[xmonad] New User Impressions

Kathryn Andersen kat_lists at katspace.org
Mon Jan 26 03:26:32 EST 2009

I am a new user of xmonad, but I've been poking around the mailing
list, and noticed a rather old but interesting thread here:


I know that was a long time ago, but I'd like to give my feedback
I am using the version of xmonad which is available on Ubunti 8.10,
xmonad version 0.8.

Previous window managers I've used before xmonad:
- Mwm and Twm were my first window managers, back in ancient history.
- I think I moved to Vtwm next.
- Fvwm (I keep coming back to this again and again and again; it's so
  wonderfully configurable)
- CDE (but only because I was forced to for work)
- back to Fvwm; there might have been a few others too
- KDE (very pretty, but bloated and slow, limited configuration)
- GNOME (not as pretty, just as bloated and limited)
- back to Fvwm
- wmi/wmii-2 (some great ideas, but a moving target; also the developers
  were unfriendly)
- ion2/ion3 (some good ideas, very lacking in others)
- back to Fvwm
- Fvwm-crystal (basically a layer on top of Fvwm, very pretty)
- Xfce (rather nice, middleweight, pretty; if it hadn't been for some
  resizing problems with small screens I might still have been using it
  on my eeePC)
- wmii-3 (continued with the great ideas, but still not stable, and
  the developers are still unfriendly)

I haven't tried Compiz because my video card isn't supported.

About xmonad:
1) What things annoy you?

a) The way the mouse behaves on focus-change.  The normal behaviour has
meant that sometimes I have clicked to paste a selection, and it went
into the wrong window.  However, when I had the UpdatePointer plugin
installed, it was lovely, until I tried to use GIMP, and then the pointer
moved when I didn't want it to.  I can't win.
b) The lack of screenshots of the different layouts; the only way of
figuring out what they do is to enable them and see what happens.
c) Documentation of layouts and plugins is varied; some are good, with
examples, others are just cryptic.

2) What things do you like?

a) Lots of plugins, so one doesn't have to learn Haskell before one can
configure xmonad.
b) Support of EWMH struts in two ways; I like being able to have a status bar
and system monitor on every workspace.  On one system I use the ManageDocks,
and on another system I use the Gaps layout (because I use conky there, and
it doesn't support partial struts)
c) The flexibility of what one can use for status bars (on the other
hand, this has a downside, because there is a learning curve for
configuring said status bars)
d) Reloading the config on the fly.
e) If you pick a certain layout, it behaves the same way every time.
f) It is blindingly fast.
g) It is stable.
h) The Lambda-in-X logo (Well, I do like it!  I like the allusion
to the Lamda Calculus)

3) What things can be done better?
a) Theming.  It's a bit clunky at this point.  Some things are defined
in xmonad.hs, some things are defined in the xmobar/dzen config, some
things are defined in the script I use to call dmenu.  One can't really
change the theme on the fly.

4) What things are missing?

a) xmonad appears to support fewer keybindings than other window managers;
however, I got around this by installing xbindkeys and using those
keys-which-xmonad-does-not-support to spawn programs rather than control
the window manager.

See also (1) and (5).

5) What things do you     miss from ion/wmii/dwm/compiz?

a) From ion, the way the tabbing worked; specifically that any frame could
be tabbed, and that one could drag-and-drop tabs from one frame to another.
Sure, the Tabbed layout supports some of this, but not all of it.

b) From wmii, I miss the way one can click on the status bar labels to change
workspaces.  It's no good running an external pager, because they are
*graphical*, they don't show the workspace labels, and it's the workspace
labels that I like.  And while xmobar and dzen2 can display the current
workspace information, one can't click on them to change workspaces.

c) I really miss the eyecandy of Xfce and Fvwm.  Yes, we don't *need*
things to be pretty, but I like being able to have a choice between 3D
and flat borders, I like being able to make really cool semi-translucent
themes, I miss gradients and pixmaps, I liked being able to make an Xfce
theme where the titlebar looked like frosted glass framed in silver and

d) I do miss being able to close a window by clicking on a "close"
button in the titlebar. Modkey-Shift-c is a bit clunky, though I do
understand that it needs to be so, in order to prevent accidental
closure of windows.  However, sometimes one gets a situation where
an application has locked up the keyboard, and the only thing working
is the mouse, and one needs to be able to use the mouse to kill the
offending application.

e) I miss being able to drag floating windows by the titlebar;
having to hold down the mod key before I can move them is annoying,
because it requires two hands rather than one.

6) What things do you not miss from ion/wmii/dwm/compiz?

a) I don't miss the failure of wmii to support EWMH struts.
b) I don't miss having to readjust columns in wmii every time one
added or deleted a window.
c) I don't miss the having-to-move-stuff-around of non-tiling window
d) I don't miss the constant switching between mouse and keyboard which
happens with non-tiling window managers.

Kathryn Andersen
 _--_|\     | Kathryn Andersen	<http://www.katspace.com>
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