstep and Etoile. 2012-02-19 5:45 pm laffer1 We pushed it for many years in MidnightBSD. With the last release, we had a script to install window maker + GNUStep or KDE 3 on the first boot after installation. I’ve already updated it in our ports collection, but haven’t run through a package build yet to see what broke. As others have pointed out, it’s great on several of the BSDs. 2012-02-18 1:05 am bnolsen This gives me the opportunity for me to bug them for some multi monitor features. 2012-02-18 5:26 pm Doc Pain This gives me the opportunity for me to bug them for some multi monitor features. I’d be interested in that, too. It’s no problem to use it with “connected screens” approach (2 x X), but fullscreen applications (like mplayer -fs) become unusable that way. 🙂 From the “New features and highlights” I saw this: New mouse-resizing functionality. Windows can now be resized vertically (horizontally) using MOD+Wheel (CTRL+Wheel). Strange – you can already to that with pressing Mod1 (usually Alt) and then clicking the right mouse button anywhere in the window, causing size changes in X, Y and both dimensions. But maybe that mouse wheel feature is interesting for laptops, netbooks and tablets that are known to have mouse wheels. 🙂 Another improvement: History and TAB completion in dialogs. Very good! Now I’m just missing the ability to copy / paste text using the middle mouse button (edit buffer: selecting text gets it into the buffer, clicking the middle mouse button outputs it at current cursor position). I always found it annoying that you cannot use this feature within some of Window Maker’s dialogs, but usint it with external sources or targets, it mostly works… 2012-02-18 2:41 am Gullible Jones It has a menu generator now! Hurray! As it happens I’ve been using this WM on Debian Squeeze PPC, on an *ahem* “ancient” 800 MHz Powerbook G4, and it works great; much faster than any other floating WM I’ve tried. Only misfeature IMO is that you have to edit the menu if you want to create keybindings to launch stuff. 2012-02-18 6:43 pm lubod Have you used MintPPC on the same hardware? If so, how does it compare in terms of features/speed/stability? 2012-02-18 10:24 pm Gullible Jones Couldn’t say; last time I tried Ubuntu I discovered that it did not include the driver for the Powerbook’s IDE controller. Shame. At any rate Debian works pretty well, though applications can be pretty sluggish. (GTK2 and Qt4 are both godawful slow on old computers!) Note however that the Powerbook’s hard drive seems to be slowly failing, so observations about performance may be significantly skewed. 2012-02-19 1:29 am zima applications can be pretty sluggish. (GTK2 and Qt4 are both godawful slow on old computers!) At least with GTK – not really. LXDE or ROX Desktop are generally quite snappy even on a dual Pentium II 266 MHz that I keep around (OK, it’s dual, so the feel on its desktop might be possibly more comparable to, say, Celeron 400 …either way, it should be markedly slower than G4 800 MHz – even if we remember how deceitful, waaay far-fetched & relying on few carefully chosen hand-tuned edge scenarios, the silly Apple claims of “PowerPC ‘supercomputer on a chip‘ G4″ were back in the day) How specific apps are written is a major factor (and LXDE does strive to be light). Or the cause might lie somewhere else, GFX drivers for example. 2012-02-19 3:50 am Gullible Jones Okay, I can accept that; rox-filer at least is snappy enough even on my Pentium II Thinkpad. But the applications that really matter (i.e. Abiword and any browser) tend to be very slow. Abiword especially – the inability to disable smooth scrolling (due to a bug) is problematic on old machines. 2012-02-18 2:45 am Jesuspower ONe of the happiest memories I have of college is discovering OSNews while browsing the internet on firefox, in WindowMaker on my first thinkpad. I am very excited that it is being worked on again. It is one of the only things that can get me to give up on windows (aside from BeOS or MacOS) 2012-02-18 8:12 am Tuishimi I used to love WindowMaker! Good for them. 2012-02-18 8:55 am moondevil Me too. It was my very last window manager up to 2004, after going through most available ones, starting with twm. Nice to see it coming back to live. Now we only need a nice Gnustep + WindowMaker + Silver theme distribution. 2012-02-18 12:01 pm fithisux Now we only need a nice Gnustep + WindowMaker + Silver theme distribution. Yes I am expecting one too. 2012-02-18 9:06 am spiderman WindowMaker is the only window manager available on cygwin out of the box. Well there is the native window manager of Windows but it sucks. I’m using cygwin+WindowMaker (with GNUstep) when I have to use Window at work. I rarely use it on GNU. Edited 2012-02-18 09:07 UTC 2012-02-18 12:25 pm Sodki One word of caution to other OSNews readers, the name is Window Maker, not WindowMaker. See the README file: Window Maker was previously called WindowMaker. Window Maker has no connection with Windowmaker, the software for making windows and doors. I actually do love Window Maker and I’ve used it extensively for a while, before moving to Openbox. I actually compiled the new version yesterday. 🙂 Unfortunately, Window Maker and GNUstep are not “modern” enough to get a bigger fanbase. Project Ã‰toilÃ© (http://etoileos.com) could be a way forward, but it still has a long way to go and it’s progress rate seems to be very slow. 2012-02-18 1:30 pm madcrow for GTK2/3 and QT4? Back in in the day (GTK 1 and QT3) it was pretty easy to get programs to match the Window Maker style, but as NeXTSTEP has receded farther into the past, themes have become harder to come by. 2012-02-18 2:02 pm unix_joe There is still GTK2step available in some places, but it hasn’t been updated in years. A quick search reveals that there are RPMs available. You apply this theme to your GTK and explicitly define it in ~/.gtkrc-2.0 (make sure it is defined even if you are using some helper program to apply GTK2 themes) and Qt4 will pick up the theme. Nice consistent interface. 2012-02-19 1:29 am frytvm Hey, I once ported gtkstep to gtk2: http://gnome-look.org/content/show.php/Step2?content=117124 . Stupidly, there are some minor appearance bugs in that version which I fixed, but could never get gnome-look to update with, and are now lost somewhere; certainly it would not be impossible to re-fix them. I’m afraid I don’t have the time right now to do that myself or port it to gtk3. 2012-02-18 3:53 pm tuma324 Can window managers like Window Maker be ported to Wayland? That would be very cool. 2012-02-18 6:31 pm orestes If someone wants to take the time to do it, absolutely 2012-02-18 4:41 pm Luke McCarthy I used Window Maker many years ago. I almost forgot it existed. Always good to see old projects revised. 2012-02-18 7:17 pm PhilPotter Sure I remember using Window Maker on this – good to see it’s still going 😀 2012-02-19 1:01 am ozonehole I’m genuinely interested, not trolling, but… I tried WindowMaker long ago, and I recall that minimize/maximize buttons were totally lacking. To me that was fatal flaw, and I quickly went elsewhere (IceWM). Now I just went over to windowmaker.org and the menu bar displayed on the home page also lacks the minimize/maximize buttons. So I’m wondering – many people here say that WindowMaker is very configurable, so I’d like to ask if there is some way for a user to turn on this desired feature? If not, what is the trick to minimize/maximize? I’m sure there is some way to do it, though it doesn’t appear to be intuitive. 2012-02-19 9:39 am darseex As far as I know, you just click the square on the left and it docks the window. Or… turns it into a mini-window, or.. whatever. I’m not an expert. I tried it for two minutes back in 2003, hated it (I was coming fresh from Windows), and am only just now trying it again. Maximizing… that’s trickier. You have to right-click on the title bar to get to that. Honestly though, Window Maker doesn’t seem to play very well with maximized windows. I mean yeah, it works, but it covers up the icons at the bottom by default. 2012-02-19 7:10 pm drcouzelis The button on the left of the title bar is the “iconify” button. It will minimize the window into a miniwindow. There isn’t a maximize button on the title bar, nor is there an option to add one, although you can create a keyboard shortcut for it. Right clicking on the title bar provides options to maximize, miniaturize, shade, hide (into the dock icon), and so on. You can assign keyboard shortcuts to all of these actions. You can also assign keyboard shortcuts to maximize vertically or horizontall, maximize to the left half or right half of the screen, or do tiled maximizing, among other things. The default is to maximize over miniwindows but not over the dock. The dock is what allows you to change between applications (in a sense). Even so, you have the option to maximize over the dock if you’d like. I’m so grateful for Window Maker providing a user interface that isn’t just a slightly modified version of the Windows 95 user interface. I think there’s enough of them. 2012-02-23 12:12 am zima It wouldn’t hurt if you could put buttons of your choosing on the title bar, for some of those options (in an environment, in the end, very mouse-oriented) …oh well. What Window Maker emulates comes essentially from the very beginnings of GUI, there were some improvements in the meantime (yeah, that includes even Windows 95 ;p ) 2012-02-19 3:23 am jptros Window Maker and FVWM are among my all time favorites. Window Maker on Debian is nice, especially with the menu integration. So is FVWM if you take the time write a good config file. Choosing between the two is tough, for me anyway. 2012-02-19 4:36 am tanishaj I just wanted to flag that progress on Etiole seems slow because they do so much back-end work that is not user visible. In particular, they have done a lot of work to modernize the Objective-C library–even adding all the new 10.7 Lion APIs. They also do a lot of Smalltalk work and I think you can write code in either language that is directly callable from the other. They focus on clang as the Objectivr-C compiler I believe. All this benefits GnuStep of course but is not very screenshot friendly. 2012-02-19 4:39 am tanishaj Window Maker has long been my first choice on older desktops. It looks great and runs fast (and lean). That said, it is getting a bit long in the tooth. It is great to see a new release. I hope it is not too many years until the next one.