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Learning Debian GNU/Linux

Learning Debian GNU/Linux

By Bill McCarty
1st Edition September 1999
1-56592-705-2, Order Number: 7052
360 pages, $34.95 , Includes CD-ROM

Previous: 6.2 Mouse Operations Chapter 6
Using the X Window System
Next: 6.4 Desktops

6.3 Window Managers

Window managers create the borders, icons, and menus that provide a simple-to-use interface. Window managers also control the look and feel of X, letting you configure X to operate almost any way you desire. Some Linux users who are accustomed to the look and feel of Microsoft Windows 9x use the FVWM window manager to establish a user interface that resembles that of Windows 9x, both in appearance and operation. Other Linux users prefer to avoid anything resembling a Microsoft product. Table 6.1 describes the most popular Linux window managers. For detailed information about a variety of window managers, see the X11.Org web site at

Table 6.1: Popular Window Managers

Window Manager



Resembles the user interface of the NEXT computer (NEXTStep).


A small, simple, efficient window manager. Compatible with KWM.


A highly configurable window manager.


One of the most venerable and popular Linux window managers - small, efficient, and configurable. Can mimic the Microsoft Windows 9x user interface. Not fully compliant with GNOME desktop.


A fast, small window manager especially popular among users of Debian GNU/Linux.


A window manager that sports an accompanying desktop, KDE. The combination of KWM and KDE provides a robust and efficient user interface. However, KWM includes some non-GPL code, inhibiting its adoption as the de facto standard Linux window manager. Not compliant with GNOME desktop.


A window manager that has a powerful configuration language, based on the Scheme dialect of LISP.


Resembles the user interface of NEXTStep. Compatible with KWM.

At present, the two most important window managers appear to be FVWM and Enlightenment. The next two sections describe these window managers in more detail.

6.3.1 FVWM

FVWM is perhaps the most popular Linux window manager. Several other window managers have borrowed from its code base, so many of its capabilities are found in other window managers. Although FVWM lacks the visual flashiness of more recent window managers, it is robust and highly configurable. However, FVWM is not fully compliant with the GNOME desktop; users who plan to use GNOME may prefer to choose a different window manager.

6.3.2 Enlightenment

Enlightenment is the window manager most often used with the GNOME desktop, which is described in the following section. Although Enlightenment is still under development, many Linux users find it stable enough for everyday use. Apart from being highly configurable, Enlightenment is written using CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture). Programs written in any language can interact with Enlightenment via its CORBA interface.

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