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EDIT: The thread went from asking advice on keyboard driven WM's to sharing my exploration. The subject has been edited accordingly. I tried Ion2 and Ion3 briefly, but didn't really ...
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  1. #1
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    Edit: some experiences with keyboard driven WM's


    EDIT: The thread went from asking advice on keyboard driven WM's to sharing my exploration. The subject has been edited accordingly.

    I tried Ion2 and Ion3 briefly, but didn't really get the concepts yet. Then I tried WMI but, not knowing vi very well, was completely lost. Now I'm using WMII and I'm seriously considering replacing Enlightenment DR16 with it, or something similar.

    Has anyone here had a lot of experience with such window managers, to the point where they could write a somewhat comprehensive comparison, or just give some quick thoughts on strengths and weaknesses?

    I still find myself using the mouse quite a bit, but I definitely like the fact that if I'm at the keyboard, I don't have to switch to the mouse unless an application like Firefox demands it. Likewise, I like little touches like being able to left and right click the bar to change workspaces if I'm already using the mouse.

    And I have to say, I used to use application keyboard shortcuts very little, but now with WMII I'm exploring them a whole lot more. That's definitely a good thing, because while a lot of them were slower when the WM required the mouse, they're without a doubt faster now.
    Michael Salivar

    Man knows himself insofar as he knows the world, becoming aware of it only in himself, and of himself only within it.
    --Goethe

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    Well, I guess it's going to be me that tries all of these things until my wrists don't move
    As long as I'm reflecting on what I'm learning anyway, I might as well share with anyone who cares...

    I just tried ratpoison, and damn it's ugly! Actually it's not, it has a really simple black background when you split with something like an xterm, which has set geometry intervals. I'm finding this much more attractive than wmii which has the black background by default, but also has window borders which don't look very good together. I guess if I built wmii on cairo it would look better, but I'm hearing that's not ready yet.

    Plus it's fast! I've been getting a little disgruntled with wmii's lag in switching windows and frames, and ratpoison just flies through them. It's much less configurable from what I've seen so far (I haven't dug much), but I guess that's a trade off. Besides, the vfs in wmii is interesting, but it's so deep it's not very useful.

    The one thing that's going to take some getting used to is the keybindings. Wmii was unlike anything I've ever seen, but it was intuitive to a degree. Ratpoison's bindings are in the style of GNU screen, which I never got into much. For those who don't know, this means ctrl-t is the command key (is that what it is in screen, too? I don't remember), and anything after that determines the command.

    For example:
    ctrl-t ? # help menu
    ctrl-t c # exec xterm
    ctrl-t ! # exec shell command

    I think this is a tradeoff from what wmii uses in that you don't find yourself stretching your fingers so much, but it does seem to lead to some key mashing. Of course, as I learn the systems more, I assume both of these symptoms will slowly be relieved.
    Michael Salivar

    Man knows himself insofar as he knows the world, becoming aware of it only in himself, and of himself only within it.
    --Goethe

  3. #3
    Linux Guru budman7's Avatar
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    After reading your first post I was going to suggest ratpoison, and then you went on to describe your experiences with ratpoison. so there goes that suggestion.

    I tried ratpoison for a little bit, didn't like it though.
    I missed my mouse. And to many commands to remember.
    but if my mouse stops working again, ratpoison it is.
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    Well, a couple things about ratpoison annoy me. First, the ctrl-t to open a command gets in the way of Firefox opening a tab. I can probably rebind this when I look into it, but it would be nice to have a 'bare' mode like in wmii which makes the WM ignore keybindings until, in wmii's case, alt-esc is pressed.

    Second is the windowing is a little less versatile. I find you're always fighting to get the tiling you want because windows you aren't viewing fall into an abyss. If I'm in my xterm and I press ctrl-t 1 to focus my sylpheed (and it's not currently a visible tile) it will open much too small in the space of my xterm. Instead I have to open firefox with ctrl-t 2 and then sylpheed with ctrl-t 1 so that it opens in the proper tile, and thus size. With wmii It has multiple pages with frames within them. So I can layout my firefox window with my tabbed gaim message window and a couple xterms, then have another page with sylpheed layed out with the gaim buddy list, and a third frame for a news reader, and so on. Then I can just switch between pages rather than fighting with layout constantly.

    Another problem with this behavior of ratpoisons is that, very often, when I'm working in an xterm, and have another xterm with a manpage in the background which I want to bring up, it's because I want to reference the man page for my work in the xterm. Replacing the xterm I'm working with is not optimal.

    I'm just starting to play with Ion2 right now, we'll see where that goes. So far it seems fast, and it's interesting that it has a more traditional root menu available. But I haven't gotten into tiling at all yet, or much at all into keybinds. This weekend I'll explore StumpWM and Ion3, and I think there's another I'm forgetting.

    Oh, and wmii-2 is going to be released soon, apparently it's quite a bit different from the wmii-1 I'm using now (which is strange since wmii is the new rewrite of wmi, much like I guess Ion3 is a major rewrite of Ion2)

    Anyway, thanks for the post budman
    Michael Salivar

    Man knows himself insofar as he knows the world, becoming aware of it only in himself, and of himself only within it.
    --Goethe

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    Well, I think Ion2 is it. I'm still excited to try Ion3, and I'm interested in trying some others like LarsWM, StumpWM, and maybe even XEWM; but Ion is doing everything I want right now.

    First it looks attractive. It doesn't have any gradients, but the themes are very clean and simple. They're very easy on the eyes. The title bars are unaffected by oddly sized xterms, unlike wmii which has awkward window borders

    Second it's VERSATILE! It can have multiple clients per frame, which is basically like Fluxbox's tabs. You use alt-k n and alt-k p to navigate within a frame. Then you can tile frames on a single workspace, and unlike wmii it's pretty much unlimited. You can split horizontally and vertically, of course, and more importantly the keyboard resizing works. To resize you simply focus the frame and press alt-r, then you resize with the the arrow keys to enlarge a given side, and shift with the arrow keys to shrink it. It has small intervals with a fast repeat, and doesn't lag like both ratpoison and wmii.

    The moving between frames in a single workspace is rather interesting. You alt-tab and alt-k tab to move left and right, and alt-p and alt-n moves up and down. It might seem strange, but as I get used to it, it's beginning to become easier than simple scrolling back and forth through a window list. I would like to see a ratpoison like solution, where it prompts for a window number like workspaces below.

    It also has multiple workspaces. You can create a new workspace with alt-F9, and F9 will either move to the workspace you enter numerically or create that workspace giving you the option to use more traditional floating windows on it. This is useful for apps like Gimp or GMPC. Of course it's easier to just switch workspaces using alt-arrows and alt-# (where # is the workspace). Unlike wmii (to my knowledge) you can delete the empty workspace with alt-c. In a similar manner, you can switch between screens with alt-shift-arrows or alt-shift-#.

    Some other neat things include:
    You can switch to the last active frame with alt-k k, which is great for toggling between man page and config file.
    To switch clients in a tabbed frame you can alt-g and type in the client's name in the title bar. When you have something long like in a web browser, it has tab completion.
    F3 opens a run dialog with tab completion
    F1 accesses a built in man page viewer
    F5 and F6 edit and view files with built in programs, though these don't work for me
    And apparently F4 starts an SSH session
    To attach clients to a new frame you can tag multiple clients and then move them all at once with alt-t and alt-a.


    So this is what I've been missing all this time
    Michael Salivar

    Man knows himself insofar as he knows the world, becoming aware of it only in himself, and of himself only within it.
    --Goethe

  7. #6
    oz
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    Hmm... don't know how I missed this thread.

    Oh yeah, I'm always playing around with different WMs and DEs, as it's become a bit of a hobby.

    I do like wmii and have used it off and on for a few months now but it still seems to be just a bit buggy, whereas wmi worked without problems, at least for me. Some of the keys in wmii-2 don't seem to work consistantly. They do what they are supposed to do, then a little while later they don't seem to work. Perhaps it's something I'm doing wrong, but I don't think so.

    Yep, I've used ion, but it's been awhile, so I'm thinking about trying it again, especially after reading your comments. Ratpoison was okay, but I haven't used it lately. Might try it again in the future.

    Well, you've sparked my interest in trying ion again, so I'm off to install it...

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    Well, I haven't really had much time to really play lately, but I've been using Ion2 all this time. I think that might be a new record, I usually jump around a lot, never settling on anything long.

    I got the same impression with wmii, and I'm pretty sure I had the same drops in keybinding recognition. I don't remember specifically, though.

    Something about Ratpoison really caught my interest, it was just so simple, I guess. That doesn't cut it in 1600x1200, though. I really need the more advanced tiling options that ion and wmii provide. I'm sure I'll try it again when I get my 12" laptop, running in 1024x768 will probably be Ratpoison's strength. I'll probably still stick with ion, though, for the sake of workspaces and keybinding configurability.

    Plus I like the window decorations... I grew up in a GUI, I can't help it. I love the console like the next guy, and when I'm there I'm perfectly happy with text and can live there for weeks. But damnit, when I'm in X I want a few graphics.

    Anyway, I'd love to hear a post on your impressions!

    Oh, by the way, do you know of a maintained console spreadsheet app? I can't seem to get sc, oleo, or teapot to compile on Arch, and Gnumeric is annoying me. Just a stab in the dark, but it seems like you have a pretty good grasp on program availability.
    Michael Salivar

    Man knows himself insofar as he knows the world, becoming aware of it only in himself, and of himself only within it.
    --Goethe

  9. #8
    oz
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    Hey, Ethyriel:

    Yeah, I'm the same way and tend to jump around alot (because I get bored easily, I suppose).

    Well, I got sidetracked lastnight and didn't get ion installed yet. Hey, just in case you don't already know, ion3-devel is now available from the Arch "community" repo. That's probably the version I'll install when I get around to it. I'm still using wmii-2 for now. Yeah, I do need to give Ratpoison another go, too. Evilwm is another one that I've been wanting to try, but haven't.

    No, I can't recommend any of the console spreadsheet apps because I've never used any of them. Sorry...

    Yeah, I began using computers under MS-DOS so quickly grew to be friends with the console, but now I too am spoiled to using those X windows. Sometimes, mouse clicks feel quicker than the keyboard, but other times the keyboard wins. I'm really not sure what my final WM choice will be, but in the interim, it's sure fun to keep experimenting with all these options.

  10. #9
    oz
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    Hey there, Michael - just wanted to let you know that I did get around to installing ion3-devel yesterday.

    It seems to be a bit snappier in performance than wmii-2 does, or at least it feels that way to me. It was a little surprising that it was so much bigger (in file size) than wmii-2, too. Maybe it's just me, but ion3 doesn't feel quite as intuitive as wmii-2. Maybe I need to print out all the command/keybindings and then put some real effort into it.

    I'm going to have to play with it more before deciding whether or not to keep it, but at the moment, I'm leaning toward wmii-2. I think part of the problem is that I'm not a big fan, or coder, of lua.

    Oh well, will report more later...

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    Hrm, what is it that doesn't seem as intuitive?

    Personally I love the way window switching is left/right and up/down. I use mod4- I, K for up/down and mod4- J, L for left/right. Then mod4-tab and alt-tab for tabbing within a frame. I think when I have my 1024x768 laptop I'll use mod4- U, O for switching workspaces. I remember really liking wmii's ways when i first tried it, but it didn't take long to get Ion where I wanted, once I got sick of wmii's speed issues and bugs.

    But I am excited about wmii's future, I hope they get things worked out. As is, it just wasn't very usable for me.

    I did go ahead and get Ion3. At first I had some issues with it throwing out errors on start up, but I disabled the dock, scratchpad, and statusbar and all is well. And finally, I'm able to use a non-xterm when :executing a command (a terminal shortcut). A simple config option in /usr/share/ion3/ion-runinxterm and urxvtc is working like a charm.

    At first I didn't like the look, with the window borders, but it's really starting to grow on me. All I could remember was wmii, I think it was, where the tiliing issues left big black gaps between borders. Ion3's tiling is seamless.

    Once I get my keybinding set back up I think I'll examine the statusbar. Maybe with it's mail notification I'll setup fetchmail/procmail/sendmail again, rather than just running Sylpheed all the time in Firefox's frame.
    Michael Salivar

    Man knows himself insofar as he knows the world, becoming aware of it only in himself, and of himself only within it.
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