Tom Vincent

Essays on hacking, travel and self-improvement

Tiling Window Managers

Being brought up with using (what I now know to be called) Floating window mangers during the short-sighted days of “that other operating-system”, it was only natural to try out what all the cool kids are using: a Tiling window manager.

Reasearching in all the usual places, the stand-out solution here has to be awesome. Apart for it’s awkward name, it boasts a nice array of features, with a firm grounding of being a fork of dwm.

With a good few months road-testing however, I’ve reached the conclusion that I wont be persuing awesome (and other tiling window managers)… yet.

Being comfortable and accustomed to the workings of “floating” window managers, you could say, brings about bad habits, but the flexability of them wins in my opinion. Awesome is just that if your a mouse hating, terminal junkie (or perhaps own a screen bigger than your desk).

Think about it; almost all the screenshots you see of tiling window managers dipict a mass of glowing text filling the screen of terminals, rarely do you see ones with GUI apps crushed up into scrollbar-ridden tiny boxes.

This highlights their target use: if you use a lot of terminal (CLI) apps, then a tiling window manager like awesome might just be what your after. If your somewhat sane and ever browsed the web in anything but text-based browsers (how people cope with things like Lynx is beyond me) however, you’ll be used to the fact the most websites these days are designed for at-least 1024×768 resolution.

This is where tiling window managers fail; when applications need at-least a certain minimum screen-space to be useable. Unless you have a hugely high-resolution screen, things get so impractical and inconvenient to work with, you’ll wished you stuck with OpenBox.

You could begin to customise the workings of awesome as to make sure these apps are always set to float or are on an idependant tag (workspace), but you’ll start loosing control and will constantly be swapping between tags just to use a certain app (and let’s not get into trying to customise awesome anyway!).

So in conclusion, unless you can make use of that shiny new 24” or are tied to the terminal, after giving them a fair try, you’ll probably find yourself come out the other end using what you already did — why not save yourself some time and tweak your current window manager to adopt some of the best features of tiling window managers anyway?