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Tritium WM

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tritium window manager

tritium window manager

Today I am playing with Tritium WM, a tabbed/tiling window manager with features similar to Ion3, only, entirely written in python (as opposed to C and Lua, like Ion3).
So far, it seems to work. It isn’t drawing java swing gui windows real well, sadly, and one of my main work apps uses java swing guis.
Other than that, it is snappy.
There really is NO documentation for this window manager…Nothing. I “spoke” with the author of this wm in #debian on freenode, and the only instructions he gave me were to look at the script for keybindings to figure out to navigate this wm, which, like ion3, is largely controlled from the keyboard. I may volunteer to write some documentation for this guy. I don’t know. There IS a man page, but it tells almost nothing.
In fact, this is the entire man page:


tritium – a tabbed/tiling window manager for the X Window System

tritium [options]

tritium is a tabbed / tiling window manager geared towards keyboard users.

-c, -use filename as the tritium config file.

tritium was written by Mike O’Connor

June 1, 2007 TRITIUM(1)

From the file, so far I have figured out the following:

  • F1 gives a prompt to search for a man page.
  • F2 will call your default terminal
  • F3 will open command prompt.
  • Ctrl-F3 gives a python shell prompt (like the in idle).
  • Shift+F3 will run a command in a terminal.
  • F4 will open an ssh prompt to ssh to another machine.
  • Shift+F9 creates a new workspace.
  • F12 opens a program menu, much like dmenu in dwm or wmii.
  • Mod4 = the “Window Key”, between the Left-Alt (Mod1) and Left-Ctrl
  • Mod4+J to the next workspace, Mod4+K back a workspace.
  • Mod4+Tab changes focus between columns.
  • Mod4+L and Mod4+H move back and forth between windows or frames in a column.
  • Mod4+F(number) allows one to navigate between workspaces (ie. Mod4+F3 navigates to the third workspace).
  • Mod4+W will close a program.
  • Mod4+S slits a column horizontally
  • Mod4+Shift+S splits it vertically.
  • Mod4+(arrow key) will move the split between frames, thus resizing them. (ie. Mod4+(right arrow) will squeeze the column to the right over, and makes the left column larger, etc.).
  • Mod4+G and Win+; will navigate back and forth between columns, and across workspaces (as opposed to Mod4+Tab, which only changes focus between columns in the same workspace).
  • Mod4-Shift+J moves a window to the frame below, Mod4-Shift+K moves a the frame above.  Mod4+Shift+L moves the windows to the frame to the right. Mod4-Shift+H moves it to the left.

I’ m probably missing something useful in there.  I added this information to the man page on my machine, and sent the new file to Mike O’ Connor.  Hopefully he’ll add that to the project’s file on sourceforge. The screenshot shows my updated man page.
I’ll probably play with tritium some more.  The reasons for which I was curious about it were, first, that I had heard/seen it compared to Ion3  (which I had used and loved for some time before the author thereof, Tuomo V., went off the deep end over the entire Free Software community not bending over backwards to cater to his whims), and, that it is entirely written in python, which I can make far more sense of than C (my fu is not strong, alas, in C, although I did make sense of the Lua in ion3, even if I could never claim to know the language).  For both of those same reasons, I’ll probably spend more time with Tritium.
UPDATE(2011.02.14): I keep playing with this wm. gdm did not want to recognize it automagically on my main box (the AMD64 box), so I had to make a tritium.desktop in the /etc/share/xsessions directory (copied one of the *.desktop files and edited it). On my old box, I had removed GDM. I only had to add it to the .xinitrc file I wrote in my /home on that box. I used gsetroot to add a wallpaper, and ran conky, much as I do in openbox, to show a clock and some system parameters (cpu/mem/swap, net up/net down / clock) in the bottom right corner. Looks cool, now.

From screenshots

Written by tonybaldwin

February 12, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Sawfish WM

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sawfish window manager

sawfish window manager on debian squeeze

I tried Sawfish window manager out this morning.

Sawfish is an extensible window manager using a Lisp-based scripting language. Its policy is very minimal compared to most window managers. Its aim is simply to manage windows in the most flexible and attractive manner possible. All high-level WM functions are implemented in Lisp for future extensibility or redefinition.

Basically, it’s very lightweight and fast, which I love. It manages windows. That’s it. It doesn’t get in the way with a bunch of “desktop environment” bloat. To really make it work for me, I’d have to figure out better how to control it via the keyboard, and, especially, program my own keybindings. There is a little gui tool for adding keybindings, but it seems to only provide the means of adding a binding for sawfish’s own functions, and calling a terminal, whereas, I’d like to pull up a “run program” dialog (like grun, fbrun, that kind of thing), and program some bindings to bring up my most used applications, as I have in OpenBox. All in all, I don’t see any advantage in it over OpenBox, but I can see myself playing with it further. Apparently the keybindings and other features can be programmed in with Lisp, which I’d like to learn anyway. (I recently had an exchange with RMS in which I tentatively offered to add an extension for emacs to export a file to .djvu, and probably it’s best to just learn lisp to do that, no? ). I was able to set a wallpaper with gsetroot, and I DID program in Mod-t to bring up a terminal, but I used the gui tool to do that.
Essentially, Sawfish is the kind of window manager I like. Simple, fast, unfettered with useless bloat. OpenBox has been my default, of late, but I do sometimes switch over to wmii for it’s excellent tiling features.

The screenshot is from my experimentation with sawfish on Debian GNU/Linux 6.0 Squeeze on AMD64 architecture.  You see a roxterm, the window manager’s menu (middle click), and a small conky in the bottom right corner (just as I use in openbox) to display a clock and monitor system parameters (cpu/ram/swaap use, net up/down).

Written by tonybaldwin

February 11, 2011 at 8:23 am

wmii sucks less (adventures in the search for the perfect wm)

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In the constant search to find the most ergonomic and efficient means of interacting with my computer, to use system resources in the most sparing, and efficient manner that allows me to get my work done in the most efficient manner, I have, in the past couple of years, been experimenting with various window managers.

I used to be a KDE guy, but looking at KDE now, I’m afraid, makes me want to vomit. I’ve learned better ways of interacting with, and controlling the machine via the terminal, at this juncture, and no longer feel the need for all of the gui/handholding elements of what I now considered a bloated, inefficient, and cumbersome interface.

Close to three years ago I starting playing with XFCE, fluxbox, and jwm, and settled on fluxbox for about a year. Then, various events (switching from the PCFluxboxOS based Linguas OS, a translators gnu/linux that I created, back to Ubuntu, at that time, plus slow development on fluxbox), left me seeking another wm, and I switched to openbox for a while. That didn’t last long. Openbox IS nice, mind you, but I was started playing with fvwm, twm, dwm, xmonad, and dwm. I decided I really liked tiling window managers, and would have settled on dwm, had it not had difficulty rendering java swing windows (such as OmegaT uses, and OmegaT is my most used work application) with some kind of work around, which could only be accomplished by altering and recompiling the entire wm from source (I might be somewhat geeky, but that’s a bit over the top for me). At that time, I started using Ion3, and stuck with it for about a year. Ion3, developed by Tuomo Valkonen, truly is an excellent window manager. I particulary agree with his thoughts on window managers in general.

So-called “modern desktop environments” converge on total unusability, and present-day mainstream graphical user interfaces in general are far less usable than they are praised to be. Usability simply does not equal low learning curve, and hiding system details from the user, as the Official Truth seems to be these days. Convenience foods are also easy and fast, but not very palatable (and you don’t want to know all the ingredients).

I thoroughly enjoyed Ion3’s marriage of tiling and tabbed features, easy keyboard control, and simple configuration via lua scripting. The sad fact about ion3, however, is that the Tuomo has defected to the dark side, first, and second, has stopped development thereof, and, in the first place, there were questionable elements of the licensing thereof, all of which left me wanting to move away from ion3 and find another suitable environment within which to work.

I moved back to openbox for about a week, although this time without using any panels or other DE elements (no LXDE, no pypanel, just openbox with a little conky on screen to give me a clock and a few system statistics), but I was left wanting the quick and easy window arrangement of a tiling wm. Now, I used tile with it, for a bit, and was largely pretty happy, but no quite so much so, and decided to see what else was available.

At the advice of my nephew, Sam, I checked out wmii.

My verdict: wmii = teh awesome.

So, at this juncture, I’ve now been using the wmii window manager for several weeks, and don’t anticipate any further changes any time soon. I’m happy and comfortable, and, above all, efficient. (I’m all about efficiency, you may have noted, which is a large part of why I use gnu/linux, in the first place, which may likely be the subject of a future article.)
This is what it looks like:

Learn more at
Now, why is wmii teh awesome?
Well, like Ion3, it is tiling (but not tabbed), which means windows are conveniently arranged on the desktop without much superfluous interaction on my part. I can leave then in tiled mode, stacked mode, or free-floating mode (better for the gimp and other such tools), and switch between windows and display modes with a flick of the keyboard. It organizes windows onto “tags”, which are analogous to “desktops” in the parlance of most window managers/desktop environments, and, switching between said tags is also accomplished with a quick keybinding. Basically, it keeps everything neatly arranged, and, otherwise, stays the heck out of my way, allows me to control windows, the desktop, etc., via the keyboard, so that I’m not constantly reaching for a mouse, thus augmenting my efficiency while working, and does it all while using few system resources. Unlike dwm, which is nice, however, it seems to have no difficulty with java swing windows. It’s also easily hacked/reconfigured by modifying the simple wmiir script that loads it on login, which is nothing more than a simple bash script. Basically, it does what I need efficiently and elegantly, and doesn’t do what I don’t need, i.e. holding my hand or getting in my way.

wmii was developed by the kind folks at, who have created a lot of nice, simple, useful software (including dwm, slock, and other stuff) that, well, sucks less.

Written by tonybaldwin

February 18, 2010 at 8:11 am


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I finally acheived limited success with FVWM…sort of.

I’ve got windows I can move around.
I still seem to have no menus, panels, pagers, etc…nor are any keybindings proving productive…
But, hey, with free floating windows and a terminal, I can do anything.
I HAVE succeeded in running TWM, and, I have a pager, and a menu, and I can “minimize” apps to little icons in the corner, and have even done some configuration, etc…Pretty groOvy.
Here are a couple of lovely screenshots…click and have a lo0k!

Not as cool as Fluxbox, still…but, pretty cool!

Written by tonybaldwin

September 7, 2008 at 3:19 am

wasting time with window managers…

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I tried the Afterstep wm:

I also tried MWM:

To tell the truth, I didn’t like either of them.

As far as I am concerned fluxbox still rules the roost.

Afterstep wouldn’t be too bad, but customization is complicated, honestly, and, the thing I hated most was that you can’t get window focus by clicking on the window. You have to click on the window’s entry in the pager, or in a menu that comes up by clicking on the desktop.
That’s just stupid.
Editing the menus is an exercise in stupidity, too.
With fluxbox, you edit a text file to alter your menu.
Same thing for altering keybindings.
Editing your keybindings and menus in fluxbox is like falling off a log.
That easy.
With Afterstep, you have to create a distinct text file for each entry.
What a waste of time.

As far as MWM, well, I couldn’t get it to give me window decorations so I could move my windows, nor a menu.
I basically had a desktop with two xterms open, and every time I started an app, it was stuck in the top left corner, on top
of one of the xterms. Additional apps would start in the same place, and the only way to switch to one that is not on top was to close the one on top. You couldn’t even resize some windows, so, if they overlapped the xterm in the middle, well…you couldn’t do anything until you closed that app.
Now, MWM apparently works a lot like FVWM, because, that’s what I got out of FVWM, at first.
I managed to make FVWM work, though.
I couldn’t get MWM to work with me.

I also wasted some time playing with IceWM.
I don’t know why…I’ve tried it before, and never did like it.
Although, it’s easier/more efficient for me to work in IceWM than afterstep, at least.

So, Fluxbox is still my favorite.
I also like JWM (Joe’s Window Manager).
FVWM wasn’t so bad…maybe I should play with that again.
I really have no use for bloated nonsense like KDE or Gnome anymore.
I’ve tried Xfce, but, to me, it’s gnome…maybe a little quicker.
Enlightenment is kind of pretty, but, it was difficult for me to get the hand of navigation and stuff, to where it really hindered my work flow.
Besides, I’m not after eye-candy.
I’m looking for functionality. Something easy to configure, efficient, useful.
Fluxbox is the winner.

Written by tonybaldwin

September 6, 2008 at 11:34 am

simplify, simplify, simplify: What makes a window manager user friendly?

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linguas os - fluxbox

(my current desktop)

I used to think that what made a window manager/user interface easy to use was lots ot menus and buttons and icons and easy to find graphical elements….
I don’t think that way anymore…
One of the things that I really like about Fluxbox is how easy it is to program keyboard shortcuts.
All I have to do is edit the keys file in my ~/.fluxbox dir.
I have a few of the programs I use most regularly programmed into keyboard shortcuts, for instance, I have Alt-T programmed to bring up sakura, a lovely
little terminal emulator, with three open tabs. Quite handy.
I have key shortcuts to open Firefox, thunderbird, tickle text
, and transprocalc.
I should program one in for OmegaT, and one for OpenOffice, too.
Those are my top used programs (probably FF, Tbird, OpenOffice and OmT as top 4, then the text editor for hacking and other stuff, and tpcalc for managing projects…
after that is probably xmms for listening to awesome tunes,
pidgin and konversation-irc client for communications purposes…
logjam for posting here…).
I also have a keyboard shortcut to bring up a tiny tk text widget with a few characters
like, “¡ ¿ æ © ®”, for cut/paste purposes
(even quicker than opening tickle text
and inserting them with the special character dialog, then c/p them where I need them, really…
this is one minor drawback to fluxbox…with my US-Intl keyboard, in KDE, I can type
those characters using alt-/, alt-1, alt-r and alt-c, but, for some reason, they don’t work in flux…).
And, one more (alt-c for “command”) to bring up fbrun, which enables me to simply enter a command to run a program,
which is how I run almost anything else now… (like the “Run command” item on some wm menus).
I do alt-c , and fbrun pops up and I can enter any program to run it.
If I don’t know where the program is, of course, I can to alt-t, bring up sakura and do a whereis, then run it from there, or pop up fbrun, if I don’t to keep sakura up.
Or, if I don’t rememeber what name I gave a script to run something, I can, likewise, open a terminal, cd to /usr/local/bin where I’ve placed all of my own scripts, and see what’s there.

Who needs menus and icons and blinking lights?
That’s inefficient…

Heck, I think I would like a WM that consisted of nothing more than an empty desktop (with groOvy wallpaper
of my chosing), a window/desktop pager,
and a keys file….perhaps an init or start up file to start gkrellm, xcreensaver and a couple of other things.
I could do anything I need just with a terminal and fbrun, which I could bring up with a key shortcut.

I tried out FVWM, and, it’s more or less an empty desktop, pager, and a terminal, but, I don’t know how to program the keyboard shortcuts for it, yet, or configure the wallpaper.
I’ll figure that out, though, when I have a minute, and, who knows?.

another recent screenshot:
current desktop

Allright…back to work…

Written by tonybaldwin

May 8, 2008 at 9:53 pm

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