Re: [wmii] summary of some #wmii talk on 2006-03-02

From: John Nowak <>
Date: Mon, 6 Mar 2006 22:09:43 -0500

On Mar 6, 2006, at 4:24 PM, Karl Guertin wrote:

> On 3/4/06, Anselm R. Garbe <> wrote:
>> And as we wrote in dynamic WM, I really doubt, that static
>> layouts ever will properly work and can be easily adapted to new
>> requirements or frequently changing tasks.
> By explicitly arranging my windows into an extremely static setup, I
> know, without thinking, how to get to any window on my computer
> without having to search for the window. This optimizes window
> switching, which occurs during normal workflow and so optimizing it is
> far more important.

I largely agree. There will occasionally be a point where I need to,
at the end of some task, open up some program to complete the task at
hand (maybe a terminal window to check something in via darcs or
upload something via ftp), but it is actually very rare generally
speaking that I'm changing window positions in the middle of any
task. Or more precisely, I don't *want* them to change.

> Think about how easy it is to work with two windows using the MS
> Windows, Mac OS X, or Metacity window managers. You alt+tab between
> the two without thinking about it, it's a O(1) operation. When you add
> a third window, the process breaks down and you must search through a
> window listing to get to the third window. This introduces a new task
> and interrupts workflow, it's an O(n) operation even not considering
> the workflow interruption.

This is not avoidable if you're going to have windows with separate
focus. In OS X, you have the Exposť feature which shows as-large-as-
possible versions of every window on the screen (or just every window
for the current application) at once without overlapping, which is as
close to a O(1) operation as you're going to get. The ease of visual
identification coupled with (generally very descriptive) names make
this fast.

I think what is critical in OS X is that 90% of time, when you switch
to some program, you want it to bring up the frontmost window which
is what it does by default. Getting the window you want then is 90%
of the time as simple as clicking the right icon in the dock or
command-tabbing to it (or even holding command-tab and hovering over
it on the selector that appears very large and in the middle of the
screen). This is, of course, very fast and requires little thought.

The presence of an O(n) operation is not worth worrying about
provided that:
1. n is small (generally under 8 or broken up into multiple groups
less than 8 (i.e. windows sorted by application in the dock)
2. windows are easily identifiable (i.e. they're not hidden on a
different page, they don't all look similar (like xterms do), and use
iconography when possible (humans are good with images, period --
that's how we've evolved))
3. the physical interaction is minimal and easy (like holding
command-tab, hovering over a LARGE target, and releasing the keys --
as opposed to gnome where you click the small program in the taskbar,
and then have to move the mouse again to click a small menu entry)
4. the windows aren't moving around all over the place so you can use
your brain to remember where something was located

> Using my wmi setup I can switch between at least 8 windows as an O(1)
> operation and no workflow interruption, which is the only reason I use
> wmi rather than a more mainstream window manager. This is not possible
> using wmii, as the window manager rearranges windows all over the
> place so jumping to a given window involves finding the window,
> providing no benefit over more mainstream window managers. Switching
> between windows is an O(n) operation in wmii and not tacit at all.

I, like you, want a more static interface. Right now, due to the
rearrangement of windows, I need to look for the right window each
time. It shouldn't be underestimated how frustrating this is for a
human -- Things generally should be where you left them. To be
honest, I am MUCH more interested in the non-overlapping features of
WMII than I am the "dynamic" features. Truth be told, I really just
want a great interface for command line and curses-based programs
(vi, mutt, bsflite (a great AIM chat client), links2 on occasion, man
pages, file manipulation, etc).

Let me sum it up like this:

OS X is like my desk in real life. Everything is kind of a mess, and
some things are under other things, but I know where everything is

Wmii is like my desk, except that my girlfriend just organized
everything for me while I was in the bathroom. Everything is in a
straight line, there are no big piles, and she removed the box of
cookies (that I was still eating). Sure she does a good job, but it
gets tiresome having to relearn my desk every time I go to the bathroom.

- John

Received on Tue Mar 07 2006 - 04:09:50 UTC

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