Re: [wmii] Whither wmi?

From: Karl Guertin <>
Date: Mon, 24 Oct 2005 22:20:18 -0400

On 10/24/05, Anselm R. Garbe <> wrote:
> On Mon, Oct 24, 2005 at 05:42:02PM -0400, Karl Guertin wrote:
> No, feel free to post the list. I'd be interested. Actually
> things still evolve and will change due to the upcoming column
> layout and the silent switch to 9p2k capable servers in the
> wmii-3 release soon.

I interact with the window manager in two ways: normal usage and configuration.

For usage I strongly prefer the static frames and frame splitting
provided by the original wmi. I am primarily a web developer and while
I work with a large number of applications at the same time, I only
want my windows configured in one of a few ways but I want as many
ways to switch between those windows as possible. In the following
description I use my keyboard modifiers rather than the function names
because, frankly, I don't remember the function names. It should be
fairly straightforward.

Specifically: I run my xterms on desktop-1, you can get the extact
configuration by opening three xterms in wmii-2 on a blank desktop.
The left one is my primary working frame and usually has a heavily
split vim window tabbed with a browser window for testing. The right
two vary, the top is usually irc and the bottom is a command shell.
These are also usually tabbed with another term depending on what I'm
working on. Mail and browser are on desktop-2 full screen. Gimp is on
3 floating. I have my caps lock mapped to mod5 and use that as my
modifier key for the window manager shortcuts.

Under this setup I can switch between every application in under three
keystrokes and I can switch between 7 separate apps in one keystroke
(current, alt+tab, mod5+l/h,mod5+j/k, float, focused on other desktops
[mod5+1,2,3]). Because my desktop is extremely well defined, I have a
tacit memory of the keystrokes necessary to switch between the apps.
Think switching to normal mode in vim, it's an action that vimmers do
so many times that they no longer have to think to perform the motion
and it doesn't break the thought process. Because alt+tab doesn't work
right (cycles through all rather than ms-windows style behavior) there
is almost never more than two windows in a frame, it breaks the
predictability for me. For configuration, wmi is fairly
straightforward, took me about 20 minutes to get everything tweaked
how I wanted it.

I would have liked some changes, like remembering where focus was when
switching from a frame filling up a full column to one split
horizontally e.g. remembering top or bottom in my xterm setup. I would
have liked if hitting mod5+h in the leftmost column did the same thing
as mod5+l in that same column. I would have liked a more robust menu
system in the upper left hand corner for when I was using the
mouse/gimp. Getting a desktop that behaved like the dashboard in OSX.
Overall, however, I like the manager a lot. I don't have to think
about the window manager and I don't have to interrupt my workflow to
switch between apps (alt+tab,tab,tab etc).


I obviously disagree here. The setup described above completely
satisfies all my work related activities. The problem with the dynamic
setup is that I no longer have key patterns that work every time and
can be drilled into muscle memory. The current default setup causes me
to lose alt+tab, alt+h/l, and the float toggle from my wmi setup. In
theory the dynamic system provides a good solution for far more
working scenarios than my system. In practice I find my system
optimal for the vast majority of my work. For those situations where
it is not optimal, I detach the windows I'm working on, pop over to my
spare desktop and attach them as I like. I do this once per month or
so. The difference is that with the dynamic system, I have no work but
I also have very little control (without heavy configuration tweaking,
which is never fun) over how my work environment is set up. I don't
want to have the right side of my screen split between 5 apps so that
I have to visually target the one I'm looking for then hit 3-4 key
combinations to focus. It's very rare that I actually want to see more
than three frames on the screen at once, having more only reduces the
area devoted to each screen.

As for configuration, I can see how the current system is more
configurable, but it's a pain to work with. I spent 20 minutes just
reading about plan 9 and then another 20 trying to figure out what the
swarm of executables actually does. It's weird and was annoying to me
because I couldn't figure out how to accomplish much of anything like
adding buttons on the bar, figuring out why the xterm wasn't launching
(turns out there was no xterm on the system), why mozilla launches
instead of firefox, etc. The big problem with the config system is
that its made up of pseudo-files. This means two things: 1. that the
interesting bits of config are scattered in small pieces throughout a
data structure that is far more opaque than a flat config file and 2.
because the files aren't real files, I can't do real file stuff with
them like grep, find, vim, etc, but rather have to do everything
through wmir, which leads to 3. excessively verbose/ugly config files.
I think this is a known problem and it looks like the snapshot config
stuff is simpler. I have no problem with everything being files, but I
don't have tools to efficiently manipulate a huge number of tiny
files. If there were some way to aggregate the files (like the
directories as files plugins talked about for reiser4) or the files
plugged into something like leo (, it wouldn't be so

I repeat that I want wmii to behave like wmi. The inital frame takes
up the whole screen, additional windows appear in the same frame,
split, join, move north,south,east,west, alt+tab switches only within
the frame, etc. Now that I've had time to cool down and think about it
some more, I think that I can script the system in python to get the
behavior I want, but I'm hoping that someone else has run into the
same problems, has solved them, and can cut down on the amount of work
I have to do in configuration.

> Personally I noticed a big boost in my usage patterns since
> using wmii-2 in a dynamic way.

I can see how you can gain productivity now that you have a tacit way
to toggle between two apps with alt+enter (which is a feature I like
btw), but I gain no benefit over my highly regimented system.

> > I know one of the motivations for the rewrite is to make the system
> > more flexible, so I figured it's worth a shot. If that isn't possible,
> > can anybody provide an old .deb file for wmi-10?
> I'm sure there're .debs somewhere, but dunno the URL, because
> I use a different OS...

Debian isn't my first choice in distros for reasons like this, but the
company has made a lot of tweaks to the system that I don't want to
replicate. I don't want to do source because debian requires extra
tweaky things to make it fit in with the debian system which I really
don't want to learn. ;]

Received on Tue Oct 25 2005 - 04:20:55 UTC

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