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Window managers for the RULE project

Window managers are probably second only to VI and Emacs as sources of religious wars. I have already received a lot of suggestions about them.

For the purposes of the RULE project, we can divide window managers for Linux in two categories. Those who are REALLY, REALLY minimal, and those wich manage to put together a visually cool interface and a lot of real functionality, all without making your CPU scream. I have arbitrarily restricted the following list to two representatives of the first class, and one of the second.

The exclusion of WindowMaker and XFCE will certainly raise eyebrows, and some war axe too. Some of my reasons for this (apart from the fact that in my personal experience Blackbox has proven as the fastest and lighter in its category, and that this seems to be a common opinion around) are listed here.

XFCE is a desktop environment, and the “do one thing only, but better” philosophy is good by itself and, in our case, more flexible, I think. An interesting justification for WindowMaker or XFCE is that they would require less adjustments for a user switching from MS Windows. I don’t think this matters in our case: the newbie to computing will take whatever we give him, and won’t find any interface weirder than another. Ex MS windows users will very often have enough hardware and/or expectations to just ignore us and go KDE or Gnome anyway.

Another thing that prompts me to keep Blackbox as the first choice is the fact that, while having more features than the really tiny ones (twm, oroborus…) it doesn’t need any icon, panel etc..: with 16 colors cards, this might prove crucial. Or not? Nothing is carved in stone, but at least we have something to fight on… On to the list!

Window managers choices

IMPORTANT: I have not tried yet if the following applications do have all the features I listed above, but they looked quite promising. Please correct me if needed!


Reported to use less RAM than one rxvt terminal.


Can you be more minimalist than that?


40 Kbytes stripped… Here is the Oroborus home page


With bbtools, all preconfigured to be fully useable without the mouse. Keep in mind that shell scripts can be linked from the root menu, and that we can even add pop up windows to them with XAsk, so they can perfectly emulate much heavier tools.

Blackbox configured properly can really give you all the possible functionality (even playing MP3s via a shell script from the root menu) and almost all the visual bells and whistles one could ask, including multiple workspaces.

I am not considering the blackbox spin offs for now (waimea and fluxbox) because they are newer projects, and I’m not sure yet if the extra things they have are useful to us. If one needs the “more terminals in one window” one could also go for powershell, even if that might be an heavier, less integrated solution.

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