Window Managers Archive
Budgie 10.7 is a brand new release series for Budgie Desktop, featuring major re-architectures, new APIs for extensibility, and polish to the user experience. For a point release, there’s a lot of changes, improvements, and new features in here, as the release notes detail. The changes are all over the place – from a brand new application indexer to replace libgnome-menus, to dual-GPU support, notification improvements, general UX improvements, and much more.
LXQt 1.2 is here about seven months after LXQt 1.1 and it’s a major update to the lightweight desktop environment that introduces initial support for the Wayland display server in an attempt to keep up with the times and the new technologies most GNU/Linux distributions are adopting these days. Still based on the long-term supported Qt 5.15 LTS open-source application framework, LXQt 1.2 also improves its file manager component with a new search history feature that offers separate lists for name and content searches. Users can search the maximum number of history items in Preferences > Advanced > Search. I’m glad Wayland support is spreading out to smaller, less popular desktop environments too. Once you go Wayland, you stay Wayland.
IceWM was released only a short while ago, and now we’ve got 3.1. IceWM 3.1 introduces a new window option “frame” to automatically group application windows with the same “frame” value as tabs within a single frame. IceWM 3.1 also now shows indicators for the presence of tabs on the title bar, clicking on the title bar tab indicators can change tabs, tray hints are now preserved across restarts, improved Alt + Tab handling, improvements to the CMake build system integration, and a variety of other changes. I’m glad to see development has truly picked up again.
System76 has been developing their own COSMIC desktop as the next evolution for their Pop!_OS Linux distribution built atop an Ubuntu base. Interestingly with this big COSMIC desktop undertaking, which is being written in the Rust programming language, they have decided to shift away from using the GTK toolkit to instead make use of Iced-Rs as a Rust-native, multi-platform graphical toolkit. This makes more sense than some might think. One of the engineers over at System76 is also the creator and lead developer of Redox OS, and GTK itself has become more and more insularly focused on GNOME than any of the other GTK-based desktop environments on Linux, BSD, and similar platforms. This is a big bet for what is essentially still a small company, but it sure does show some gusto. My major concerns would be consistency, both visually and behaviourally, since the vast majority of popular applications on Linux are either GTK or at least somewhat trying to integrate with GTK, so there’s a lot of work to do to make everything feels are least somewhat coherent. Still, I’m definitely curious to see what this will look like, what it will feel like, and how it will perform.
There’s a new release of the venerable IceWM window manager, version 3.0.0. The major new feature here is tabbed windowing, in which you can drag titlebar over another to combine them into one unit. There are, of course, also the usual bug fixes and translation updates.
CDE 2.5.0 is now available on SourceForge. This is a significant release compared to the previous one with, among many other things, a replacement of the build system from ancient Imake to somewhat less ancient Autotools. There’s also a ton of bug fixes, as well as new features and other changes.
NsCDE is a retro but powerful UNIX desktop environment which resembles CDE look (and partially feel) but with a more powerful and flexible framework beneath-the-surface, more suited for 21st century unix-like and Linux systems and user requirements than original CDE. NsCDE can be considered as a heavyweight FVWM theme on steroids, but combined with a couple other free software components and custom FVWM applications and a lot of configuration, NsCDE can be considered a lightweight hybrid desktop environment. It also contains themes for Qt, Gtk, and more, to ensure a consistent CDE look and feel. NsCDE 2.2 has just been released, and it contains a ton of improvements. This is such a cool and fascinating project.
Joshua Strobl, the lead developer of Budgie, the (currently) Gtk+-based desktop, posted a lengthy article about the state of the project and the future it’s embarking on. Budgie had been in a feature-freeze and maintenance mode for a long time, but now that Strobl is no longer involved with the Linux distribution Solus, Budgie has become truly independent, and development can pick up again. The article touches upon a lot – such as the way the Budgie developers intend to lead the project, how they want to involve the community as much as they can, and similar things. They don’t want to mandate defaults or force distributions into “stock” Budgie. They intend to take this pretty far. We have made technical decisions for Budgie 11 and beyond that focuses on a clear separation between the “data layer” that enables complex Budgie functionality, and the visual / “presentation layer”. This reduces our reliance on any one given upstream for a toolkit or related libraries, allowing us to potentially explore different models for achieving the presentation layer, and even enabling other developers to build on top of Budgie’s data layer with their own presentations. As for actual plans for future versions – they intend to first nip and tuck Budgie 10.x, the current version, before diving fully into Budgie 11. The idea is that they want Budgie 10.x to be a solid base for distributions to work with while Budgie 11 is being developed. When I created Buddies of Budgie, my first priority was “unlocking” Budgie 10.x so everyone from Ubuntu Budgie to GeckoLinux, myself and other independent contributors – could get it into a state we were all happy with, and that users would be even happier with. I was not happy with the state it was in and there was a lot of catching up for us to do on fixing a thousand papercuts. Some of the major points that need to be addressed is adding full Wayland support to Budgie, since Budgie 11 is intended to be Wayland first. They also intend to remove a whole bunch of GNOME technologies they’re currently relying on. Budgie 11, meanwhile, will be a big change. Budgie 11 will take this much further. All data-related logic, collating, and reformatting possible will be in daemon, allowing the presentation layer (panel, applets, Raven, and more) to be much simpler. We will likely be leveraging protobuf to create more structured messages that is supported in more programming languages.. Not only that but this actually minimizes the impact that the toolkit choice will actually have and will even pave the way for other developers, should they choose, to leverage the data layer of Budgie and build their own “presentations” on top of that and in the toolkit of their choice! Budgie / its libraries / window manager will be written in a mix of Rust and C – with Rust being the choice for aspects of Budgie that are more mission critical (like the window manager, which may leverage smithay). Budgie Desktop itself will always be designed for the “desktop” metaphor. I’m getting mild KDE vibes from this. There’s definitely room in the market for a Gtk+ desktop that embraces more of the user choice first mentality of KDE, especially now that GNOME has forced that ship to sail. It’s fascinating to read all of these musings, and it provides a great insight into a project trying to reinvigorate itself.
The Trinity Desktop Environment, a fork of the KDE 3.x codebase, has released its latest version. This release comes with a new D-Bus based polkit authentication agent, new markdown document viewer, support for HTML5 in Quanta, support for Let’s Encrypt certificates, some improvements to GUI options, better cooperation between tdm and plymouth, fix for ICEAuthority ownership stealing when using sudo, various other bug fixes and improvements. It also adds support for Ubuntu Jammy while it drops support for Debian Jessie and Ubuntu Trusty. C++11 is now allowed in the code base. I doubt the audience for a KDE 3.x desktop is massive, but thanks to the wonders of open source – the people that want it, can have it.
Unity 7.6 will be the first major release of Unity in 6 years (the last release was in May 2016). We have restarted the active development of Unity7 and will be releasing new versions with more features regularly. I was never a fan of Ubuntu’s Unity, but I’ve seen quite a few people over the years who miss it. Your call has been answered – this first release has a a lot of visual touch-ups and updates to make it look a bit more modern, and there’s bugfixes in here, too, of course.
LXQt 1.1.0 has been released. As its version number makes clear, this isn’t a major release, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the changelog – there’s a lot in here. The biggest improvement is better integration of Gtk+ applications into the desktop environment, so that, among other things, applications like Chromium and Firefox can call LXQt’s own file picker. There’s a lot more, so be sure to read the release notes.
EndeavourOS is an Arch-based Linux distribution, and in and of itself not something I’d write about here. However, at the very end of the release notes for its latest release, there’s this: This release is also shipping with a brand-new Window Manager developed by our community editions team member Codic12 and we are more than proud to present you this WM that was developed a little bit under our wing. Codic12 decided to develop this WM to satisfy his need for a lightweight window manager that worked well with both floating and tiling modes and had window decorations with minimise, maximise and close buttons in any layout desired and that could run on a semi-embedded system like the PIZero. Worm is written in Nim and is based on X11, a Wayland version isn’t in the pipeline in the near future, according to him. There’s been a surge of interest in tiling window managers lately, with tons of articles and howtos about things like i3 and Awesome, and System76, too, made tiling a prime feature in Pop!_OS. Heck, even Windows is in on the game. Tiling isn’t for me – I’ll manage and resize my window manually, like an animal, thank you very much – but there’s no denying there seems to be a huge demand for tiling features.
A few months ago, System76 announced that they would be developing a new desktop environment based on the Rust programming language called COSMIC. Their idea is to create a desktop environment that is similar to the one that is currently available for the Pop!_OS operating system, but with a different focus. System76’s objective is to create something that is faster, more customizable, and free of the limitations of the GNOME desktop environment, and let’s face it, we’re all curious how this desktop will look. This post will explore how this new desktop environment is shaping up. There’s not a ton to see here yet, and it’s clearly very early days. Still, it’s interesting to see the beginnings.
I’ve been keeping an eye on MauiKit for a while now, and over Christmas, they surprised us with their brand new convergent desktop environment – Maui Shell – targeted at both desktops, tablets, and mobile devices. After developing a whole set of applications, as well as a Linux distribution to use them, their next step is now a complete desktop environment. The objective of Maui Shell is to deploy a convergent desktop shell with different form factors, from mobile phones and tablets to desktop computers. Maui Shell will adapt to various form factors, and there’s no need for multiple versions targeting different form factors. Maui Shell is still in early development, but they’ve published a tight schedule with the first complete release scheduled for late 2022, with several preview releases in between then and now. In fact, the next release of Nitrux will include the first test release as an alternative shell for users to log into. If you’re interested in a modern take on the Linux desktop, phone, and tablet – these are the projects to follow. They’ve got some good stuff under their belt already, a proven track record, and a clear vision of what they want Maui Shell and its applications to be.
Enlightenment 0.25 is here more than one and a half years after Enlightenment 0.24 to introduce a flat look to match the new flat theme, new gesture recognition bindings for touchpads, fingerprint support in desklock via the libFprint library and a new tool to configure fingerprints, a new binding action that lets users switch profiles, as well as palette editor and selector tool to help you set up custom colors. There are a lot more changes in here, and I’m actually interested in trying it out – it seems more grown-up and less over the top than it has in the past, and I’m curious to see what else has improved over the years.
LXQt, the lightweight desktop environment based on Qt, has hit its 1.0.0 release, with tons of changes and improvements. Going through the changelog, we can see it’s based on the final LTS release of Qt 5, Qt 5.15, and sports new features across all of its components. The file manager has seen a lot of work, there’s now a do-not-disturb mode, there’s the usual Wayland improvements, and a lot more.
System76’s Pop!_OS Linux distribution already has their own “COSMIC” desktop that is based on GNOME, but moving ahead they are working on their own Rust-written desktop that is not based on GNOME or any existing desktop environment. Stemming from a Reddit discussion over the possibility of seeing a KDE flavor of Pop!_OS, it was brought up by one of their own engineers they are working on their “own desktop”. With GNOME curling up on itself more and more, this was inevitable. I’m curious to see what System76’s developer come up with, because interacting with some of them on Twitter has taught me they’re good people with good ideas. Since I’m not a developer I’m not going to make any comments on their use of Rust – I’ll leave that to our readers – but I like that it’s indented to be distribution-independent.
While playing around with the GUI on OpenVMS I was looking for CDE documentation and I found out CDE is still being developed and can be installed on modern linux. This quick post shows you how to install CDE on Debian 10 and includes a bit on compiling GENERIC TETRIS, the same program I installed on OpenVMS. I will forever stand by my article from 14 years ago and you can put on my gravestone that I truly think CDE is one of the best graphical user interfaces ever conceived. CDE was released as open source software about nine years ago, and is still being developed.
This release comes with improved support for user sessions on high resolution displays, new TWin styles (SUSE2 and DeKorator), some other new applications, improvements to ffmpeg support and video support in Kopete, a revamped weather bar for Konqueror, a working KNemo backend and various minor improvements and fixes to several long standing annoying bugs and crashes. It also adds support for Debian Bullseye, Ubuntu Impish, Fedora 34 and 35 and Arch distributions. We’ve been talking about Trinity for a while, but for the uninitiated – it’s a fork of the last KDE 3.5.x release, with upgraded bits, fixed bugs, and new features, made to run on modern distributions.
The theme for this release has been adding new functionality to the MATE Desktop while maintaining the look and feel that we all know and love. While all the added features are surely quite exciting we also did not forget to do tons of bugfixing, modernising the code base and optimizing the performance. MATE is one of the two great alternatives for people who find GNOME 3 and later unpleasant (the other being Cinnamon, my DE of choice).