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[P]
Window managers for power users: Tiling 101

By jeduthun in Technology
Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 01:29:29 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)
Software

If you use a Unix-based operating system, there are a number of window managers available for your use. Windows users have fewer options, but even for them, there's LiteStep and GeoShell. While the members of this large collection of window managers vary widely in features, nearly all of them conform to a simple metaphor of window management known as the desktop or workspace. The user is given one or more spaces, typically of the same size as the physical screen, upon which they can position windows that contain running programs and sometimes other entities.

This metaphor has been with us for a long time, and it works reasonably well, but I do not think it is necessarily the most efficient method of window management. In this article, I will explain why I believe this to be so, and discuss a less popular method that is used by a few relatively little-known window managers. I hope to inspire others to try these alternative window managers and generate discussion about effective (rather than merely popular) models of human-computer interaction.


Let's begin by looking at the problems inherent in a traditional window manager's approach.

  1. You, the user, are forced to manually optimize the usable screen real estate. This can be quite a chore. If you have a half-dozen windows open, you may be seeing a large amount of information on the screen, but your windows may overlap such that only a small amount of that information (say, that contained in the application on the "top of the heap") is actually usable. The rest is mere visual clutter, which not only reduces your screen's usable space but also reduces your ability to concentrate on what you really want to focus on doing.

    Traditional window managers tend to deal with this on a per-application basis. You have buttons for doing various chores like toggling the "maximization" or "minimization" of a given application, and while this may be palatable, it is quite repetitive and needlessly dichotomous--on a large screen, it is unlikely that you ever really want a single application to consume every pixel of available real estate.

    Another set of features that many traditional window managers provide in an attempt to ease this chore are the "tile" and "cascade" commands, which tell the manager to arrange your windows for you. These are rarely used in practice and do little to help users manage their visual clutter.

  2. Switching between many windows is inefficient because there is no clear way to indicate which window you want other than with the mouse. Windows users are all too familiar with the Alt-Tab method of cycling through every window in an attempt to get to the one they really want. This works fine when there are two or three applications open, but when there are many more than that, it is more efficient to simply click on the right one.

    This is a consequence of having a disorganized, structure-free list of windows. You can move backward or forward through the list, but that's about it.

    Apple has recently come up with a neat method of dealing with this problem; it's called Expose. You have 15 windows open? No problem--OS X will display them all at once so that you can find the one you want! This is better than trying to Alt-Tab your way about or click on various overlapped bits in hopes of raising the right window, but it should be obvious that it is still a method of dealing with a cluttered workspace, not a method of preventing a cluttered workspace.

Now, let us turn to an approach that I believe is superior, though it is not quite as easy to pick up. The window managers that implement this approach are known as tiling window managers. In a traditional window manager, you are basically placing objects on a canvas and then resizing, moving, maximizing, and minimizing them within that canvas. In a tiling window manager, you hierarchically divide the canvas vertically and horizontally into "panes". Windows are then forcibly resized so that they fit into a containing pane. You choose which windows get loaded into which panes. If you use an editor that supports horizontal and vertical division of the editing window into a set of panes, you may have already become accustomed to this idea. Both Emacs and later versions of Vim do this.

With apologies to K5 ARP and K5 AEP, I'll do a bit of ASCII art to make this clear. Here's an example of a tiled screen:

+--------+------------------------------+
|        |                              |
| system |                              |
| status |                              |
|        |            xterm             |
|        |                              |
+--------+                              |
|        |   much better!               |
|        |  /                           |
|  gaim  | O                            |
|        |/|>                           |
|        | |                            |
|        | |\                           |
+--------+------------------------------+

As you can see, the screen is divided first into two horizontal panes, one of which has been further divided into two vertical panes. This division was done manually by a user who wanted to see three things all the time: a large xterm, a Gaim buddy list, and a system status meter. Let's now look at the benefits of doing things this way:

  1. Screen real estate is always optimized. The entire screen is devoted to displaying active windows, not displaying a desktop background or useless bits of non-focused windows.

  2. It is easy to move between windows because they are now structured. Instead of a pile of disorganized windows, we now have some neatly arranged windows that bear a clear relationship to each other; suddenly, the idea of moving one window to the right or left (for instance) makes a great deal of sense. Most tiling window managers make switching between open windows using the keyboard quite easy and efficient.

Of course, there are a number of problems with the tiling approach, too. What about transient windows? No one wants an "OK or Cancel?" dialog to fill an entire pane. Or how about applications that have a static size, like XMMS and GKrellm? What about applications that use a large number of small windows, like The GIMP? Tiling window managers have a long ways to go, but I think that for some users' needs (certainly my own), they are a step in the right direction, and can be a useful tool that brings order and efficiency to the desktop environment.

Here is a list of tiling window managers I'm aware of, so you can try one if you get the itch:

LarsWM - screenshot

The first window manager to implement tiling in the form discussed here, as far as I know; it's basically an extension of 9wm. Includes virtual desktop support.

Ratpoison - screenshot

The most lightweight of all those mentioned here; imitates GNU Screen (the excellent terminal multiplexer) in capabilities and even commands.

FVWMPartition - screenshot

A hack for FWVM, the old but still capable and popular window manager. It supports tiling and also adds support for tabbed tiling, in which more than one window can exist in a pane, and you can switch among windows in a given pane. This is a very useful feature.

Ion - screenshot

I currently use this one. Aside from good tiling support, it offers tabbed tiling (as mentioned above), many virtual workspaces, scriptability with Lua, and "floating" workspaces, in which you can run programs that don't work well under the tiling scheme.

TrsWM - screenshot

Similar to Ion (in fact, based on Ion!), but with a slightly different set of policies for placing and sizing windows that is intended to work under more realistic conditions--Ion is fairly idealistic.

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Poll
What is your experience with tiling window managers?
o Neve heard of them until now. 25%
o Heard of them, but never tried them. 28%
o Tried them, didn't like them. 25%
o Tried them, seemed cool, but impractical. 4%
o Use them sometimes. 6%
o Use them a lot. 9%

Votes: 74
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o LiteStep
o GeoShell
o Expose
o K5 ARP
o K5 AEP
o LarsWM
o screenshot
o Ratpoison
o screenshot [2]
o FVWMPartit ion
o screenshot [3]
o Ion
o screenshot [4]
o Lua
o TrsWM
o screenshot [5]
o Also by jeduthun


Display: Sort:
Window managers for power users: Tiling 101 | 149 comments (132 topical, 17 editorial, 4 hidden)
-1, window manager wankery (1.63 / 22) (#4)
by Verbophobe on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 07:30:07 PM EST

  1. We don't all have 3.43*10^34 x 7.23*10^32 resolutions, Mr. Desktop Realestate. Some of us run at a lowly 1024x768 and like to fill the screen up with ONE window that is NOT a terminal. That last bit may come as a surprise to you.
  2. Virtual desktops bound to function keys fixes all your problems AND keeps the flexibility!
  3. Window managers are such a personal thing that telling people why one concept is leeter than all others is a very futile endeavour. You're better off posting this in a diary.


Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration
leeter? hmm... (2.00 / 4) (#6)
by jeduthun on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 07:42:10 PM EST

Window managers are such a personal thing that telling people why one concept is leeter than all others is a very futile endeavour.

This is a good point.  I suppose I've just been pleased enough with this metaphor that I suspect that others might like the concept if they knew about it.  

We don't all have 3.43*10^34 x 7.23*10^32 resolutions, Mr. Desktop Realestate.

Yeah, you got me; I have a high-res screen.  But the trend in real estate is going nowhere but up, so I don't see how the perceived irrelevancy of these concepts to low-res screens makes the concepts completely irrelevant.  

[ Parent ]

Low resolution (2.40 / 5) (#9)
by Kal on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 07:55:23 PM EST

I have a relatively low resolution monitor on my little BSD machine at home and I find that tiling window managers are still more flexible than the standard Windowsish window manager. Having N workspaces means I can throw a full screen app wherever I want and still have the other workspaces organized how I like, you have to set this up manually in Windows clones. Ion, and PWM which I use more frequently, look the same at 1024x768, 1280x1024, and 2500x2000.

My only real complaint about PWM and Ion, not that I've checked to see if it's changed in the last few years, is that you can't create and destroy workspaces dynamically. I usually run with just two to four workspaces but occasionally more would be nice.

[ Parent ]
fixed in Ion (2.00 / 4) (#11)
by jeduthun on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 08:07:21 PM EST

My only real complaint about PWM and Ion, not that I've checked to see if it's changed in the last few years, is that you can't create and destroy workspaces dynamically. I usually run with just two to four workspaces but occasionally more would be nice.

This has been fixed in Ion; you can have any number of workspaces.  F9 creates one, closing the last frame in a workspace destroys it, and you can switch between workspaces 1-9 by using Alt+1-9.  It's quite convenient and fast.  I don't know how to do more than 9 workspaces, but I usually don't use more than 2, so it isn't an issue for me.


[ Parent ]

Resolution (none / 2) (#70)
by Chuan-kai Lin on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 11:32:09 PM EST

We don't all have 3.43*10^34 x 7.23*10^32 resolutions, Mr. Desktop Realestate.

I have been using Ion for some time, and I do think having a high-resolution display is quite important for getting tiling window managers work in your favor. As someone else had mentioned, most windows have certain minimal dimension that you should not go below; even though you can technically have a, say, 10x5 terminal window, most people would not find it very useful.

My 19" CRT monitor has just enough horizontal resolution that I can place an Emacs window at the right and two terminal windows (vertically stacked) at the left comfortably. This is very useful when you need to read references or do some other work while writing or coding; switching between workspaces or maximized windows tend to be not so convenient, and I got tired of manually dragging windows around so I can see all the ones I need at the same time.

The three organization mechanisms in Ion work together pretty well: those windows you do not need to see at the same time can go into different tabs of the same tile. Those windows you need to see at the same time go into different tiles. And you can still use different workspaces (with different tiling layouts) for different purposes. I always leave a workspace configured to the normal type of floating windows so I can use Gimp easily.

Anyway, I am drifting off-topic. Having a high-resolution display is important for tiling to work well. If I only have one 1024x768 screen, I will definitely go with traditional window managers.

[ Parent ]

Font size plays a part. (none / 1) (#72)
by Kal on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 11:46:46 PM EST

I've been using PWM at 1024x768 for a number of years and with the font size I normally use I've got no trouble fitting a vim window on one side and a pair of terminal windows on the other. Some folks think the font I use is too small though it's comfortable for me and if I go larger my editor starts to overlap my terminals.

[ Parent ]
Minimal acceptable font size (none / 3) (#76)
by Chuan-kai Lin on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 02:18:12 AM EST

Well, perhaps you can get away with 6-pixel wide English fonts, but unfortunately the minimal usable font size for traditional-Chinese characters (double width) is 16-pixel wide, so you need at least 1280 pixels in width to fit two terminal windows side-by-side.

[ Parent ]
Not 6 pixel, so far as I know. (none / 0) (#81)
by Kal on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 08:44:29 AM EST

It's a 12pt font, though what that works out to in pixels I have no idea. I'm not really all that informed about fonts. I hadn't considered that that sort of character set would need more room. Mostly I've worked with Latin based languages, and occasionally a Russian or Hebrew character set.

[ Parent ]
Just use the default. (1.64 / 17) (#8)
by ninja rmg on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 07:52:00 PM EST

This article is indicative a problem with linux people. You fret about problems that are already solved. Use firebird, gnome-terminal, and emacs and maximize them. Unfortunately, applications like gaim and the gimp insist on using multiple windows (which is utterly, utterly stupid), but using a curses IM client and avoiding the gimp like the plague (as you should) solves these issues. Do these things and you will never have to touch your mouse nor worry about how your applications are arranged. If you really must have system status on the screen, get gkrellm and tail your logs in a teminal somewhere. Frankly I prefer not to know if my computer isn't doing what it should.

The fact that you have thought about this just shows what a bad thing choice really is. We should strive to have canonical solutions to issues like these, not to think and rethink them. Window manager hand wringing should be a thing of the past by now. Just use Gnome. Problem solved.



Possibly (2.25 / 4) (#10)
by Kal on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 08:01:16 PM EST

This article is indicative a problem with linux people. You fret about problems that are already solved.

They may have a solution but it's one quite alot of people evidently don't like seeing how many differnt kinds of window managers there are available.

I find that I can't work when the majority of my apps are full screen, despite the fact that I manage to function in Windows adequately where my apps are usually full screen. I hate the flipping back and forth between different windows when what I normally want is all the information shown at once.

My current setup has a variable number of editor panes down the left hand of the screen and 4-6 terminals down the right hand side of the screen. Trying to do that in Gnome or KDE or, god forbid, CDE gets me lost far too quickly.

[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, my monitor is not an IMAX theater, (1.50 / 4) (#13)
by ninja rmg on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 08:08:39 PM EST

So I cannot have so many windows open. Nevertheless, I would still just use emacs with several windows (perhaps one of them eshell things in there) and fullscreen it in a gnome-terminal running screen.

Anyway, this isn't something people should have to think about. All those window managers are individually incredible wastes of time both for the developers and for the people who think they need to try every window manager our there. I know. I've been there.



[ Parent ]

Neither is my monitor. (none / 1) (#17)
by Kal on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 08:30:18 PM EST

It's just a plain 17 inch Sony running at 1024x768. As I said the windows are grouped in panes so at any one time there are only three windows visible.

[ Parent ]
Hitting post before finishing a comment sucks. (none / 1) (#18)
by Kal on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 08:33:03 PM EST

Anyway, this isn't something people should have to think about.

Why not? What's the harm in it? They may find something they like more.

All those window managers are individually incredible wastes of time both for the developers and for the people who think they need to try every window manager our there.

I don't see how they can possibly be wastes of time if both the devlopers and users are enjoying what they're doing. People work on the projects they like. If that happens to be another window manager who really cares that they're not working on something else?

[ Parent ]
Re: Gnome, etc. (none / 1) (#44)
by emagius on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 12:20:20 PM EST

I agree with most of the above, but with a few reservations.

What does Gnome have to do with anything? IceWM or even the Blackbox derivatives do everything at least as well as Gnome/Metacity (or Gnome/Sawfish).

There's no real reason to be using numerous terminal emulators anyway when utilities such as GNU screen exist. Give each application (rxvt, Opera, extra rxvt (if required)) its own virtual desktop and use shortcut keys to switch directly to the application you need.

Full-screen-ing applications is great. Rely on each program's ability to use tabs and splitscreen rather than on the window manager's.

[ Parent ]

Why use Gnome? (none / 3) (#64)
by ninja rmg on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 09:37:14 PM EST

Because it is the canonical unix desktop environment and uniformity of the platform is important. While I can see the value of experimental window manager on some level (though most of them are a waste of time), I don't see the point of things like icewm and blackbox that are not fundamentally different from Gnome's window manager while at the same time less capable and less standard. It would be far more sensible to incorporate the advantages of lesser window managers into Gnome and be done with them.



[ Parent ]
I'd have to disagree with that. (1.75 / 4) (#68)
by Kal on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 10:33:24 PM EST

More choice is better. There's nothing "experimental" about these window managers. They work, they've been through numerous releases, and quite a lot of people use them.

I don't see the point of things like icewm and blackbox that are not fundamentally different from Gnome's window manager while at the same time less capable and less standard.

The point is it's something someone wanted to write and other people found it useful. Isn't that enough?

[ Parent ]
No, that is not enough. (1.50 / 4) (#69)
by ninja rmg on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 11:03:13 PM EST

It is important for people to be able to find what they want easily. Extra window managers, especially ones not fundamentally different from the rest, are distractions. The process of searching freshmeat, installing, and fiddling with window managers is a waste of time. While some people like to waste their time on this sort of thing, most do not. Until the idea that this sort of thing is good is eliminated, people will always look at linux as a waste of time (as it currently is).

Linux needs clarity, not obfuscation. Choice is not good, the same way that the huge volume of top-level comments in the Affirmatice Action article is not good -- it makes what's worthwhile hard to find and worse it draws attention away from the worthwhile to the vast sea of mediocrity.



[ Parent ]

I'd still have to disagree. (none / 3) (#71)
by Kal on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 11:43:31 PM EST

It is important for people to be able to find what they want easily.

I'll agree with that. I don't know if freshmeat has this but a way to rank the apps might be a good thing.

The process of searching freshmeat, installing, and fiddling with window managers is a waste of time.

It's not a waste of time if you want to use a window manager that's different than the ones that came with your system. At that point you've already decided to spend some time trying out new ones. If you never reach that point you'll never go looking for them.

While some people like to waste their time on this sort of thing, most do not.

Most do not. So what exactly is the problem? Again, the ones who are interested are still the only ones looking.

Until the idea that this sort of thing is good is eliminated, people will always look at linux as a waste of time (as it currently is).

Personally, I don't really care how people look at linux. Some see it as a waste of time, some don't. I know it's seen to be good enough where I work that we're replacing our Suns with them, though I'd personally prefer if we were using BSD.

Linux needs clarity, not obfuscation.

Linux doesn't need anything. I've never really understood those kind of arguments, along with the "Linux will never win on the desktop" type arguments. I really don't care about crusading for linux. It's a useful tool and a fun toy to play with. That's enough for me.

Choice is not good, the same way that the huge volume of top-level comments in the Affirmatice Action article is not good -- it makes what's worthwhile hard to find and worse it draws attention away from the worthwhile to the vast sea of mediocrity.

Choice also allows you to find the tool that's almost a perfect fit, rather than being stuck with the same tool that everyone else is. For me and my window managing needs PWM is currently the perfect fit and it has been for about five years now. Without choice I'd still be stuck using CDE.

[ Parent ]
I see (2.42 / 7) (#73)
by martingale on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 12:05:07 AM EST

Perhaps what Linux really needs is a system of primary elections for window managers. The larger distros could get votes in proportion to their installed userbase, and nominate some wms. The pair of window managers with the greatest number of nominations would go on to contest the final vote, with the distro directors/CEOs making the decision based on their relative userbase numbers and nomination preferences. The winning window manager must be adopted by everyone for four years, with an optional four more. After that, it must at least get a change of theme.

[ Parent ]
I hope you are kidding. (none / 0) (#144)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 06:53:11 PM EST

Enforcement would be impossible.



[ Parent ]

screen (none / 2) (#65)
by martingale on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 09:59:48 PM EST

screen was designed to transcend the limitations of dialup text only terminal work. In those days, it was impractical to say the least to display several terminals at once.

Both screen and tabbed terminals do something I find less than useful: they stack several shell sessions together so you can only access one at a time. The reason I keep lots of windows open is precisely because sometimes I find it useful to have six or seven shells, with their own history and current directories etc.

It's useful to copy shell fragments from one terminal to another, and it's useful if you work within several directories or machines at once without needing to context switch. If you have to find the correct tabbed terminal say, that's an extra context switch you need to do twice (to and from) and it gets quickly confusing in my mind at least.

[ Parent ]

GNU screen can tile sessions -nt- (none / 2) (#80)
by emagius on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 08:15:29 AM EST



[ Parent ]
yes, I had forgotten (none / 0) (#99)
by martingale on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 11:04:01 PM EST

I'd even used that functionality once long ago ;-)

[ Parent ]
Re-inventing the wheel (none / 0) (#148)
by JonDowland on Thu Apr 08, 2004 at 08:24:22 AM EST

This article is indicative a problem with linux people. You fret about problems that are already solved. Use firebird, gnome-terminal, and emacs and maximize them

So you acknowledge there's a problem, and your solution is for every app to implement internal window management, independently?



[ Parent ]
hiding (2.28 / 7) (#12)
by martingale on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 08:08:19 PM EST

I really much prefer hiding to tiling. I usually have up to about 5 windows open as in visible, and another five hidden. When I need a window, I bring up the window list and make the one I need visible, maybe hide a couple along the way.

I strongly dislike the usual window decorations, and can't stand the launch pad/task bar docking thingies. Icons, hate them.

So I've reprogrammed the Fvwm2 configuration (best wm EVAR ;-) so that the full window acts like a close/minimize/move combo. To move a window, I right-click anywhere inside the window and just drag. To hide it, I double middle click anywhere on the window. To destroy it, I double right click anywhere inside the window, and to resize it, I middle click anywhere and drag in the direction I need until I hit the border, which is then dragged along.

It works really well once you get used to it, and is much more user friendly than hunting and pointing at a minuscule 16x16 icon in some corner.

The other thing I find is really useful for me is this: give windows a timeout of two minutes. After that, the wm automatically hides them if they had no activity. Keeps the desktop relatively clutter free.

Of course, I would never be able to do half those things this easily if it weren't for Fvwm. It's got a great configuration language.

Interesting (none / 2) (#54)
by jmzero on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 02:22:23 PM EST

Your whole configuration sounds horribly wrong and unworkable to me.  I don't doubt you find it useful, and I don't doubt the article poster would find his solution useful - but for me they'd both be horrible problems that need K5 articles detailing their solutions.
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]
valid criticism (none / 3) (#63)
by martingale on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 09:10:07 PM EST

Your point underlines the main issue with user interfaces. Everyone likes a different one.

I like mine because it's quiet like unix tools. Windows have no decorations (not even a title), the screen is fully used and I can move or resize without fine mouse control, since the target isn't a small icon in a corner, but the full window client area. It's very close to the experience of a desk with sheets of paper lying about, which are rearranged by hitting them with a finger anywhere and dragging them. Except it also self cleans after a timeout.

It's very unintuitive to anybody else, because there are no visual clues to help explore the system's capabilities, and no icons for launching frequently used programs. And it can get a little tricky with applications that like to use right double clicks and such things. But I practically never use those ;-)

Fortunately, machines using the X window system support customized GUIs for each user. I don't have to impose my preferences on coworkers.

[ Parent ]

Fvwm2 is more flexible than that (none / 0) (#130)
by Phssthpok on Sat Feb 21, 2004 at 04:23:39 PM EST

Instead of remapping input that a program may want to use (such as double middle click to paste twice), I like to set up a unique modifier combination for window manager commands. Every modern keyboard has separate Alt and Meta keys, but no program uses both of them, so if you map them to different modifiers (I find that mod1 and mod4 are usually available), you can use the combination Alt-Meta to control the window manager.

Fvwm2 is the only window manager I've seen that is flexible enough to recognize Alt and Meta separately, so you can set up commands like 1-4-Left Click to Raise/Lower/Move/Resize, 1-4-Middle Click to iconify/destroy, 1-4-Right Click to bring up a window's menu, 1-4-arrow keys and number keys to simulate the mouse, 1-4-Space Bar to bring up the root menu.

All that and you can also configure it to tile new windows without resizing existing ones. It's amazing that people still go for window managers like Ion that don't support any arrangements besides tiling.
____________

affective flattening has caused me to kill 11,357 people

[ Parent ]

I use super (none / 0) (#133)
by martingale on Sat Feb 21, 2004 at 09:45:54 PM EST

The key I use to invoke window manager commands by keyboard is Super_L (Mod3). Alt/Meta is problematic because it clashes with Emacs keybindings in Emacs itself, and in the shell. Although using both together is a good idea too. Come to think of it, I've reprogrammed my ALT keys to be CTRL. I like to have lots of CTRL keys around the keyboard ;-)

What I've found is that there are essentially two patterns of use. One is heavily mouse oriented (when reading documentation online), and the other is keyboard oriented (when actually doing work).

While I prefer the keyboard for most things, I don't like to press Super when I'm browsing. In that case, I'll open lots of windows, scroll around with the wheel, and select/discard information for later. The double click commands I've chosen are a bit like mouse gestures (and yes I know fvwm2 has those too).

What actually makes them (and gestures) useful, I think, is precisely that I don't need to know where the mouse is to operate on the window. With the traditional icons and window decorations, whenever you need to perform a task like move the window for comfortable reading, you have to find the mouse, follow it to make sure it goes where it needs to act, then find your reading position in the text again. This way, the mouse action is done by peripheral vision and the reading position is easier to remember.

All that and you can also configure it to tile new windows without resizing existing ones. It's amazing that people still go for window managers like Ion that don't support any arrangements besides tiling.
What I would love to see as a module is a window fader. Right now, I let it hide windows that haven't seen mouse activity in a while, but if those could just slowly fade into nothingness that would be cool.

[ Parent ]
Whoa there! (none / 0) (#142)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Tue Feb 24, 2004 at 12:55:03 PM EST

Right button hold moves a window, ok, sure, fine. I've got a keyboard combo to turn that on. But right button double click kills it! Ahhh! Why set up something like that, something that can easily bite you on the ass. I mean, it isn't at all necessary to make such a risky command so easy to hit by mistake. You could easily make it easy to do intentionally but still put it in some more out of the way location. Must it really be on the mouse?

Or if you like to live dangerously, why not go all out and make F6 the special "format drive" command. After all, you don't hit keys by mistake, right? What harm could it do?



[ Parent ]

stupid concept. (1.50 / 10) (#19)
by Suppafly on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 09:10:56 PM EST

Most of those tiling window managers are fairly stupid.. licq doesn't need to take up 50% of the screen just because there are only 2 apps open.
---
Playstation Sucks.
only if you don't know how to resize the panes (none / 2) (#21)
by jeduthun on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 09:27:29 PM EST

As it is hopefully obvious from the ASCII "screenshot", you can easily change the width and height of any pane in all the tiling window managers I know of. You might want a relatively thin strip dedicated to your Licq conversation running down the left side of the screen, for instance, and this is possibly even if there is only one other application running.

[ Parent ]
resizing.. (none / 3) (#22)
by Suppafly on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 10:11:52 PM EST

if you have to manually resize the tiles, you have just lost any advantage of having a tiling wm.
---
Playstation Sucks.
[ Parent ]
What the parent poster said. (none / 1) (#24)
by mcc on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 11:05:40 PM EST

I think the real problem here is that the "Maximize" button is broken. Replace that with separate buttons for Maximize and Tile and you've made the idea of an autotiling window manager into unnecessary complexity.

[ Parent ]
well no (none / 2) (#56)
by mikpos on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 04:48:25 PM EST

There is more than one advantage to tiling than not having to resize. There may have even been more than one advantage mentioned in the article.

Though, resizing frames is not the same as resizing windows. When you resize a frame, you resize all windows in that frame and all windows that ever will be in that frame.

This is not a trivial difference. Consider tabs in Mozilla. Having a tiling window manager is like having tabs in EVERY application automatically. I've found this terribly useful for coding: you have one (small) frame for compiling, and another (big) frame for all your tabbed text editors.

[ Parent ]

glossing over some issues... (2.00 / 8) (#23)
by coderlemming on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 10:40:57 PM EST

Tiling window managers have a long ways to go, but...

Wow, with that one sentence you've glossed over a whole heck of a lot of issues.  Probably a good thing, you'll spark a lot of conversation.

Personally, I went through a WM switch a few months ago.  I looked into the tiling concept, but I dismissed it outright.  Why?  These issues you mention.  Transient windows break the paradigm in one way or another -- either you let them "float" or you make them take up too much space.  Aside from that, I also like to move my windows around, stretch out, manipulate my workspace.  I don't want tiling rules to get in my way.

I have the best of both worlds.  I use enlightenment (though many other WMs can do this) and 8 virtual desktops.  That's right, 8, and I often use all of them.  I NEVER let windows overlap eachother.  I hold down control and an arrow key (really easy with my right hand) to move around and I focus a window by running my mouse over it.  Very productive.  

I still have the option of overlapping windows, and I also get to tile them however I want without stopping to think about how I want to subdivide things.  Heck, sometimes I WANT space between my windows, it helps me feel less crammed.  Plus I like seeing my artwork in the background ;)


--
Go be impersonally used as an organic semen collector!  (porkchop_d_clown)

So what? (1.45 / 20) (#25)
by kitten on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 11:32:17 PM EST

Okay, so it takes me .3 seconds longer to grab the mouse and click on something than it would to use keyboard shortcuts, or to have every application showing simultaneously.

So what?

I value my time a lot, but I can't honestly say I'd be using those precious fractions of a second to do anything meaningful. Listening to users (usually Linux users) whine about "optimizing efficiency" in the context of user interface gets to be absolutely absurd, as though the goal is to cram every spare nanosecond with as much "productivity" as humanly possible, and beyond.

My desk is not five miles wide. It takes me less time to reach for the mouse than it does for me to think about it. Or I can alt-tab to get where I need to be. If my methods "waste" a few millionths of a second over more "optimal" methods, I'm comfortable with that.

I once listened to a Mac user bitch for ten minutes that the Dock didn't change the color of the little triangle under currently running apps, in order to show which was currently focused. My view was, you can see what's focused, by, you know, looking at the screen. But apparently that wasn't "optimal" enough for "productivity". I once heard someone extoll the virtues of gesture-based systems for web browsers, because apparently it's more efficient to wave the cursor around in little circles than it is to move it three inches and click the "back" button.

Nobody cares. For all the effort you people put into optimizing efficiency, you could have gotten a lot more real work done.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
I don't care about efficiency (2.50 / 4) (#27)
by martingale on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 12:06:02 AM EST

Personally, I don't care about efficiency. It's the repetitive nature of GUIs which drives me nuts, and if I can streamline (read downsize) my interaction with them as much as possible, I'll go for it.

Here's a pet peeve of mine. Whenever I'm using ms windows, I often deal with hanging programs. So I've got to open the task manager, find the process and kill it. That's all of a couple of seconds, and it makes me gnash my teeth every time I have to do it. It would be so simple to have a script kill the hanging program, or even a hot key. But no, I have to click the task bar to view the task manager, find the damn process name while possibly scrolling (it's never in the same place in the list), click it and press a button, then minimize the task bar again.

It's like windows enjoys rubbing my face in the fact that I'm forced to do mindless repetitive manipulation every minute or so.

GUIs are full of these little tasks. Why do they have to display file names with useless little icons? A nice, textual, alphabetically ordered display with incremental keyboard search is much much less aggravating. The icons take up space, all look the same, and force the labels into weird formatting contortions. This forces you to scan the whole collection like you're looking for a needle in a haystack.

Sorry, this was fun when I was a kid and I got my first computer, but it's become way too old. If I can fix a setting to cut out a bit of this repetitive crap, I'm all for it.

[ Parent ]

It's not as hard as all that. (2.14 / 7) (#34)
by qpt on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 04:24:16 AM EST

Ctrl+Shift+Esc will open the process list. Then press the down arrow, type the name of the process, then press Alt+E, then Enter.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

holy crap (none / 2) (#36)
by martingale on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 06:05:17 AM EST

Now for the 64K USD question: do you know of a way to do this from a command prompt, so I can add this to the top of my makefiles?

[ Parent ]
NT Resource kit? (none / 2) (#39)
by misfit13b on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 09:01:40 AM EST

tlist and kill.exe list processes and kill them, respectively.

[ Parent ]
I'll check it out, thx [n/t] (none / 2) (#66)
by martingale on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 10:00:19 PM EST



[ Parent ]
pskill (none / 0) (#135)
by sherbang on Sun Feb 22, 2004 at 08:12:59 AM EST

The other pstools are rather handy as well. I have been able to kill programs from pskill that task manager hasn't let me kill which is a nice bonus.

If only I could run them from my linux box too. They use MSRPC to tell other computers on the network what to do as well when you want, this is great, but I want to do it from my primary computer and not have to switch to a windows box.  oh-well.

[ Parent ]

Re: I don't care about efficiency (none / 0) (#124)
by drsmithy on Sat Feb 21, 2004 at 06:40:01 AM EST

GUIs are full of these little tasks.

Well, for most people they're not - that example you gave is highly atypical.

Why do they have to display file names with useless little icons?

Makes it easier to identify filetypes at a glance.

A nice, textual, alphabetically ordered display with incremental keyboard search is much much less aggravating.

I don't know what GUI you're using, but most GUI filemanagers I've ever used have exactly that (Explorer and Finder certainly do).

[ Parent ]

Re: Re: I don't care about efficiency (none / 0) (#126)
by martingale on Sat Feb 21, 2004 at 07:28:47 AM EST

Well, for most people they're not - that example you gave is highly atypical.
Oh, I can give you plenty of others. Here's another one on Windows (my examples are all windows based, because my primary OS is Unix like, and I've "fixed" my system to my preferences).

How do you switch users to run a program as a different user? Windows + L, wait, move the mouse around until you hit the correct icon, wait some more, find the icon for the program you want to run, wait until it finishes or crashes, hit Windows + L, wait, move mouse and press other icon, wait, back to where you were. That's a round trip to run a program as another user. Now repeat this once a minute for half an hour.

Makes it easier to identify filetypes at a glance.
So you're assuming that users see directories full of different type datafiles. Unfortunately, I must be doing something wrong, because I navigate directories with several hundreds of files which are all of one or two types only. So they all look alike, and I can't find a damn thing with icons.

Not only that, but each time a new file is added to the directory, the stupid icon display reorders the files horizontally, so a file I had seen on the left side half way through the list earlier is now, very unintuitively I needn't say, on the right side half way down the list. So much for visual memory. Of course, I switch everything to text lists whenever I can to minimize exposure to this crap, but for some reason systems like to default with the worst solution.

And don't get me started on multicolumn lists. Add a file to the first column, and then the file you remembered on column 3 is now in column 4. Until you clean up some temporary files, when everything gets completely rearranged. I don't like figuring out where everything is again and again, just because the stupid machine want me to point and grunt.

The GUI I use to cope with this is a series of terminals with filename completion and intelligent command completion. I can find what I'm looking for using globs and regexes, and I can manipulate lots of files simultaneously with slightly varying instructions. Most importantly, even if the directory contents changes, old commands can often be reused verbatim. Now that's useful. No need to figure out things twice. And because it's graphical, I can rearrange the terminals in a visually pleasing way on days that I feel bored.

[ Parent ]

Re: I don't care about efficiency (none / 0) (#131)
by drsmithy on Sat Feb 21, 2004 at 07:11:28 PM EST

How do you switch users to run a program as a different user? Windows + L, wait, move the mouse around until you hit the correct icon, wait some more, find the icon for the program you want to run, wait until it finishes or crashes, hit Windows + L, wait, move mouse and press other icon, wait, back to where you were. That's a round trip to run a program as another user. Now repeat this once a minute for half an hour.

That's another highly atypical example. Most people don't use the switch user feature _at_all_, let alone once a minute.

If all you're wanting to is run a process as another user, just use the "Run As" feature (right click on an executable) - or there are also commandline tools to achieve the same goal.

You can also use Tab and/or the arrow keys to move around the user list - no need to use the mouse.

So you're assuming that users see directories full of different type datafiles.

No.

Unfortunately, I must be doing something wrong, because I navigate directories with several hundreds of files which are all of one or two types only. So they all look alike, and I can't find a damn thing with icons.

You're just doing something different. In your scenario, you should be looking at the files in "List" or "Details" mode, which makes the icons insignificantly small, and lets you easily order the files by name, type, date, etc.

Not only that, but each time a new file is added to the directory, the stupid icon display reorders the files horizontally, so a file I had seen on the left side half way through the list earlier is now, very unintuitively I needn't say, on the right side half way down the list. So much for visual memory. Of course, I switch everything to text lists whenever I can to minimize exposure to this crap, but for some reason systems like to default with the worst solution.

Stop assuming the worst behaviour for you is the worst behaviour for everyone. Most people don't have lots of files, they only have a few. Most people don't segregate their file types into separate directories, they keep everything in "My Documents". Most people have difficulty dealing with the concept of different filetypes.

Windows is (easily) configurable to change this behaviour you don't like, so if you can't be bothered spending 30 seconds doing so, stop blaming anyone except yourself.

The GUI I use to cope with this is a series of terminals with filename completion and intelligent command completion.

You could use exactly the same system in Windows, if you were more interested in getting your work done instead of finding things to complain about.

You are assuming the best system for *you* is the best system for everyone. It isn't. Windows (and MacOS) are setup to be optimised for their common cases - in other words a novice home user who doesn't have tens of thousands of files they regularly manipulate and who has trouble dealing the abstracts of different filetypes.

However, both are also configurable enough to give you the type of interface you want. Your complaints are pointless and, more importantly, simply wrong.

[ Parent ]

stop pulling statistics out of your backside (none / 0) (#132)
by martingale on Sat Feb 21, 2004 at 09:20:08 PM EST

Every example I give you is countered with the mantra "most users don't need that". Unless you can back this up with proper statistics, this is just so much hot air. The examples I've given you are actually real world usage patterns which any programmer will recognize.

As I already said, I've fixed my system for my own use. That doesn't change the fact that Windows is unusable unless the defaults are heavily modified, and then some.

If all you're wanting to is run a process as another user, just use the "Run As" feature (right click on an executable) - or there are also commandline tools to achieve the same goal.
Sure, all you have to do is "this" or "that". Doesn't work. In this case, I need the full desktop of the other user, it needs to interact with open windows and plays with the system tray. And just to show that you haven't tried your own remedy, if you click on "Run As", you don't get a full list of users on the system.

You can also use Tab and/or the arrow keys to move around the user list - no need to use the mouse.
The point is that you have to wait ages for windows to swap its old desktop out, swap the new one in, reconfigure the registry hive etc. Nothing to write home about if you do this once a day, but close to unusable if you do this frequently.

So you're assuming that users see directories full of different type datafiles.

No.

Sounds like you're not clear on what you're saying. Later on, you claim that "most users" have all of their files in "My Documents". Do they have mostly different files in there or don't they?

You're just doing something different. In your scenario, you should be looking at the files in "List" or "Details" mode, which makes the icons insignificantly small, and lets you easily order the files by name, type, date, etc.
I've already told you that I switch those modes on whenever I come across them. They have their problems too, which I mentioned. Think of it this way: how many things do you keep on your desk (the real tabletop)? How would you like it if whenever you're done with a small task, someone rearranged all the objects on your desk just slightly? Would you work well in those conditions? That's what Windows does constantly.

Windows is (easily) configurable to change this behaviour you don't like, so if you can't be bothered spending 30 seconds doing so, stop blaming anyone except yourself.
I never said I can't be bothered to fix things. I said that some things in Windows are unfixable, unless all you want is a toy OS. Here's another one. The default focus policy is completely shit for working with several windows at once. I often need to refer to documentation online, and work on something at the same time. I've installed the UI tweaks to change the focus policy of course, but if I hadn't I'd be SOL.

Do you want to know how Microsoft has fixed the severe problems of working with several application windows at once? They haven't. Instead, for "most" tasks, they (and other vendors) have written applications which split their windows into panes, and force you to work with panes.

The GUI I use to cope with this is a series of terminals with filename completion and intelligent command completion.

You could use exactly the same system in Windows, if you were more interested in getting your work done instead of finding things to complain about.

I most certainly do. Half of the work I do on Windows is done in the bash shell with cygwin. I just lament the fact I still have to work with a toy UI the other half of the time.

You are assuming the best system for *you* is the best system for everyone. It isn't.
No I'm not. I'm asserting that Windows is a toy for people who don't really work with computers. The fact that most people just like to gaze in awe at pretty icons is their problem. It doesn't make Windows any better as a system.

However, both are also configurable enough to give you the type of interface you want. Your complaints are pointless and, more importantly, simply wrong.
No they're not. You're just making this up without having dealt with the problems. Like you're making up the statistics about "most people". I don't claim to know all the tricks to fix annoyances, but I use several of them. And I still don't like what I get at the end.

[ Parent ]
Re: stop pulling statistics out of your backside (none / 0) (#134)
by drsmithy on Sun Feb 22, 2004 at 04:13:40 AM EST

Every example I give you is countered with the mantra "most users don't need that". Unless you can back this up with proper statistics, this is just so much hot air.

True. My assertion that the Moon is not made of green cheese is also "so much hot air", as the only supporting evidence is indirect and via third parties, but I have a fairly strong suspicion I'm right.

I've seen more than enough typical users to know that they don't even know what different user contexts _are_, let alone wanting to switch between them on a regular basis.

The examples I've given you are actually real world usage patterns which any programmer will recognize

No doubt, but programmers are hardly a majority share of users, are they ?

As I already said, I've fixed my system for my own use. That doesn't change the fact that Windows is unusable unless the defaults are heavily modified, and then some.

Unusable for you. You are clearly not a typical user.

Personally, I don't have any problems with the things that seem to bother you. Neither does my mother, or my aunt. Neither do the hundred-odd users in my office. Neither do the vast majority of users, obviously, or both Microsoft and Apple would have changed their UI's default behaviours.

Sure, all you have to do is "this" or "that". Doesn't work.

Correction. Doesn't work for your specific example.

In this case, I need the full desktop of the other user, it needs to interact with open windows and plays with the system tray.

Thus making your need to work in another user's context even _more_ atypical.

And just to show that you haven't tried your own remedy, if you click on "Run As", you don't get a full list of users on the system.

I've tried it, I've just never needed (or wanted) to run something off-hand as anything other than Administrator, or me.

The point is that you have to wait ages for windows to swap its old desktop out, swap the new one in, reconfigure the registry hive etc. Nothing to write home about if you do this once a day, but close to unusable if you do this frequently.

Sounds like either your user profiles are enormous or the system is memory starved. If you're switching as often as you say you are, all that sort of stuff should be cached.

Sounds like you're not clear on what you're saying.

I'm perfectly clear. I'm not assuming anything.

Incidentally, I never said icons are meant to be the sole method of identifying files, as you seem to have misinterpreted. I said icons are there to give a quick at-a-glance indication of file types. I never suggested or implied that icons should be the only method used to identify an object.

I've already told you that I switch those modes on whenever I come across them. They have their problems too, which I mentioned.

No, you didn't. Or, if you did, you didn't make it clear. Think of it this way: how many things do you keep on your desk (the real tabletop)? How would you like it if whenever you're done with a small task, someone rearranged all the objects on your desk just slightly? Would you work well in those conditions? That's what Windows does constantly.

So turn "Auto Arrange" on the Desktop off. It's off by default anyway, so it must be something you turned on manually.

Alternatively, if you're talking about folder views in explorer, they won't rearrange unless manually told to with a refresh - new objects are added to the end of the list. Incidentally, you'll find at least many people complaining about that behaviour as you will about MacOS's auto-reorder, which acts as you seem to think Windows does.

I am wondering, however, if the way an 'ls' command orders files alphabetically by default gets you in a similar sort of lather.

I never said I can't be bothered to fix things. I said that some things in Windows are unfixable, unless all you want is a toy OS.

That's assuming you believe they're broken in the first place.

Here's another one. The default focus policy is completely shit for working with several windows at once. I often need to refer to documentation online, and work on something at the same time. I've installed the UI tweaks to change the focus policy of course, but if I hadn't I'd be SOL.

Personally, I *loathe* the focus-follows-mouse paradigm I assume you're referring to as your preferred option. Windows' click-to-focus is far superior, as far as I'm concerned - and I typically have dozens of windows open.

Do you want to know how Microsoft has fixed the severe problems of working with several application windows at once?

Same way a lot of other people have, the Taskbar. Apple have an even better solution, called Expose.

I most certainly do. Half of the work I do on Windows is done in the bash shell with cygwin. I just lament the fact I still have to work with a toy UI the other half of the time.

A "toy" to you. Fine for most people.

Personally I hate having to deal with the "toy UI" present in most other OSes.

No I'm not. I'm asserting that Windows is a toy for people who don't really work with computers.

I'm a unix sysadmin. That's at least as close to "really working with computers" as any programmer. I rarely have trouble working productively in Windows - although I do prefer OS X.

The fact that most people just like to gaze in awe at pretty icons is their problem. It doesn't make Windows any better as a system.

Whether or not it's "better as a system" is dependant entirely upon the user's needs. Just because you don't like it, doesn't mean it sucks for everyone.

I'll also add I didn't make any assertions one way or the other what OS was "better as a system".

No they're not. You're just making this up without having dealt with the problems.

I'm not making anything up. Just because you see them as problems doesn't mean everyone else does.

Like you're making up the statistics about "most people".

I can only relate to my experiences. In my (reasonably substantial) experience, my portrayal of "most users" is accurate. If you wish to assert "most users" want to constantly switch between different user accounts, have tens of thousands of similar files carefully grouped (and manipulate them - and not their contents - regularly) and regularly have dozens of windows open, then feel free - but I daresay we'll find more people agree with me than you.

I don't claim to know all the tricks to fix annoyances, but I use several of them. And I still don't like what I get at the end.

Then clearly Windows is not a good product for you. That doesn't mean it's a bad product for _everyone_.

[ Parent ]

Re: your comment (none / 0) (#137)
by martingale on Mon Feb 23, 2004 at 01:19:22 AM EST

True. My assertion that the Moon is not made of green cheese is also "so much hot air", as the only supporting evidence is indirect and via third parties, but I have a fairly strong suspicion I'm right.
Great. Sorry I can't resist to transcribe this. Consider it offtopic. Rumsfeld Transcription: "My assertion that Iraq is full of dangerous WMD is also "so much hot air", as the only supporting evidence is indirect and via third parties, but I have a fairly strong suspicion I'm right".

I think your main argument, as understand it, is that in your opinion, the statistical behaviour of Windows users doesn't include certain complex interactions, so the fact that Windows doesn't facilitate complex interactions for its users is indicative that it's well adapted to the average user.

This is nearly convincing, except for the fact that Windows, like competing OSes, has evolved over time based on making those tasks it does badly easier in future versions. If you accept that, then you accept that Windows isn't nearly as well adapted as it claims to be.

Personally, I don't have any problems with the things that seem to bother you. Neither does my mother,
That's perfectly reasonable. I don't either, unless I have to use a Windows system ;-) I'm just pointing out that real problems exist. You're pointing out that some users are unaffected.

Sounds like either your user profiles are enormous or the system is memory starved. If you're switching as often as you say you are, all that sort of stuff should be cached.
Now that you mention it, caching brings its own problems... To tell you the truth however, I'm fairly sure the problems I mention are related to Windows' memory manager. I open/run/close a lot of processes, some taking a sizeable amount of memory for a second or two, etc. Windows just doesn't handle this sort of thing well, compared with Unix alternatives. For example, you can wait several seconds for a process to initialize itself, when the same C code on Unix starts instantaneously. File and process locking mechanisms aren't great either. The machines have comparable hardware resources.

I am wondering, however, if the way an 'ls' command orders files alphabetically by default gets you in a similar sort of lather.
Indeed it does. When you type ls on its own in a big directory, this is exactly as unusable as a graphical file manager. Fortunately, in the case of ls this problem is mitigated by the use of file globbing, which is natural in a shell environment. With a graphical file browser, filtering files based on globs is unnatural.

Personally, I *loathe* the focus-follows-mouse paradigm I assume you're referring to as your preferred option. Windows' click-to-focus is far superior, as far as I'm concerned - and I typically have dozens of windows open.
Click to focus is only part of the issue. Windows implements both click to focus, and raise on focus. Together, this means it's hard to work simultaneously with overlapped windows. Each time you need to refer to or navigate some information in an overlapped window, it hides your workspace by getting in front of it. Unusable.

Of course, one solution is to refer to information in a book on your table, and keep as single workspace window open, or you could work exclusively in a specialized developer studio environment and completely adapt to the way the vendor wants you to do things. Incidentally, both these solutions completely bypass the window manager as a way of solving its deficiencies.

A "toy" to you. Fine for most people.
A sizeable percentage of people on Earth are children. Should we stop referring to their favourite toys as "toys", because, well lots of people are children? I think we can both agree that lots of computer users are the equivalent of children in their computer usage.

I'm a unix sysadmin. That's at least as close to "really working with computers" as any programmer. I rarely have trouble working productively in Windows - although I do prefer OS X.
Good for you. It appears you've adapted well to the tools you're given. That is the mark of a flexible person.

I can only relate to my experiences. In my (reasonably substantial) experience, my portrayal of "most users" is accurate. If you wish to assert "most users" want to constantly switch between different user accounts, have tens of thousands of similar files carefully grouped (and manipulate them - and not their contents - regularly) and regularly have dozens of windows open, then feel free - but I daresay we'll find more people agree with me than you.
That again is the argument I've described at the top. People don't seem to want to do these things in a Windows environment, so they probably don't want to do these things in general.

The funny thing is that (personal observation) ordinary users seem to have regressed ever since the days of DOS have become the days of Windows. People used to find it easy to navigate directories, find the things they were looking for, backup their data etc. Then the underlying system was obfuscated with a GUI layer, and now many people have no idea where their files are, let alone whether they have any in the first place. Ask a handful of them whether they need files in general, they'll probably say no.

Then clearly Windows is not a good product for you. That doesn't mean it's a bad product for _everyone_.
I don't think I said it was bad for everyone. I ranted about its annoyances, and I claimed it isn't very powerful unless heavily modified and extended.

I tell you what. I'll continue to complain whenever I have to deal with Windows, and you can continue to claim I'm an unimportant minority. We'll both be happy ;-)

[ Parent ]

Re: your comment (none / 0) (#143)
by drsmithy on Tue Feb 24, 2004 at 10:57:04 PM EST

Great. Sorry I can't resist to transcribe this. Consider it offtopic. Rumsfeld Transcription: "My assertion that Iraq is full of dangerous WMD is also "so much hot air", as the only supporting evidence is indirect and via third parties, but I have a fairly strong suspicion I'm right".

Well, I'm not American, so the significance of this is somewhat wasted on me.

I think your main argument, as understand it, is that in your opinion, the statistical behaviour of Windows users doesn't include certain complex interactions, [...]

No.

In my experience (which you can call opinion if you so desire), the majority of Windows users don't perform the actions you have described. This experience is shared with just about everyone I've ever known who has been regularly exposed to non-technical, "average users".

[...] so the fact that Windows doesn't facilitate complex interactions for its users [...]

This is not a "fact".

is indicative that it's well adapted to the average user.

No. It's indicative that it's tuned ("adapted" is not really an appropriate word) for the majority of people who use it.

This is nearly convincing, except for the fact that Windows, like competing OSes, has evolved over time based on making those tasks it does badly easier in future versions.

Ah, no (unless you're going to use some incredibly generic and pointless definition of "task" like "using the computer"). Windows has evolved over time ti make those tasks the majority of its users want to perform easier. These tasks may or may not have been present in earlier versions.

If you accept that, then you accept that Windows isn't nearly as well adapted as it claims to be.

This doesn't follow from either my actual meaning or your interpretation.

I open/run/close a lot of processes, some taking a sizeable amount of memory for a second or two, etc. Windows just doesn't handle this sort of thing well, compared with Unix alternatives.

No, it's not optimised for that sort of use.

When you type ls on its own in a big directory, this is exactly as unusable as a graphical file manager. Fortunately, in the case of ls this problem is mitigated by the use of file globbing, which is natural in a shell environment. With a graphical file browser, filtering files based on globs is unnatural.

Depends on your tool. WIth Explorer it's a bit fiddly because you need to use separate "Search" windows (although they are fairly quick and easy to use). With OS X's Finder it's trivial - just type your glob pattern into the search box and the file display is updated on the fly.

Neither of this methods is perfect (Finder has other usability problems IMHO), but with some refinement they could be just as functional - it's not something a GUI file manager is inherently incapable of doing.

It all boils down to knowing your tools and knowing when you need to use other ones. However, making blanket condemnations based on corner cases and personal opinion is nothing more than zealotry.

Click to focus is only part of the issue. Windows implements both click to focus, and raise on focus. Together, this means it's hard to work simultaneously with overlapped windows. Each time you need to refer to or navigate some information in an overlapped window, it hides your workspace by getting in front of it. Unusable.

To you. I don't seem to have any problems dealing with dozens of overlapping windows and constantly moving between them.

A sizeable percentage of people on Earth are children. Should we stop referring to their favourite toys as "toys", because, well lots of people are children? I think we can both agree that lots of computer users are the equivalent of children in their computer usage.

That's not a particularly fair analogy. A toy is something functionally useless, but used for entertainment. Clearly, the huge number of people using software like Windows and OS X in immensely productive and useful ways would indicate neither are deserving of the term "toy".

The fact there are some incredibly gifted physicists out there dealing with immensely complex concepts does not devalue the usefulness of good old Newtonian physics. Similarly, it's completely irrelevant to the field of economics.

That again is the argument I've described at the top. People don't seem to want to do these things in a Windows environment, so they probably don't want to do these things in general.

You've got it back to front. People don't want to do these things in general, and Windows targets the general user.

The funny thing is that (personal observation) ordinary users seem to have regressed ever since the days of DOS have become the days of Windows. People used to find it easy to navigate directories, find the things they were looking for, backup their data etc.

The is simply caused by computers becoming more accessible. Again, your cause and effect is back to front. Back in the days of DOS, you *had* to learn these things to be able to use computers. Now, you don't - hence fewer people know about them. Ordinary users aren't "regressing" per se, it's just the (knowledge) barrier for entry is dropping.

Then the underlying system was obfuscated with a GUI layer, and now many people have no idea where their files are, let alone whether they have any in the first place. Ask a handful of them whether they need files in general, they'll probably say no.

It's not obfuscated any more than assembly is "obfuscated" by C or Java.

Incidentally, people not knowing about files or other nitty-gritties of the lower level parts of the Operating System is a sign it's performing its function (abstraction) well.

I don't think I said it was bad for everyone.

You called it "unusable" without any qualifiers whatsoever, based on how you think it should work for you.

That's a bit like calling a Ferrari "unusable" because it only carries two people.

I ranted about its annoyances, and I claimed it isn't very powerful unless heavily modified and extended.

Powerful and flexible are not synonyms.

I tell you what. I'll continue to complain whenever I have to deal with Windows, and you can continue to claim I'm an unimportant minority. We'll both be happy ;-)

Well, I never said you were unimportant, but that sounds fair to me.

[ Parent ]

Thanks for thinking for me (2.25 / 4) (#82)
by regeya on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 09:02:42 AM EST

It's always so damned hard for me to figure out what my opinion is. I'm glad you told me I didn't care, because for a second there I thought I did. But then I saw your post and realized that in fact I didn't, because kitten had already determined that nobody cared (so obviously I couldn't.)

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

Virtues of gesture-based systems (none / 1) (#94)
by Handyman on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 04:51:54 PM EST

I once heard someone extoll the virtues of gesture-based systems for web browsers, because apparently it's more efficient to wave the cursor around in little circles than it is to move it three inches and click the "back" button.

As a longtime user of StrokeIt, I can attest that this actually is the case.

Perhaps the greatest virtue is that gesture applications eliminate a large number of context switches that would otherwise distract me. StrokeIt's default configuration comes with a Back action for web browsing. You click and hold the right mouse button over a window, drag to the left maybe 50 pixels, and release the mouse button.

This is, indeed, significantly more efficient than moving the mouse three inches and acquiring a relatively tiny target.

While I'm on the subject, I'd like to plug another piece of software I love, Win32WM. This is a standalone application, almost like a DOS TSR, that hooks into Windows and adds a sizable number of window management features. You can have hotkeys to maximize and minimize windows, maximize only horizontally or vertically, and snap windows to the edges of the desktop. Its best feature, though, is Alt-dragging and Alt-resizing. You hold down the Alt key and then either left or right drag in a window. Left-dragging will move the window, and right-dragging will resize it. Beats the living hell out of finding those teensy window borders or the relatively small titlebar.

Back to on-topic mode.. kitten, some of us have to concentrate to get work done on the computer. Anything that removes arbitrary distractions (like those of clicking tiny widgets) is a great boon to me when I'm working. Don't knock it 'till you've tried it, eh?

--
Never be afraid to be the first one on the dance floor.
[ Parent ]

oy vey (none / 1) (#102)
by syadasti on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 02:33:56 AM EST

Perhaps the greatest virtue is that gesture applications eliminate a large number of context switches that would otherwise distract me. StrokeIt's default configuration comes with a Back action for web browsing. You click and hold the right mouse button over a window, drag to the left maybe 50 pixels, and release the mouse button.

This is, indeed, significantly more efficient than moving the mouse three inches and acquiring a relatively tiny target.

Sheesh, I just extend my right little finger and whack the backspace key. On my laptop I can do that without even taking my index finger off the pointing stick thingy between G, H, and B.

I'll bet my way consumes less calories and CPU time as well.

"May your chains rest lightly upon you..." --Samuel Adams
[ Parent ]

Seconded. (none / 0) (#120)
by static on Sat Feb 21, 2004 at 12:18:09 AM EST

I use Opera for most of my browsing and have for several years. Holding the right mouse button and clicking the left is easily far faster than finding the back button on the window and clicking it. So much so that the lack of mouse gestures and shortcuts in Mozilla (!) is almost painful.

Wade.


[ Parent ]

A few minor nits of your otherwise great article: (2.46 / 13) (#26)
by Kasreyn on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 12:02:57 AM EST

1. it is unlikely that you ever really want a single application to consume every pixel of available real estate. Actually, you're thinking of power users. Every computer illiterate person I've met has been so unable to deal with cascading windows and the visual interference and confusion they inspire in the unaccustomed, that they always maximize whatever application they're currently running. And of course, some games are also best maximized (unless your screen is truly vast), specifically RTS and FPS games.

2. You have 15 windows open? No problem--OS X will display them all at once so that you can find the one you want! How does this differ from the buttons in the Windows Taskbar? I'll admit that when you have a lot of applications open, the taskbar buttons are foreshortened to the point of illegibility, but higher resolution monitors can help with that, or you can bite the bullet and drag the taskbar up another notch to allow twice as many applications before the point of illegibility is reached. I will agree, though, that alt-tab, as much as I love it, is a kludge that needs improvement. Perhaps holding alt+tab then clicking on the icon of the app you want? But again we'd run into the problem of displaying text for different instances of the same program, and with enough apps open where are you going to PUT all that text? Tool tip popups? That slows you down by requiring you to hover over each one to find your target, which is not really faster than an expert Alt-Tab user. What's needed is a way to display a list of all open apps, with a full text for each simultaneously, so you can eyeball the list and select one in a single motion.

3. . In a traditional window manager, you are basically placing objects on a canvas and then resizing, moving, maximizing, and minimizing them within that canvas. In a tiling window manager, you hierarchically divide the canvas vertically and horizontally into "panes". I'm not certain here, but I *think* you have your history reversed. I remember using StereoShell back in the DOS days, which was a GUI file browser, not really quite a windowing manager, but it was "tiled", and I remember years (agonizing, frustrating years) on Windows 3.1, which had both tile and cascade autoarrange options. Since Win9x for some insane reason did not include these handy features in the desktop right-click context menu or a button on the taskbar, I find myself manually cascading my windows - not fun. I'd say tiling is a functionality that was never as popular because people actually prefer window swapping to using scrollbars. The arrow buttons at the ends of scrollbars are irritatingly hard to hit for those unused to using mice, and the sliders in the center require lots of mouse movement - as opposed to just clicking on another window's title bar to give it focus.

4. The entire screen is devoted to displaying active windows, not displaying a desktop background or useless bits of non-focused windows. I'd like to propose you change your title to "Tiling window managers: A Guide for Power Users", because that's clearly who you're speaking to. I hate to say this, but a lot of people actually care that their computer look pretty. Admittedly, most of them are Mac weenies. But there are still a lot of middle-aged women who enjoy desktop wallpapers of hideous babies dressed as fruit.

5. What about transient windows? No one wants an "OK or Cancel?" dialog to fill an entire pane. Good point. I'd say, position the transient window in or near the pane that contains the originating app. Of course, one wonders why one would set a pane smaller than a dialog box, or what it would be good for...

Other than these points, quite good. +1S, +1FP if you change the title. :-P


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Taskbar (1.50 / 4) (#31)
by bugmaster on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 03:09:39 AM EST

You're right about the taskbar. That, and the system tray, are the two greatest things (and, some would say, the only great things) to come out of the Windows world (yes yes I know they stole it from someone else probably, but they popularized it). I can't stand the way Mac deals with windows: by leaving them all over the place. The taskbar makes much more sense, and it's even better than tiling, because now you can have each window maximized without worrying about losing them.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
System Tray (none / 3) (#42)
by DLWormwood on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 10:40:07 AM EST

The classic Mac OS had the Control Strip, and Mac OS X has menu bar icons. These have the same functionality as the system tray in Windows; there's nothing unique about it.

As for the Taskbar, I'm one of those long time Mac users who prefer to be able to see windows from different applications at the same time instead of having apps maximize the whole screen. In particular, this allows users to drag-and-drop data across apps more easily instead of using the indirect method of using the clipboard. This drag-and-drop data manipulation is also why I have trouble appreciating the various "virtual desktop" managers available; I have difficulty seeing how they can be used with cross-application manipulation.

The clipboard was really a kludge introduced on the original Mac to compensate for the lack of multitasking. It's a shame that Microsoft chose to latch onto the concept for it's prefered data exchange model despite Apple finally coming to its senses and introducing drag-and-drop manipulation and experimenting with concepts like Publish & Subscribe. It think Apple stuck with it because it made the platform more attactive to those in the publishing industry, where the concept originally came from.

This is why many Mac users loved Expose, but hated the Dock. The Dock was too much like the Taskbar and seemed to have be designed to help Switchers more than the long time Mac faithful.
--
Those who complain about affect & effect on k5 should be disemvoweled
[ Parent ]

Dock, clipboard (none / 2) (#43)
by bugmaster on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 12:02:46 PM EST

Yeah... I actually prefer the clipboard to drag-and-drop, in most cases. The clipboard, for example, allows me to replicate one object multiple times just by hitting Ctrl-C Ctrl-V Ctrl-V Ctrl-V... you can't do that with drag-and-drop. It also lets me copy/paste stuff with just my keyboard; this means that there's no need for the precise manual dexterity that is required to handle drag-and-drop correctly (one pixel off, it's in the wrong window). The only thing with the clipboard, IMO, is that it only supports one item at a time -- it would be nice if it were a stack, instead. Don't get me wrong, drag-and-drop has its uses, but it's really hard to use.

I've used the Mac Dock, and it's nothing like the taskbar. It has a bunch of dancing, rotozooming icons all sitting in a line... that's just annoying. The taskbar shows me the small icon and the more important title for each program, and the system tray can show status indicators for various programs -- sort of like what the little applet plugins do in Gnome/KDE/whatever. The taskbar/tray are also very fast; they respond as soon as I click them. The Dock is slow, and it doesn't show any useful information. It's made to look pretty, not to be useful.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

Keyboard Vs. Mouse (none / 3) (#51)
by DLWormwood on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 01:17:38 PM EST

It also lets me copy/paste stuff with just my keyboard; this means that there's no need for the precise manual dexterity that is required to handle drag-and-drop correctly

Even though I'm a touch typist and have years of experience playing games like Moria and Angband, I've always had an adversarial relationship with keyboards. I'm a trackball/mouse person myself; it just seems more natural to me. When using an analog-like device, it seems like I'm interacting more directly with the computer than the remoteness a bank of buttons enforces between a user and his machine.

I've used the Mac Dock, and it's nothing like the taskbar.

Don't bother with disparaging the Dock. I'm a long time Mac user, and I sympathize with Bruce Tognazzini's critical apprasal of it. My "Switcher" comment was from the point of view of a long time Mac user; it tries to perform the same tasks as the Windows taskbar and falls short.

This is just something we're going to have to agree to disagree on. Macs were historically designed for heavy mouse use, and PCs are keyboard biased. When I was in college, it was even common to find Mac systems that only had a mouse connected, no keyboard. And yet the Macs were still functional and usable for many tasks. Windows, on the other hand, was designed for systems that had keyboards, but possibly no mice. Both platforms have drifted towards the middle in recent years, however. OS X doesn't work well without a keyboard, and Windows XP is too much of a hassle without a mouse for some kinds of tasks.
--
Those who complain about affect & effect on k5 should be disemvoweled
[ Parent ]

Virtual Desktops vs. Drag & Drop (none / 1) (#45)
by emagius on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 12:24:48 PM EST

This drag-and-drop data manipulation is also why I have trouble appreciating the various "virtual desktop" managers available; I have difficulty seeing how they can be used with cross-application manipulation.

Grab, drag to the side of the screen (to switch virtual desktops), drop in target application. Better yet, grab, hit shortcut key(s) to switch to application/virtual desktop, drop.

[ Parent ]

Thanks (none / 2) (#50)
by jeduthun on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 12:57:25 PM EST

Just some comments:

I'd like to propose you change your title to "Tiling window managers: A Guide for Power Users"

I'd hope that anyone who is interested enough in window managers to read an article about them is already a power user, but perhaps this is not the case.  And certainly I agree that it's mostly power users who will want to use a tiling manager.  I've changed the title.

Good point. I'd say, position the transient window in or near the pane that contains the originating app. Of course, one wonders why one would set a pane smaller than a dialog box, or what it would be good for...

The approach taken by at least one tiling window manager (Ion) is to display the transient window at its requested dimensions at the bottom of the pane from which it originated.  This has its own problems, but it's a decent compromise.

[ Parent ]

Thank YOU. +1FP as promised. -nt (none / 3) (#74)
by Kasreyn on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 12:07:48 AM EST

nt
"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
expose *is* different (none / 2) (#92)
by The Shrubber on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 04:40:29 PM EST

2. You have 15 windows open? No problem--OS X will display them all at once so that you can find the one you want! How does this differ from the buttons in the Windows Taskbar?

Expose has to be seen in action (or used) to be understood.  The things that make it work that much better are


  1. actual windows - you see the actual windows themselves, not just some icons with titles, but minatures of the windows

  2. motion - when you hit the expose key, all your current windows are shruken down before your eyes and layed out across your desktop so that you see all of them at once.

  3. memory - when you hit the expose key a second time, your windows are all expanded back to their proper size and original location, except the window you selected which is now on top

Just a personal account, but this is very much more comfortable to use than the taskbar.  It turns out that the use of motion to be an extremely visual cue in expose.  "Ah!" your brain says, "that itty bitty window on the lower right was that terminal window I had open over here".  You feel like you have a much better grip on your widows and have to spend a lot less time figuring out what's what and what's where.  It all just happens immediately and unconciously.

See the wikipedia article

[ Parent ]

I'm missing something (1.83 / 18) (#29)
by godix on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 01:09:17 AM EST

Specifically, I'm missing what the hell the benefit is.

Automatically resizing windows? That'd be great except almost every font I've seen, especially for terminal windows, is totally unreadable at certain dimensions. I can do without opening a program and suddenly EVERY program I have opened is unreadable. Fuck that, I like having to optimize my screen realestate myself (not that I ever do), it means I get the thing done right instead of wondering what crackwhore decided that text distorted into a window 5 inches wide and 1/2 inch high was legible.

This idea works fine for 3 or 4 windows but then again so does the common solutions around now. Hitting alt-tab a couple times to cycle through my 3 open programs isn't exactly a hardship ya know. When it starts becoming 15 windows or more then windows taskbar does become next to useless but next to useless is certainly better than the nightmare of dealing with 15 different programs trying to display at once on my 1024x768 screen. I notice no screenshot given shows more than 5 programs (one of which was xmag, presumably because the tile manager made the windows so small the user couldn't read any of them) and I gotta wonder if that's because 15 one inch squares doesn't make a pretty screenshot.

The third issue I have with this is the hidden assumption that you should have 15 programs open at once. WTF is wrong with you? How many times do you seriously think people have AND ARE USING 15 windows at once? Is it really worth it to redesign everything for that once in a lifetime moment? Here's an easy method to manage multiple windows, close the god damned program when your done with it fucks sake. Not only will it be easier to switch between windows you are using you'll notice that the system load goes way down also, just consider that an added bonus. Trust me, saving a second of load time in opening your browser isn't going to offset the hours spent evaluating and installing various windows managers.

It's dawned on me that Zero Tolerance only seems to mean putting extra police in poor, run-down areas, and not in the Stock Exchange.
- Terry Pratchett

How are you using your PC? (2.25 / 4) (#40)
by BJH on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 09:41:00 AM EST

I don't know about you, but I currently have 34 separate windows open, of which two are tabbed (Mozilla with 24 tabs and xchat with 5 tabs).

I'm using all of them.

To avoid losing track, I've got them spread across 10 virtual screens. I find it works rather well.

--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

10 virtual screens? (2.33 / 6) (#55)
by rvcx on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 02:36:23 PM EST

The fact that 90% of your windows are not displayed at all suggests that the tiling "make everything visible" philosophy isn't terribly useful in practice.

What you've done is carefully laid out ten different interface configurations, and left yourself to manually switch between those ten configurations. And you've given up the spacial metaphor that actually allows humans to deal with more than three or four different objects at a time. In many ways, isn't the next step getting a slightly bigger monitor, putting each "virtual screen" in a window, and manually switching between frontmost windows?

[ Parent ]

Well... (none / 2) (#79)
by BJH on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 06:47:01 AM EST

...I don't need to see all the windows together at the same time - in fact, that would be awfully confusing.

I separate them by function - for instance, virtual screen #1 contains everything for monitoring the machines I have running (7 xterms for log tailing + 5 gkrellms), #2 contains my browser (which only takes one screen as it uses tabs), #3 my mail client, #4 my currently-running BitTorrent windows, #5 the book I'm reading at the moment, #6 XChat, and #7-#9 a random selection of temporary windows.

Since I don't generally need to see any of the things I have on separate screens at the same time (for instance, I'm not going to be reading a book while browsing), it works just fine for me.

As for a bigger monitor, I don't think my desk could take anything larger than the 21-inch I have at the moment ;)

--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

5 Gkrellms!!! (none / 0) (#139)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Tue Feb 24, 2004 at 07:35:19 AM EST

Yikes! You have gone mad, mad I tell you.

Oh and I've got 8 virtual desktops, used to have more, but I really very rarely use more than 5. From your description, I think I layer more stuff on each one. Like, why have a separate one for both the browser and the ebook, when one could be be under the other? Just a thought, to each their own.



[ Parent ]

You are indeed missing something. (none / 3) (#90)
by warrax on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 02:03:01 PM EST

Specifically, I'm missing what the hell the benefit is.

No, you are missing a critical bit of information which the author forgot to be absolutely clear about.

When you use a tiled WM like Ion, it will not force all programs to be visible all at once.

Firstly, you have virtual desktops as almost all regular WMs have nowadays. This ensures that each desktop can be dedicated to one "task" (browsing, coding, mail, etc.).

Secondly, each desktop is statically divided into tiles. When you start a new program it will display in one of these preset tiles completely hiding any other programs that might be running in that tile. This may sound strange, but it exactly the same principle as with tabbed browsing (think of each tile as a browser window containing tabs (programs)).

This way of working eliminates any fiddling around with windows, ensures that the whole screen is being used for something (instead of some lame background image) and lets me concentrate on the task at hand. YMMV.

AFAICT all your complaints are based off that one misconception, so I won't bother replying point by point.

-- "Guns don't kill people. I kill people."
[ Parent ]

GeoShell (1.90 / 10) (#30)
by bugmaster on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 03:06:58 AM EST

For Windows, there's GeoShell. I've been following it for a while now, and it keeps improving with each version. Unlike LiteStep, it's really meant to be a "lite", no-frills WM. They don't have tiling AFAIK, but they have an open plugin API so you can probably write it.
>|<*:=
Geoshell link added (none / 3) (#49)
by jeduthun on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 12:50:01 PM EST

Hey, that's kind of cool; I hadn't heard of it before. I added a link to it.

[ Parent ]
Doesn't work (1.42 / 7) (#33)
by psychologist on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 03:53:02 AM EST

On my 15inch flatscreen.

Works just fine (none / 0) (#98)
by sholden on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 10:23:48 PM EST

On my old 15inch CRT (so probably less than 14inch viewable) at home.

--
The world's dullest web page


[ Parent ]
You forgot my favorite tiling window manager... (2.60 / 15) (#35)
by mjfgates on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 06:00:13 AM EST

Microsoft Windows 1.x tiled top-level windows, so that the system didn't have to keep track of all of the clipping, decorations, UI, etc. that overlapped windows require. Overlapping windows were one of the important features of 2.0, precisely because people hated the damn' tiling.

The amazing tiled clocks (none / 2) (#88)
by nkyad on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 12:28:40 PM EST

If memory still serves me, the most important reason for having Windows 1.0 was being able to have four concurrent instances of Clock.exe in analog mode covering the whole screen.

Don't believe in anything you can't see, smell, touch or at the very least infer from a good particle accelerator run


[ Parent ]
Four? (none / 1) (#115)
by jethro on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 01:15:24 PM EST

I remember running abour 20. On an 8Mhz PC clone. Off a floppy.

It was pretty cool - you could SEE the task switching. Clock 1 would update, then Clock 2, then Clock 3, with a few seconds of floppy-scratching in between... visual multitasking! (;

--
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is kinky.
[ Parent ]

And the best part... (none / 0) (#141)
by WWWWolf on Tue Feb 24, 2004 at 11:43:17 AM EST

If memory still serves me, the most important reason for having Windows 1.0 was being able to have four concurrent instances of Clock.exe in analog mode covering the whole screen.
And the best part was that when you had four clocks on screen side by side, you could (just barely) see that they couldn't keep in synch. It was called "multitasking".

(I have personally witnessed this only on Windows 3.0, though =)

-- Weyfour WWWWolf, a lupine technomancer from the cold north...


[ Parent ]
People hated it (none / 0) (#116)
by MrHanky on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 04:19:09 PM EST

because at 640x350 (EGA), the screen doesn't have much space to show many apps. I'm not sure I like it on a 19" 1280x960 monitor either. I tried Ion briefly a minute ago, and I may try it again, but I write this in a window that overlaps the comment I reply to, after dragging the "Reply to this" link from one browser window to the one that, at the time, was partly covered by it. Having multiple windows partly covering each other isn't necessarily bad. It's a nice way to shove stuff you don't need at the moment into the background.
But this also depends on what you're using the computer for. At the moment, surfing the web, KDE is almost perfect. I've got other workspaces for real work (empty) and for mail. But if I had one or several specific tasks where all information related to each task should be visible at the same time, Ion would probably rock. Mmm... Choice is nice.


"This was great, because it was a bunch of mature players who were able to express themselves and talk politics." Lettuce B-Free, on being a total fucking moron for Ron Paul.
[ Parent ]
virtual desktops? (2.55 / 9) (#37)
by F a l c o n on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 07:44:16 AM EST

Eh, am I the only one using virtual desktops?

I like my windows overlapping. And I still have no clutter on the screen. It's easy, it's efficient, it's called Alt-1, Alt-2 and Alt-3 (and occasionally, Alt-4 and Alt-5).

Here, on desktop 1, I have my Firefox. On desktop 2 I have my Eterms. On desktop 3 I open LyX, OpenOffice or other applications I use. Desktop 4 is only sometimes used for long-running stuff like large bittorrent downloads, etc.

It is very, very rarely that something I need is hidden behind something else. And I certainly don't want everything running fullscreen - on at 21" that's just overkill.

--
Back in Beta (too many new features added): BattleMaster

Of course. (none / 3) (#38)
by Kal on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 08:43:53 AM EST

Ion is the only one in that list that I've spent any time in but of course it has virtual desktops. In Ion you set up the screen the way you want, nothing says the tiling is dynamic or that everything has to run at full screen.

[ Parent ]
GPL:ed Virtual Desktops for Windows. (1.66 / 6) (#78)
by alfadir on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 04:55:44 AM EST

Virtual Dimension for Windows. To have Virtual Desktops on Windows.

I don't understand what is powerful with tiling. Don't Windows have such a thing.. Virtual desktops kick ass. One Surfdesktop, one Maildesktop, etc. I am a linux user since -98, and use Enlightenment. There you can store placements of programs, so they start on a specified screen, very simple. Have not tried Virtual Dimension, but the people I have pointed it out to loves it..



[ Parent ]
Microsoft powertoy virtual desktops (none / 0) (#91)
by Repton on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 04:29:31 PM EST

Microsoft provides a powertoy to give you four virtual desktops in Windows XP.

I have installed it, but I don't use it. The problem is that, for me, virtual desktops are "semantically incompatible" with the taskbar.

To elaborate, if I am, say, in desktop 3, and I click on the taskbar icon for a window in desktop 1, then that window will pop to the foreground of desktop 3. Thus, I could spend a bit of time putting my web browser in one desktop, e-mail client in a second, maybe a word processor or something in a third ... but it only takes one click on the taskbar to ruin that setup. And because I am experienced in the MS Windows paradigm of switching tasks by using the taskbar, that one click is very easy to make.

I haven't tried Virtual Dimension, though. Maybe I will give it a go.

(for the record, in linux, I use WindowMaker and virtual desktops. I can switch desktops with the keyboard or the mouse, so, given conventions about which windows go in which desktops, it is very easy to quickly focus on any window I want)


--
Repton.
They say that only an experienced wizard can do the tengu shuffle..
[ Parent ]

The MS Powertoy (none / 1) (#95)
by curunir on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 05:35:32 PM EST

The Powertoy version has a number of issues that make it essentially unusable. It will close IE windows when you launch an IE process on another virtual desktop. It also does weird things to MS Office (removing toolbars, closing open documents, etc) when you switch away from the parent virtual desktop.

From my understanding, windows has had virtual desktops as part of the OS since before 2000, but has just never had a UI which takes advantage of it. So since the powertoy is basically just a UI to a windows feature, it's pretty well done. But the virtual desktop feature of windows pretty much sucks.

[ Parent ]
you miss the moist important thing (none / 0) (#105)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 06:55:30 AM EST

The MS Powertoy is slow enough to be useless. Well, for me at least.

--em
[ Parent ]

geOShell as mentioned (none / 0) (#108)
by trezor on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 07:32:29 AM EST

You should try switching your shell from Explorer to geoSHell!

With geOShell (wich i just started running yesterday) you can have multiple virtual desktops, arrange them geometricly as you like, so you can drag windows between them and so on. Not to mention the hotkeys (Win-N: Switch to desktop N. Shift-Win-N: Send window to desktop N).

All you need to do, is install the geoXVM-plugin, and it is compatible with the "Task-bar" thingy.

And though I hate to ask people to take my word for things... Running geOShell under explorer (which is possible) is a bad idea. It'll run alot more smoothly if explorer doesn't interfere. It'll almost feel unix-like, and you still got all those Windows-apps that you need.

And it's just a shell-replacement, no OS-file is harmed so it is easily uninstalled if you happen to hate it in the end.


--
Richard Dean Anderson porn? - Now spread the news

[ Parent ]
virtuawin (2.80 / 5) (#87)
by anmo on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 12:21:26 PM EST

I use virtuawin without any problems. Fast, configurable, can switch betweeen desktop with the mouse, extendible, etc etc.

[ Parent ]
I use virtual desktops, a taskbar, etc. (none / 1) (#93)
by regeya on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 04:51:37 PM EST

I can think of ways I would improve the situation, and one of these crazy windowmanagers would just be too weird for words. True, the taskbar is a weird hack, but it works.

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

yeah, virtual desktops rock (none / 0) (#114)
by rambomon on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 12:28:24 PM EST

It's like quadrupling your workspace. I have the shortcuts at window key+z, window+x, etc...and I switch desktops like a madman. I separated the desktops into "themes" and named them chat, browser, media and whatever else you use mostly. Really cool, probably a waste of time to worry about stuff like this, but it's fun.

[ Parent ]
unlikely...ever.... (2.23 / 13) (#46)
by killmepleez on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 12:30:04 PM EST

on a large screen, it is unlikely that you ever really want a single application to consume every pixel of available real estate.

Dear you: pr0n.
Thanks.

__
"I instantly realized that everything in my life that I thought was unfixable was totally fixable - except for having just jumped."
--from "J
and.... (none / 1) (#129)
by der on Sat Feb 21, 2004 at 12:29:59 PM EST

web browsing in general, terminal usage, coding, image editing, modular synthesis, multitrack recording, file managers.....

[ Parent ]
Once again. (1.07 / 14) (#57)
by readpunk on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 06:57:57 PM EST

Someone mention's the glorious Ion, they get +1 FP.

./revolution
Why I don't like tiling (1.58 / 12) (#62)
by Lord Snott on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 08:34:03 PM EST

First I use Win2k at 1024x768.

With tiling, I can't see everything I want to.

If I'm using a web browser, I want to see EVERYTHING on that page. I don't want to use the scroll bar to see the whole page. Why should explorer or Winamp take up visual real estate when I'm looking at a webpage?

If I'm using explorer to manage my files (I have a huge, complex directory structure for my music, videos, my photo's, my personal docs, software archives, etc), I need to use the whole screen, otherwise dragging and dropping becomes annoyingly cumbersome.

I often have 15 windows open at once (web pages, explorer, Winamp, Command Prompts, telnet sessions, even Starcraft) but I'm only using ONE OR TWO AT A TIME. This is what you seem to be missing. Obviously for you (and some others) Tiling is a Good Thing, but you're in the minority.

When I'm in a command prompt doing some file manipulation thing (eg. dir /b Tool*.ogg >> PlayTool.m3u) I don't care if I can see K5 on the webpage to the left. In fact, it would simply be visual clutter, the same visual clutter you claim tiling solves!

What would be great for me (and a lot of Windows Power Users) is a simple method of creating virtual workspaces. I rarely use the mouse for anything other than games and file dragging, so hitting F1 to F12 would be a great way to separate things.

For example, I'd have explorer & command prompts open in F1, Photoshop & MicroAngelo open in F6, Webpages open in F3. It'd be great! Depending on what the current task was you were doing, you'd tap a key, and go. It's no trouble to alt-tab between a few graphics apps, tap another F key and alt-tab between a few web pages.

That's what I need.

Good article, though! +1 Section.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This sig in violation of U.S. trademark
registration number 2,347,676.
Bummer :-(

A lot of people seem to be missing the point. (2.50 / 6) (#67)
by Kal on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 10:29:23 PM EST

It's not tiling at random nor is it, in the case of Ion, dynamic tiling. It's setting up the workspaces and screen real estate the way you want for your individual applications. Want your browser and file manager to always be full screen? Point them at a full screen frame. Want all your editor windows to go to the same place? Point them all at the same frame. Want to have a set of terminals, editors, and miscellaneous programs running at once? Configure the workspace for the way you want the applications laid out.

You get the final say in how things look, not the window manager.

I often have 15 windows open at once (web pages, explorer, Winamp, Command Prompts, telnet sessions, even Starcraft) but I'm only using ONE OR TWO AT A TIME. This is what you seem to be missing. Obviously for you (and some others) Tiling is a Good Thing, but you're in the minority.

I counted today while I was at work and I had thirty nine individual windows opened in one workspace. Eight terminals and thirty one files I was editing in vim. At any one time only three windows were visible because of the way I have that workspace set up. I had the thirty one vim sessions packed into one frame and the eight terminal sessions packed into two seperate frames. I want to be able to see the file I'm currently working on, optionally moving another beside it for comparisons, and two terminals on the right of my screen for compiling, man pages, terminal edit sessions and things like that. If I tried manage all those windows by hand in a Gnome or KDE interface I'd never be able to find anything.

Now on another workspace I only had four terminals running, stretching from the top to the bottom of the screen and packed into the same frame, and the application I use to launch the software I was working on. On yet another workspace I had three browser windows and evolution running full screen packed into the same frame.

[ Parent ]
Thanks for clarifying (2.60 / 5) (#75)
by jeduthun on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 01:05:17 AM EST

It's setting up the workspaces and screen real estate the way you want for your individual applications. Want your browser and file manager to always be full screen? Point them at a full screen frame. Want all your editor windows to go to the same place? Point them all at the same frame. Want to have a set of terminals, editors, and miscellaneous programs running at once? Configure the workspace for the way you want the applications laid out.

This is an excellent point that I really ought to have made in the article. Thank you! It looks as though I focused on some red herrings in the article; it seems that efficiency isn't really what people are most interested in. If the article gets voted down, perhaps I'll re-write it with a better focus and submit it sometime in the future.

[ Parent ]

Hit F-11... (none / 0) (#111)
by agentz on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 07:53:11 AM EST

...in any reasonably modern web browser.  I've used most of the above listed, but Ion has been my choice for over a year, and it handles this rather elegantly imho (a window made fullscreen, be it a web browser, terminal window, or just dvd playback, will be moved to its own workspace, which you can switch in/out of with hotkeys).  When you un-fullscreen it, it slides back to the tile it was in.

For those that still don't get it, thats okay; the desktop paradigm has alot of money behind it, and it won't be burnt in a day.  But consider this: name one futuristic sci-fi vision of technology interfaces in which a user is ever portrayed wasting his or her time dragging windows around the screen, maximizing, minimizing, "expose"-ing....

[ Parent ]

Movie interfaces (none / 0) (#123)
by drsmithy on Sat Feb 21, 2004 at 06:31:44 AM EST

But consider this: name one futuristic sci-fi vision of technology interfaces in which a user is ever portrayed wasting his or her time dragging windows around the screen, maximizing, minimizing, "expose"-ing....

Can you name one such interface that looks like it would be usable for anything except that one task that was being portrayed (and even for them, they often look clumsy) ?

[ Parent ]

Apple's exposé (1.37 / 16) (#77)
by ljj on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 04:04:51 AM EST

Apple found a neat way to overcome this problem. It's built into the new evolution of Mac OS X and is called Exposé. You can set hot corners of your screen/s, and when you mouse into that corner, all active windows appear on screen, scaled down and tiled neatly so you can see what goes on where. Mousing on windows then makes that window pop to the front.

--
ljj

And despite the number of 0's you collected, (none / 1) (#89)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 01:55:46 PM EST

Windows people liked it enough to promptly rip it off with a package called "winexpose".

--
"telling an obese person to just eat less is like telling an asthmatic to just breathe better."


[ Parent ]
0s aren't because people don't like Exposé (none / 1) (#96)
by benDOTc on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 05:48:58 PM EST

Maybe i'm mistaken, but i think the 0s aren't for a dislike of the software, but rather because the parent obviously didn't read the article, since it covers what he said, pretty much in its entirety.

b.c

[ Parent ]

i did miss that paragraph. sorry. (n/t) (none / 0) (#110)
by ljj on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 07:49:02 AM EST


--
ljj
[ Parent ]

The Free Market of Ideas (none / 2) (#100)
by Brandybuck on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 12:22:39 AM EST

The Free Market of Ideas has spoken, and the desktop metaphor has won. But being the Free Market of Ideas, the losers are in no way banished or forbidden. Everybody wins! You can use your Ratpoison and Ion, and I can use my Blackbox, Windowmaker and KDE.

I used the term "Free Market of Ideas", because that's exactly what it is. When the X Window System was created, an explicit design decision was to make it policy-free. There are no constraints on window management. Since that time there have been hundreds of window managers competing with each other for mind share. Though the desktop oriented ones have become most popular, even for UNIX users who have never touched a Windows or Mac machine, other forms of window management are still available. Everyone wins!

Compare this to the Microsoft policy heavy GUI, which is a form of "Dictatorial Market of Ideas". There's only one idea available in that marketplace, and if you don't like it you need to emigrate. Creating a window manager for Windows is extremely difficult, even within the desktop metaphor. Try writing something outside of that paradigm and you'll be blocked at every turn.

please, give Ion a try (none / 0) (#101)
by sesquiped on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 12:55:35 AM EST

It's painful for me to read the comments on this article criticizing the tiled window paradigm based on misconceptions about how these programs work, without even trying one of them. I don't know how to convince you all of this paradigm's benefits in this little text box, so I'll try the personal/emotional angle:

I've been using Ion for over a year, and can't imagine working without it. I'm probably less than half as productive if I'm forced to use something else. My window manager is finally doing what I want it to do, rather than fighting against me with every click and keypress. My wrists are healthier, since I hardly ever use the mouse anymore (only for web browsing, and even then not all the time). I've showed Ion to several friends, and every single one that decided to try it is still using it (and several have gone on to gain converts among friends of their own).

Please, before posting about how you couldn't work with a tiling window manager for some reason or other, give Ion a fair try. The first hour will be painful, granted. The next few hours will be awkward. But after a few days, I guarantee you'll never go back.


ion rocks (none / 0) (#147)
by martinus on Sat Mar 13, 2004 at 06:08:40 AM EST

You are absolutely right! I am used to have a lot of programs open at the same time. It really is a pain to work with more than 20 open windows on gnome/kde/windowmaker etc. So I gave ion a try - and it is amazing how much time you can save with it! It took about 1-2 days to configure the keys in the way I want it and to get used to this system, but it definitely is the way to go in future. Of course it highly depends on the usage: When just browsing around with only a few windows open, ion is not any help. But if you are writing programms, and have a lot of windows (debugging, editors, xterms, browser, ...) it definitely helps you organize your work.

[ Parent ]
I was happy with sawfish... (none / 1) (#104)
by PigleT on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 06:29:45 AM EST

I used to use sawfish on my linux desktop, and I was very happy with:

a) auto-focus

b) auto-raise

c) A-S-v mapped to move-window-interactive and A-S-s mapped to resize-window-interactive.

The latter, in particular, meant I didn't have to find a border or title-bar of a window, in order to move it around - just wave the mouse over it for auto-focus to take effect, slam out a key-chord that fits fairly neatly in the left hand, and the window would move *in parallel* with the mouse. Only one click required, to drop the window in its new location.

By way of contrast, the Mac I'm now using, with its Expose thing, is a *lot* more mouse-intensive.  As far as I know, if I want to move this firefox window, I move to mouse over the title-bar and shift it, and no amount of Expose tricks (hot-corners and apple-f9, apple-f10 effects) will help me with that. In fact, I don't seem to have an auto-focus system either. And I have to click twice in windows because they've rather unilaterally decided that passing the focus-click through to the application is Bad For Me(TM). I'm not sure I'd agree, especially if the other options were available.
~Tim -- We stood in the moonlight and the river flowed

Sawfish roxors. (none / 1) (#125)
by ramses0 on Sat Feb 21, 2004 at 06:40:54 AM EST

I went "desktopless" for quite some time.  Just sawfish, well configured.
  • M-Z was shade,
  • M-X was x-term (in a root window),
  • M-C was close,
  • M-V was "maximize vertical"
  • M-X was "toggle fill unused space" (basically all this tiling stuff)
  • M-F2 was grun (gnome run?, just prompt and execute).
  • M-1,2,3,4 were desktops
  • M-Shift-1234 was "move current window to that desktop"
Most of the time (coding), I needed to pop up an X-term, view something, probably maximixe vertically (width was fine, height was more useful).  Then, keep a gvim window open next to that (check logs, man pages, etc.).

Certain desktops were for coding, email, etc.

GRun would keep a history of recently executed commands, so my "top 5" were always available.

If you think about it:  What do you use all the pretty widgets in KDE for? (I'm using KDE now).

  1. K-menu.  Only to navigate to games if I am bored.  If it's important you should make a launcher / button for it (the 90% case).
  2. Desktop Button.  Why?  Not useful if you have everything else arranged properly.
  3. Config menu.  Stop twiddling with the damned system, it should just work.
  4. X-Term button.  M-X on the root window.
  5. File browser.  Use command line, or M-F2, konqueror.
  6. Web browser.  Keep mozilla open, M-3 (browsing desktop)
  7. Multiple desktops.  Use M-1,2,3,4.  Done.
  8. Widgets, icons, etc.  Clock.  Get a desk clock.  The visual clutter caused by all this junk is far outweighed by any usefulness it may cause.  If you need visual clutter, my Desktop #4 was the "entertainment, XMMS, pretty clocks, etc" dumping ground.
Since I'm not using linux at work any more, I've been using KDE.  KDE is good for a windows clone, but it is not as efficient (cannot be!) as what I had set up.  However, KDE is "more standard", so it's easier for other people to use, plus it's a damned fine piece of software.

I tried all the aforementioned window managers, but they are all dumb when it comes to XMMS windows and popup / save dialogs.  They don't admit that sometimes it's better to keep the "overlapping windows that you can drag around" metaphor.  Oh well, maybe it's time to reconfigure sawfish again.

--Robert
[ rate all comments , for great ju
[
Parent ]

Yeap. (none / 0) (#138)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Tue Feb 24, 2004 at 07:14:35 AM EST

Oh well, maybe it's time to reconfigure sawfish again.
It is time to go back, and you know it. :)

I've tried the major desktops and window managers, and a couple of tiling type (even liked Ion in a way). I always come back to simple sawfish and my ever growing/changing set of beautiful bindings.

I think I have stuck a bit more to the notion of using the first letter for the action in the binding than you did, and I didn't see a "toggle sticky" in your list (which I use a lot). But to each their own.

If you need system monitors or clocks and such there is a world of little apps to pick and choose from. For example, telling time. These days I have a big xclock running on one desktop, so I can see it across the room, but gkrellm2 is sticky to them all so I don't have to go looking for that clock. And when I want to kill everything down to minimal system use, there is my xplanet background that shows the time updated every few minutes (if I need more time resolution, I probably shouldn't be doing some intensive task on the computer). Multiple options for multiple situations.

Oh and little things like gkrellm and others can also do little launcher buttons if one just has to have a few of those, though I often wonder why I bother with the two I have.

I suppose because it starts out so basic and empty sawfish encourages this sort of "build your own perfect interface". But no need to tell you that.



[ Parent ]

I did go back to sawfish... (none / 0) (#140)
by ramses0 on Tue Feb 24, 2004 at 09:49:10 AM EST

I didn't realize how much I missed it.  :^)

I chose the ZXCVB buttons because they're all in the same location like the standard clipboard shortcuts.  I (generally) used the windows key + one char, but my thinkings were as follows:

  • Ctrl-Z ... suspend in prompt.
  • W-Z ... shade in sawfish
  • Ctrl-C ... cancel task in prompt.
  • W-C ... destroy in sawfish
Now, just needed to account for "X" and "V", "X" made sense for maximize (windows: alt-space x), and V made sense for "Vertical".

As for sticky, I use the "alt-middle click on title bar" because sticky is not something i change more than once per session / reboot (ie: once a week or month).  And I just remembered some of the other keybindings.  Alt-Shift-Arrows would do the "pack window <direction>" business.  Lets me move the window to the right "spot" before maximizing it ... totally keyboard driven.  :^)

...and if you want to have some "ooh, eye candy" thing, you can make a synaesthesia window (or any of the xmms visualizations) really short, but full-screen width and do the whole "always on top, sticky, ignored, non-focuseable, stacking-lower-layer").  Put it at the bottom of the screen, about 30 pixels high (like where a task bar would go) but it doesn't get in the way, and gives you something to "zone out to" if you get bored of doing real work.  :^)

--Robert
[ rate all comments , for great ju
[
Parent ]

Thank you alot, mister! (none / 1) (#106)
by trezor on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 07:14:26 AM EST

Now after this story got posted, I wasted a fucking day customizing my desktop, when I seriously needed to get some work done.

Yeah. Now my desktop is smoother than ever, but that really doesn't help me trying to do some good PCB-layout :)

This article has wasted my time in a way deeply beyond my comprehension. In a very satisfying, yet deeply disturbing way.

And it prevented me from getting any real work done.

But what the hell... Now I got a Windows desktop that is as most Unix-like as it ever can be. Virtual desktops, mmmmmmhh...


--
Richard Dean Anderson porn? - Now spread the news

You're welcome (nt) (none / 0) (#119)
by jeduthun on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 09:57:57 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Debian package for ION (none / 1) (#109)
by muyuubyou on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 07:41:25 AM EST

http://packages.debian.org/unstable/x11/ion

Lovely

different ion versions in debian (none / 0) (#118)
by froseph on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 04:56:38 PM EST

actually debian unstable has ion, ion2 and ion-devel (development). Ion2 is the newest version with lua goodness and ion is the 1.x version.

[ Parent ]
I agree. (none / 0) (#112)
by alyosha1 on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 09:07:35 AM EST

Overlapping windows really do place too much of a burden on the user. I think it's interesting to notice that many applications are shifting away from the 'manage lots of sub-windows' model (MDI in Microsoft parlance) to using tabs, tiles and splitters.

My favourite examples of this done right are konqueror, which allows me to have various assortments of split windows, tabbed windows and even a terminal emulator all nicely under my control, and Visual Studio .NET which allows you to manage multiple source files with a combination of tabbed and split windows, and easily drag views from one tab-set to another.

Now if these ideas could work their way up from the application to the window-manager level, I'd be very happy.

Clustering (none / 1) (#136)
by adjohn on Sun Feb 22, 2004 at 02:08:36 PM EST

It's interesting (at least, to me) that you should mention Konqueror. I sort of stumbled across a nice mix of the SDI/MDI paradigms which I find to be very useful, organizationally, when browsing the web. In particular, Konqueror has an option to "Open links in new tab instead of new window". So, what I end up doing is opening new windows for independent browsing targets, and then middle-clicking on links within those targets to open them in new tabs, which "clusters" the various pages related to one browsing target in one window.

The Ion website makes the following claim:

UIs should be built according to the user's preferences based on a high-level semantic description of commands provided by the application.

It seems to me like the kind of behavior that we see in Konqueror - that is, the ability to associate several different components - implements a rudimentary semantic description - that of simple relationship. To use my term, above, related UI components can be clustered in this way, providing easy access to all of them once any one of them is brought into focus. Ion and other tiling window managers may allow for fitting windows into user-managed slots, but I don't see how this maps to a semantic framework for understanding more about the nature of displayed content.

In terms of usability, however, I have been less than thrilled with MDI interfaces. I still don't know if there is a way to navigate between tabs in the above Konqueror scenario simply using the keyboard. Even lacking this, however, I have still found clustering in this way to be more efficient than the alternative. Opera has good keyboard support, but it also has good mouse support and less natural clustering, so I often feel torn when using it as my web browser. I plan on exploring extensions to FireFox which may really shoot it ahead of the competition; I just haven't had a chance to play with it.

I definitely agree that this sort of idea needs to "work (its) way up to the window-manager level"; I can see that it belongs there, and I think it would allow for more uniformity in managing clustered UI resources.



[ Parent ]
The real solution (none / 1) (#113)
by swagr on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 10:08:31 AM EST

If we had one program that did everything we wouldn't need window managers.
...
Actually, I use Vim, but thanks for the suggestion.

Tiling (none / 0) (#117)
by froseph on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 04:54:38 PM EST

There are a lot of window managers which shupport tiling as a preferance. I use fluxbox and set it to tile by default. Then i seperate my workspaces by types of applications: chatting, webbrowsing, coding. The combo of this and tabs makes it very clean, fast (focus follows mouse), yet allows you to move your windows anywhere you want. Though i will admit that i have been tempted to try ion, ratpoison or trswm, but my problem (at least with ion1) was the fact that i can't always find a good way to partition my screen without having space left over. Expose is all nice and pretty (I own a 12" pbook), but it's still a pain. I'd take virtual desktops anyday over it.

Taskbar tricks. (none / 0) (#121)
by static on Sat Feb 21, 2004 at 12:25:48 AM EST

Something you didn't mention that others have picked up is the idea of Windows' taskbar.

However, I figured out a trick in WindowMaker that gives it a Taskbar-workalike. You WindowMaker users will be aware of the window list, right? Well, if you make it stay and don't dismiss it, WindowMaker will remember this across a restart! And it will dynamically update with the open windows.

I put mine left-aligned underneath the icons in the Dock. This means I can see it and if I need to use it, it pops completely out onto the screen when I run the mouse over it. It is very similar to Windows' taskbar, only better. :-)

Wade.


after reading this, i downloaded Ion (none / 0) (#122)
by transient0 on Sat Feb 21, 2004 at 04:11:39 AM EST

I gave it a two hour trial period and then went back to blackbox in frustration.

maybe i'm stodgy. maybe blackbox just perfectly suits my needs.

I ask very little of my computer. at it gives me every inch of it.
---------
lysergically yours

Two hours is not nearly enough... (none / 0) (#145)
by warrax on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 05:27:28 AM EST

... I only got used to it after about a week. At first doing anything will be really cumbersome and slow, but it pays off in the end (like with Emacs or vi :)).

Also, I think exploring the keybindings and remapping everything to key combinations you can remember is the key (heh) to becoming much more familiar (and therefore efficient) with Ion.

-- "Guns don't kill people. I kill people."
[ Parent ]

xinerama, 2nd monitor becomes dump-monitor (none / 1) (#127)
by pakje on Sat Feb 21, 2004 at 08:25:56 AM EST

As most new videocards which are currently sold all have multiple outputs, more and more people can easily set up an extra monitor. I think this new user base is soon large enough to create a window env. specialized for multiple monitor usage. Which for example can show the previous webpage, or the previous used program/window, or system info, or programming reference.

That's what I use. (none / 0) (#146)
by Trystan on Fri Mar 12, 2004 at 09:00:02 AM EST

I have two 21" monitors.

I shall never use one for work purposes again.  The productivity increase, the natural usage, you cannot explain it.

Dual head, TwinView, whatever you want to call it, is phenomenal.
-----
http://www.schkerke.com
[ Parent ]

One size fits all? (none / 1) (#128)
by fotodog on Sat Feb 21, 2004 at 10:34:05 AM EST

Don't like them. Try to create/edit photos/artwork in tiles and start screaming 10 minutes later. And who said use vi for everything!?! Doesn't work too good on graphics. Gimp got it right, too, on separate windows - my output is about twice that of Photoshop users I know (the photoshop interface if you full-screen it is, effectively, a tiled one - and who can remember the true horror of Star Office 5.1, also tile-type) I try to restrict myself to 4 desktops (1- Files, Network, Terminal. 2- Internet, Browser. 3- Gimp. 4- Gimp, Sodipodi etc.) Running 1600x1200 And my laptop only runs 800x600 - not a lot of room to tile.

Good Article (none / 0) (#149)
by JonDowland on Thu Apr 08, 2004 at 08:31:50 AM EST

I enjoyed this article. I had a spare hour about 6 months ago and so I thought I'd give ion a go. I didn't expect to stick with it; I'm pretty fussy about my WMs, and it usually takes ages to have them setup the way I like.

However I fell in love with ion and use it for almost everything.

Of course what helps is that for some situations you really do need the old way of manipulating windows, and ion provides that with floating workspaces. For example, developing graphical apps you really need to see how they behave when resized etc.

I think one other problem with tiled-wm evangelism is related to screenshots. With a traditional WM, what does a screenshot get across? Usually some minimalist window decoration and a bloody big wallpaper. With tiled WMs, all you see is apps- which of course is the point- but it doesn't sell as well as a big sunset or something.

Also virtual workspaces are utterly essential in conjunction with tabs as you want to setup a pane-arrangement and leave it like that. Atm I have gaim/xmms/xclock in the left 15% of one workspace and a browser in the other half. I have a 50/50 vertical split in another workspace for editing my project.

Fullscreening apps in ion is achieved with a simple key combination (meta+enter, where meta in my case is the otherwise useless windows key). This has the same effect as dedicating an entire workspace to just one frame. meta+enter again drops it back down to where it came from. fantastic.

Window managers for power users: Tiling 101 | 149 comments (132 topical, 17 editorial, 4 hidden)
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