First of all: I asked this question on SuperUser, when I wasn't thinking about a StackExchange Site for Linux-related questions. So if this violates any rules please feel free to close.

I have fought with myself whether or not i should ask this question but I find myself stuck and I need another expert opinion.
I can't seem find the right combination of display and window manager (and composit manager). I have tried some different combinations but most of them don't work for me. I have been working with Linux for a few years now and currently I'm running Gentoo with GDM, Openbox(stand alone, Gnome aware) and xcompmgr.
But I have tried Metacity, Awesome and Fluxbox with and without Compiz, but always with GDM. What I want: A lightweight, HIGHLY configurable environment that doesn't rely on mouse-input too much (except for web browsing and image processing). At 95% I work programming or so with multiple consoles and desktops on multiple screens.
What makes me ask is that most lightweight environments seem somewhat "unfinished" and show unexpected behavior quite often and that doesn't make me feel too good as I want an environment thats stable.
And of course I want an environment which is not TOO ugly to look at as I use it at an average of 10 hours a day. :) Any thoughts? What do you use in a similar situation?
Thanks for any advice!

(At SuperUser I was told to try XFCE. I am doing that right now.)


  • I'll give you the same advice here. ;-)
    – Keith
    Jan 4, 2011 at 2:19
  • :-D Hey Keith. So far I like your advice.. Jan 4, 2011 at 2:37
  • I'm using openbox and xcompmgr too... and its awesome... You might try blackbox?
    – Stefan
    Jan 4, 2011 at 8:22
  • The last stable Blackbox-Release was 5 years ago, that discourages me somehow... :/ Jan 4, 2011 at 13:09

3 Answers 3


If you want to go mouseless, you should try a tilling wm. Personally, my favorite is Awesome, but there are plenty in that Question.

As for a composite manager, xcompmgr has already been mentioned, but Cairo Composite Manager (CCM) seems nice too, although I find it less stable still. As always, YMMV.

  • I tried Awesome and I must say I quite liked it at first, but then I had massive problems implementing some widgets (I guess the reason for that is that my Lua skills are basic at best...) Jan 6, 2011 at 5:00
  • @fakemustache: have you tried the existing widget libraries like Vicious and Obvious? They have plenty of stuff ready to use, and reading their source is very educational. Bashets is a good one too, since it lets you use the output of shell scripts in text boxes. See the Awesome wiki for more: awesome.naquadah.org/wiki/Main_Page#Statusbars_and_widgets Jan 6, 2011 at 5:19
  • Yes I did, but it just kept crashing.. I spent hours on starring at the library code and my rc.lua, trying to figure out what went wrong. But I guess I will give it another try, and if it's just for the challenge ;)) I guess if it runs, Awesome might just be what I'm looking for in the end.. Jan 6, 2011 at 5:40
  • 1
    @fakemustache: try joining #awesome at irc.oftc.net. Plenty of helpful people, including the main developers. They also share their rc.lua for reference. Jan 6, 2011 at 13:25

I know many people use XMonad. It is highly configurable and scriptable, it integrates with GNOME etc. The only 'disadvantage' is that it uses Haskell, a beatyful but not so popular purly functional language.

  • How awesome is this? :D I LOVE lambda calculus.. Will definitely try it out.. +1 as soon as I'm able to vote ;)) Jan 4, 2011 at 13:13
  • I love Haskell. I've planned part migration on some of my set up's. BTW - how can you comment (which require 50 of reputation according to FAQ) but not vote (which requires 15 according to same FAQ)? Jan 4, 2011 at 13:53
  • 1
    I /think/ you can comment on your own question and its answers even without the 50 rep. Jan 4, 2011 at 14:08

If you already are used to GNU Emacs, EXWM allows you to use Emacs as a tiling window manager by making windows into Emacs buffers. Since it is just a plugin for Emacs, it uses Emacs' existing configuration system and keyboard shortcuts. I've been using it on slim desktop manager with no compositing manager at all, and it works pretty well.

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