[xmonad] Project to make tiling window managers more accessible to newcomers

Jan Vornberger Jan.Vornberger at Informatik.Uni-Oldenburg.DE
Wed Apr 8 12:23:55 EDT 2009


my name is Jan Vornberger and I'm a student at the University of
Oldenburg (Germany). I would like to introduce myself and the project
that I will be working on for the next semester.

As part of my studies I have to work on a semester-long project. I
decided to work on the question, how tiling window managers can be made
more 'beginner-friendly' and how the barrier to entry can be lowered.
I have decided to use XMonad as a basis for implementing my ideas.
Therefore I wanted to introduce myself, as I will probably be asking a
question here and there in the future. :-)

For those who are interested, here is a rough sketch on what I have in
mind for my project: My goal is to create a modern tiling window manager
that can be productively used with virtually no training, meaning most
core functionality needs to be accessible in an intuitive way or drawing
from well-known conventions in more conventional window managers.
My target user is someone who wants to give tiling window managers a
try, but doesn't want to learn keyboard commands (at least not in the
beginning), read a detailed manual or write any sort of configuration

I'm planning to decide on a somewhat fixed configuration of XMonad,
probably in combination with Gnome as a DE, and then trying to make this
functionality available via mouse commands that - hopefully - will be
easy to pick up.

I also want to completely rework the whole floating layer thing, as it
seems to me to be a fairly foreing concept for a newcomer and it's
awkward to use. My current idea is to instead use a floating layout
algorithm, that could work similiar to a conventional window manager. It
could even be set as the default layout algorithm. That way, the WM
could almost be a 'drop-in' replacement for - let's say Metacity -
greeting the user with the familiar concept of manipulating windows and
then leading him to the tiling paradigm once he switches the layout.

I do believe that eventually the keyboard is a more effective way to
control the WM, so I will also investigate the possibility of some kind
of help system, that can point out how - for example - the last action,
the user did, can be done with keyboard commands instead. Alternatively
tooltips could also be used to display key bindings.

I have a little bit of experience with Haskell - that's one of the
reasons I picked XMonad as the basis, as I enjoy programming in Haskell
and want to get more experienced with it. However I'm completely new to
X11 and window manager programming, which I will need to pick up.

That's it, the project in a nutshell. Any thoughts, pointers, related
ideas, doubts or comments are most welcome. :-)



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