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Ask Slashdot: Assembling a Linux Desktop Environment From Parts? 357

Posted by timothy
from the gnome-panel-and-thunar dept.
paxcoder writes "Gnome Shell ... is different. Very much so. The fallback was inadequate. I suspect that many people, like me, turned to the alternatives. My choice was LXDE, which worked ok, until (lx-)panel broke in the unstable branch of the distro that I use. Tired of using the terminal to run stuff, I replaced the standard panel with the one from Xfce. That made me realize that we really don't need a packaged desktop environment, there are pieces ready for assembly. If you customize your graphical environment, what elements do you use? Which window manager, file manager, panel(etc.) would you recommend? Do you have a panel with a hardware usage monitors, how do you switch between workspaces? Anything cool we might not know about?"
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Ask Slashdot: Assembling a Linux Desktop Environment From Parts?

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  • KDE. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 22, 2011 @12:45PM (#38460550)

    'Nuff said.

    Please, no WAAA KDE IS BLOATED AND BROKEN AND INCOMPLETE AND THIS AND THAT AND THE OTHER arguments because they've been proven wrong time and again.

    It's sad that I have to post AC to defend KDE, currently one of the best desktops (okay, the best desktop) for GNU/Linux.

    • Re:KDE. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by certain death (947081) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:04PM (#38460764)
      Wow...replying to TWO ACs in one day...it's a new record for me! Anyway, I tend to agree with you. Now a days, with the average computer having 4 gigs of ram and at least a 512 meg video card, if not a full 1 gig, there is no reason to speak poorly of KDE. If I had to worry about how much video memory I was using, I might switch to xfce or something, but I don't. That excuse has been removed for all but the third world countries who can't get the latest new hardware or poor people who can't afford a computer made in the last three or four years. Just sayin'.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rubycodez (864176)
        That's an ignorant elitist point of view. I'm typing on a laptop with 1GB of ram and 1.8GHz processor. KDE is too bloated for this machine.
        • Re:KDE. (Score:5, Informative)

          by ifiwereasculptor (1870574) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:19PM (#38460950)

          Not really. It only has crap default settings. Deactivate Nepomuk, for instance, and you'll see memory usage plummet. I'm using KDE 4.6 and it uses only ~380Mb at startup. Even running Firefox and GIMP I rarely use 1Gb of RAM. KDE is very good when properly tuned, insufferable if not.

        • No, it isn't elitest. It is a fact. And yes, KDE would probably not "Just work" on your machine. I said 512 to 1 gig VIDEO CARD, not total memory.
        • Might be time to put the ol' Packard Bell running Win 98 SE out to pasture. ;)

      • by Anrego (830717) *

        I used to be a minimalist .. using icewm mainly for many years.

        Then I came around to this view point, and used kde3 for a while.

        Then kde4 came out.. and while I hear it's somewhat usable now.. there was a good period of time where it wasn't. I got fed up and ended up switching to a combination of openbox and xfce4-panel, which gave me (most) of the functionality I loved from kde3. Being less bloated was secondary .. the fact that it actually worked was the main draw.

        Point is, I probably won't be going back

        • by sqldr (838964)

          and unless kde4 comes out with some killer feature, I see no reason to switch

          It uses less RAM.. no, really... It's always frustrating when people look at the 3D effects and assume that = bloat. I'm currently in the process of trying to finish a 64k demo for TUM party. It's fully openGL, and that part of the code is about 6k. Plus you get to offload all the graphics into the GPU and free up some RAM for other stuff.

          Obviously, if you don't HAVE a GPU, or you have some ancient intel series 3 gfx controlle

          • by Anrego (830717) *

            Yeah, but that's not a killer feature. Like many, I have enough resources that it has become a non-issue. Even if my setup used 3 times as much ram as KDE, I wouldn't care. I have 12GB of ram.. may as well use some of it.

            When I gave up on kde4, it wasn't because of resource usage, it was because basic core features, like.. the menu editor and the control panel.. were completely broken. Stuff would crap out and you'd have to go delete some metafile (buried under gnome-style layers of meta folders) .. all kin

          • by vtcodger (957785)

            "I wrote my first program at the age of six, and I still can't work out how this website works."

            For the most part it doesn't work all that well. Trapped somewhere inside of Slashdot is a simple, minimally featured, bulletin board that would allow an exchange of ideas without breaking browsers and otherwise impeding communication. But they keep it sedated, and the chances that it will escape are slimmer every year.

      • Re:KDE. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hatta (162192) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:19PM (#38460954) Journal

        Using a custom desktop is not about being lightweight. It's about customizing your workflow.

        • Re:KDE. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by certain death (947081) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:23PM (#38461012)
          I think you have nailed it. If your machine can't handle what you "like", then you need to do something about it, or suffer a loss of productivity due to the system not matching how you work.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by interval1066 (668936)
          There's a caveat to this; or an exception- The world is moving AWAY from beefy laptops and TOWARDS mobile machines. And KDE as it is is the WORST thing to use on mobile devices, like Windows. Notebooks and desks will be a thing of the past sooner than you think. And you may think "well, I'll always use a lappy, a note, or a desk." Well, good for you. But after you're dead there won't be a machine larger than a calculator (remember those?) left to stuff a desktop in. Oh, the Desktop? Going bye bye too. Look
          • by Yvanhoe (564877)

            There's a caveat to this; or an exception- The world is moving AWAY from beefy laptops and TOWARDS mobile machines

            But we are not the world. We are those crazy coders who need a physical keyboard with weird keys like | or } to be able to use the command line fully or to code in C. We are those strange fellows who use more applications than two (browser and Angry Birds).

            The world is moving away from desktop/laptops, fine. This is the same crowd that is using Windows. I doubt that tablets and smartphones will replace development machines soon for very good reasons : big keyboards and big screens bring irreplaceable com

          • by Hatta (162192)

            The death of the desktop is nothing but futurism at this point. Nobody has come up with a better interface for doing real work. Sure, there are some limited use cases where the desktop is overkill. But until I can collect data, analyze the data, present the data, write up a paper about the data with a cell phone(i.e. never), the standard desktop is not going away. Even if that means hooking up a keyboard and display to your mobile device.

      • Re:KDE. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by hazem (472289) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:51PM (#38461332) Journal

        > there is no reason to speak poorly of KDE.

        There is if it just does dumb stuff.

        I generally like the tools that come with kde... dolphin, the way its panel works, etc. However the latest versions do very annoying things. One in particular is that when copying large files (or many files) you no longer get a little window that shows the progress and gives you a "cancel" button. Instead the information is stuck in some little notification icon. This makes it difficult to monitor the progress of multiple coping/moving operations and I can't find a way to cancel the whole operation (it only cancels the current file it's working on). This one problem is enough of an annoyance that I've taken to installing gnome, then replacing the major tools with the versions from kde.

        As for the memory/performance issue, the argument that kde is bloated and slow is not invalidated just because more memory and processing power is generally available. The truth is, given an amount of processing power and memory, other managers are more efficient, faster, or snappier. Some people like that. Plus, if you're not plugged in, all that extra memory usage and processing power costs battery-time, even if you're not in the 3rd world.

        • by Teun (17872)
          Click on that little round icon that shows the progress in a pie chart and you get the progress bars you long for.

          Each process has it's own and can be individually stopped.
          As a matter of fact it even shows some history.

          • by hazem (472289)

            Thanks for the tip, but I've tried that, and it's just not as useful to me. The pop-up changes size as the length of the filenames change, making it kind of hop around a lot. I'd rather just have the old dialog boxes with progress bars that I can move wherever I want them on the screen.

            For me and my work-flow, those older boxes work better than anything else I've seen.

    • by TitusC3v5 (608284)
      I won't say that it's bloated or broken or incomplete. However, I will say that every single time I've tried KDE 4.x, I've had roughly 4-5x as many application crashes compared to KDE 3.x or Gnome 2/3.x. That's the primary reason why I'm currently using Gnome 3.
    • Re:KDE. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Haeleth (414428) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @04:56PM (#38464470) Journal

      I gave up on KDE when I discovered it is practically impossible to copy my settings from one computer to another.

      Having a highly-customizable experience is great until you buy a new box and discover you're either going to waste hours reproducing your customizations manually, or try to copy things, have it break, and experience the hell of grepping for hardcoded paths in undocumented XML soup.

      That's when I realized I wasn't even using much more than the window manager and the panel anyway, so I switched to FVWM2, whose configuration is stored in a single human-readable text file, and had a setup that was even more to my tastes, cloned across all my computers, in minutes.

      KDE is undoubtedly awesome, but simplicity is also a feature, and it's one that the monolithic environments cannot provide -- by design.

  • Avant (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 22, 2011 @12:45PM (#38460558)

    I prefer avant-window-navigator. the only downside is it needs compiz to look nice. by default it has an osx look and feel, but it can be customized and it does have hardware monitoring applets

    • xcompmgr is a bit more stable than compiz in my experience, but it is much slower. but running awn it's not usually a big issue though.
      cairo-dock / glx-dock is another one that has proven useful, and has slightly better hotkeys, but also has more bugs than awn.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Then find what works for you.

    It works for me; but I have been using a computer for the better part of 13 years daily. For the last 10 more than 60 hours in a given week. So I have had time to see what I like and what I don't like.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by certain death (947081)
      I normally don't reply to ACs, but since you say you have been using a computer for 13 years, I figured it was worth it. You are on Slashdot. If you think that saying you have been using a computer for 13 years will get you any "Cred" here, you need to look around. There are people here who have been using them for FAR longer.
      • by g0bshiTe (596213)
        I'd mod you up if I had points. 13 years is a drop in the bucket. Of that 13 years 10 or more 60 hours a week, how much of that was Windows computing, how much Linux? How much coding? How much playing games, updating Facebook and Twatter? How much was actual work?
        • Re:Openbox (Score:5, Informative)

          by CAIMLAS (41445) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @03:22PM (#38462924) Homepage

          You guys both have a point, but you're also being assholes.

          I've known people who have "20 years in the business", with resumes and 'experience' to match who are insufferable, incompetent idiots. I know people who have only been working on computers for 10 months (in any practical fashion aside from basic end user stuff) and are more capable and intelligent than said 20-year veterans.

          There was no reason to jump on him for his claims. 10 years of 60-hour-week computing isn't necessarily impressive, but it does mean he uses a computer quite a bit. There's been a lot of time for concepts and principles to leech into his brain, regardless of his efforts. Everybody's different.

      • by swb (14022)

        Haha, no kidding. I can't triple the user's number, but almost.

        And WTF is he doing on my lawn, anyway?

      • by nusuth (520833)

        Perhaps someone who started using computers after OS/2 Warp and Windows 95 came around has a better idea of what a GUI working environment should look like compared to someone who have fond memories of ENIVAC? I am not that old but I can say with absolute certainity that my CP/M skills does not give me any edge in this discussion.

        • Perhaps someone who started using computers after OS/2 Warp and Windows 95 came around has a better idea of what a GUI working environment should look like compared to someone who have fond memories of ENIVAC? I am not that old but I can say with absolute certainty that my CP/M skills does not give me any edge in this discussion.

          Implying that one must grow up with a technology to better understand it than someone who predates it is silly. Younger is not, contrary to the opinions of the young, necessarily

  • xfce4.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by djsmiley (752149) <djsmiley2k@gmail.com> on Thursday December 22, 2011 @12:48PM (#38460590) Homepage Journal

    I use xfce4 with gnome-terminal. I don't mind other terminal emulators but gnome-terminal is nice.

    And thats about all the customization I do.... I don't want my WM to do anything "clever" if I want some application I'll install it directly....

    Then again, thats why I run gentoo and not some prepackaged distro which decides what I want to run.

    • by fnj (64210)

      OK, I'll bite; maybe I'm missing something. I'm running Gnome2 on an RHEL6 clone. I use konsole and kate because they are far superior to gnome-terminal and gedit. Preferences aside for the moment, what about my "pre-packaged" distribution hinders me in any way from mixing pieces of various desktop environments?

    • As long as it stays stable, I will stay with xfce4. I need my computer to be...predictable. Gnome desktop is no longer predictable.

  • Arch and ArchBang (Score:4, Interesting)

    by macxcool (1370409) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @12:50PM (#38460614)
    I like cobbling together my own desktop too... sometimes. I have a family computer at home with KDE, but my own laptop uses ArchBang which is really Arch Linux with Openbox. Openbox is very sparse though and you can use your own menus, taskbar, system tray, etc. etc. etc. I like the control and I like finding out what's out there and trying new solutions to the Desktop 'problem'.
  • FluxBox (Score:5, Informative)

    by Katyrnyn (90568) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @12:53PM (#38460654)

    Years ago I was a BlackBox user. I've always preferred low-impact WindowManagers and never jumped on the Evolution bandwagon. These days I use BlackBox's primary fork, FluxBox, on both my primary desktop and my "Netbook." The menu format is easy to work with and the memory footprint is negligible.

    I don't use a file manager, but I do build most things with GNOME support (if proper), so Nautilus is kinda/sorta there. I'm also not a big panel user - I don't like having tachometers, usage monitors, or any extra stuff filling up my workspace. (I take minimalism to new lows.) Others will have to help you in those respects.

    • Re:FluxBox (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jtotheh (229796) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:46PM (#38461270)

      I also found fluxbox after trying to get used to GNOME 3. Fluxbox is really nice. I added some things I cobbled together for automatic hibernation upon low power, adding nm-applet to the flux taskbar,etc. The ease of use of multiple workspaces/desktops is great. I am however typing this on a Mac my work has provided me and it is kind of re-calibrating my perspective of what a good UI can be......

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      You might like OpenBox. Might not be enough of a difference from Fluxbox to bother changing, but check it out if you have not already.

      • by Katyrnyn (90568)

        I've played around with OpenBox in the past (and most other WMs, to be perfectly honest). I don't recall specifically why I chose FluxBox over OpenBox, but both meet my needs. They both keep the BlackBox flavour alive.

  • If you have unlimited time, anything is possible. But sometimes, it's just nice to be able to give the installer a few simple bits of information and come back 20 minutes later with a fully functioning system. That's just me whining though because once the damage is done, it leaves the users with little other option but to kludge something together. I just don't understand why perfectly good stuff gets ruined -- and it isn't just linux. Look at iCal in Lion compared to previous versions.

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      I did the whole roll your own thing back "in the day". Then I discovered kde3 and really got into the whole "wow, this just works" mentality.

      Then kde4 came out and was a complete piece of shit (I hear it's better now.. but when it first came out.. it was like pre-alpha level messed up). I spend a fair bit of time trying to force kde4 to work in some kind of usable way.. but finally I grudgingly cobbled my own yet again and am now happily using a mixture of various bits (openbox, xfce4-panel, and a bunch of

  • I used to do this: running everything in blackbox window manager with different panels and other launcher applications. I actually stuck with blackbox for a long time because I liked being able to edit the desktop window in a text file and open applications just by right-clicking on the desktop and choosing from a menu. I gave up on using other launchers and panel applications. I really liked the minimalism of black box.

    Now, I'm using Unity with the Launcher on Ubuntu. I find it usable for the most part, an

  • Had the same problem as you. I removed all gnome packages. Now I'm using xdm, xfce4 with all plugins and extras, idesk, thunderbird (a.k.a icedove), terminator. After logging htop shows ~100MB memory usage!
  • Awesome WM (Score:5, Informative)

    by semi-extrinsic (1997002) <asmunderNO@SPAMstud.ntnu.no> on Thursday December 22, 2011 @12:58PM (#38460704)
    I use Awesome WM. It's a tiling window manager, and it lives up to it's name! I use it both on ArchLinux and OpenSuse, and the stock configuration needs very little configuration to be perfectly useable. The configuration is written in Lua, so it takes a little time to master, but the amount of customization you can do is unbeatable. Screenshots [naquadah.org]
    • Re:Awesome WM (Score:5, Informative)

      by nem75 (952737) <jens@bremmekamp.com> on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:36PM (#38461146)

      This.

      I actually liked Unity very much, but in it's latest installment it became a sluggish PITA, so I started looking for alternatives. After using lxde-dekstop on the existing Ubuntu for a bit. Then I scratched that and started to build a complete custom install on the basis of the ubuntu minimal install CD.

      So now I use lightdm, awesome wm with xcompmgr for basic drop shadows, Ambiance themes, Faenza icons and everything Ubuntu has to offer in the way of clear, smooth font display. Only gnome-settings-manager and gnome-keyring are left from Gnome Desktop.

      This is the snappiest, fastest and most usable desktop environment I've worked with so far. I use it on my work notebook, with two 90 degree tilted external displays, and everything works without a hitch, even switching from rotated displays to the notebook screen and back (thanks to xrandr -o and disper).

      It's geeky and a bit of a learning curve if you want to customize, but I'd definitely recommend giving it a try.

      (And - on a DE unrelated note - if you work with code everyday tilting your display and seeing the code over the full _length_ of your monitor is like a breath of fresh air. ;))

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Is the amount of customization literally unbeatable, or just unbeatable by your typical wm? I ask, because there's a whole family of tiling window managers that are configured in anything from C to Haskell.

      It seems like which language you want to use to configure the wm is the only differentiating feature between tiling wms. This makes it hard to compare and contrast the actual capabilities of these wms, since you have to know a dozen programming languages to really be able to put each one through its pac

  • Ubuntu got too heavy so now it's Lubuntu [lubuntu.net]. Which is now an official fork, officially solving the problem of Ubuntu being too heavy :) Then if you just avoid installing anything that depends on Mono (use Rhythmbox and not Banshee, use the C++ port of gnote if you must, etc etc) then you avoid the worst cancers. As long as you use a Lubuntu session and don't load any GNOME apps then those libraries etc don't need to load.

  • I use openbox with xfce4-panel and a number of other odd programs (some I wrote, some from other environments, some standalone).

    xfce4-panel is critical to my happiness because it handles multiple monitors very well (seperate panel for each window.. no glitches.. just works). This seems to be a feature lacking in a lot of panels/window managers.

    I use dolphin for file browsing (I do most file management from a console but find dolphin is nice for browsing around my vast media collection).

    I'm not an minimalist

  • by joh (27088) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:08PM (#38460810)

    If you could be happy with a cobbled-together environment you still have to invest non-trivial amounts of time and effort in, why don't just install whatever ready-made environment comes along the way and be done with it? Chances are that it is better, smoother, prettier and more capable than what you can get together by yourself with reasonable effort.

    Or start out with FVWM, Gkrellm and a bunch of terminal windows. Or go nostalgic and get a copy of OL(V)WM and all the old SunOS/OpenView desktop stuff to go along with it. There are long days and nights waiting to be wasted on that, believe me. I did all of that 10 or 15 years ago and today I miss nothing of it.

    Don't waste your time on solving problems that were already solved in a thousand ways 10 years ago. If you're serious try to develop your own DE which is really *NEW* and not another bad copy of Windows95 or CDE or NeXTstep. Windows with a title and a frame and buttons in the title and a desktop with icons on it and a panel with a bar of window titles on the top or bottom of the desktop are so *boring*.

    • by xpurple (1227)

      I use fvwm2 and it works very well. Quite snappy. I have the KDE and gnome libs installed so all those apps run fine.

  • by mothlos (832302)

    Since I don't mind fiddling with things to get my environment working the way I like, I have had great success with wmii [suckless.org], a tiling window manager [wikipedia.org] which uses a very accessible runtime interface to allow for all sorts of scripting in a variety of languages. The normal usage of this sort of window manager is to use key commands to launch your apps. When windows get created they are automatically arranged either using scripted setups (like to arrange all of the sub-windows in GIMP) or to a default space where y

  • You don't!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by phlawed (29334) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:12PM (#38460854) Homepage

    I. Do. Not. Get. It.
    It is beyond me why people want to emulate the clutter they have on their physical desk, on their computer.
    One does not need a "Desktop Environment".

    What I want is a window manager that allows me to set the only sane focus policy (focus follows mouse, click to raise), maintains the user experience and config-file compatibility from release to release and otherwise stays out of the way. Not having to choose between 42 different plugins/extensions/addons and whatnot is also a good thing.

    A couple of years ago (*cough*) when IBM killed OS/2, I made the transition to Linux. I soon landed on icewm as my preferred window manager, as it had a "OS/2 Warp" theme. I believe I at one time played with a Presentation Manager-like desktop, but I soon realized it was more hassle than benefit.
    icewm has a fully configurable "context-menu" on the entire desktop background (right-click mouse for *your* selection of files, programs, folders, etc), ditto menu for windows (left click), configurable hotkeys (I hit F12 for a terminal), a toolbar with the regular stuff, workspaces and so on.

    And for any newbie out there: not running gnome or kde or whatever does not prevent you from launching gnome or kde programs.

    Now, please tell me again about the added benefits of having a zillion garish icons on your desktop background?
    Or, by the way... don't bother,...

  • by 0123456 (636235) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:12PM (#38460856)

    That made me realize that we really don't need a packaged desktop environment, there are pieces ready for assembly.

    This used to be the Unix Philosophy, before someone decided that it would be really cool to force everyone to use your own specific applications rather than building independent apps and window managers with some kind of standardised communications for anything that needed two apps to talk to each other. If developers had stuck with that I'd be able to run KDE apps in Gnome without crashing or having to continually click 'Oh my God, KBollockManager is not running' dialog boxes.

    Why they did this, I don't know. I guess they decided it was easier and shinier to build everything from scratch than to negotiate with other developers so that their apps would interoperate easily.

  • I've put my own DE together with FVWM2, which is pretty much designed for that sort of thing. It has the ability to take Perl scripting for almost every feature you want, and works well with integrating services to the DE. I've been able to create dynamic menus from it, with button options for other activities (ex, listing and acting on mail, for one; also, popping up new dynamic DEs based on nagios messages for host troubleshooting, complete with relevant schematic on the root window, etc). The great t

  • WMX

    http://www.all-day-breakfast.com/wmx/ [all-day-breakfast.com]

    Features:
    - Lightweight (size measured in Kb, not Mb)
    - Unobtrusive. Uncluttered appereance (we need no friggin' icons on our desktop)
    - Left-side titlebar preserves space on wide-screen displays
    - Multiple desktops
    - Root menu for quick launch of applications (just put scripts/symlinks in a directory, the contens will be displayed as a menu)

  • IMO, I think that a linux user trying to cobble together unstable releases of DE software would consider attempting to fix the software that one likes - I'd make a safe wager that most of one's problems stem from configuration issues. I say that because with my 4 years of limited experience with the linux desktop, I spent plenty of time distro/DE-hopping to find a remedy to having to edit default settings to get usability to the point were I like it. Then I learned that not all software is created equal,
  • by Vahokif (1292866) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:16PM (#38460902)
    Recently I've been using the XMonad window manager with the XMobar status bar. Both are written in Haskell and are extremely minimal. XMonad is tiling so it's a joy to use on a laptop as you never need to use the mouse.
    • by kruhft (323362)

      And if you're scared of Haskell, try stumpwm, another tiling window manager written and configured in Common Lisp.

  • slim+fluxbox, no panels. lots of conky instances for monitoring EVERYTHING in the house.

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:18PM (#38460926)
    It's good people are noticing that the Linux desktop is largely going to hell, being destroyed by developers ignorant of user needs working in a vacuum. It's good people want to come up with solutions to giving the user control of workflow and configuration. Things were looking bleak.
  • CLI Linux (Score:4, Informative)

    by gajop (1285284) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:18PM (#38460930)

    TL:DR https://bbs.archlinux.org/viewtopic.php?id=131196 [archlinux.org] read the information below the screenshots and take your pick! Your realization is what people were doing for many years now.

    The answer is clear, if you want a complete "build it yourself" distribution, with parts hand choosen, just go for one of the command line interface based distributions, such as Arch or Gentoo, which come with a bare system.
    F.e by just following Arch Linux' wiki for system installation you will get familiar with all the WM/DE choices, and depending on what you pick there you can get further specific information on the Arch wiki or specific WM, regarding systray/pager/filemanager and other utilities that work well there.

    I for one have openbox with tint2, conky and pypanel, with thunar as filemanager (although I often just use coreutils when it's faster/easier). Of course, no one is forcing you to choose Arch or Gentoo, Ubuntu is fine but to me it makes no sense to choose a GUI distribution which comes hand polished for GNOME/KDE/*DE usage when you will just clean it all and install ratpoison.

  • I think everyone does this to some extent although with my laptop being about 9 years old I try to keep it low on resources as possible. My system has Lubuntu as the baseline, Clementine for music, Picasa via Wine for photo control & editing, Opera for the browser & RSS feed, and Dolphin for the file manager. I used PCmanFM for a time but the split screen is a killer feature for me, even with it requiring Nepomuk for some god only knows reason. My only real complaint is Samba is STILL borked on Lubu
  • WM: Fluxbox and backgrounds with feh.
    FM: ROX-Filer, BASH
    Audio: ALSA
    Multimedia: MPlayer, SMPlayer, Audacious and Geeqie.
    Messaging: Pidgin or irssi with irssi-xmpp plugin.
    Photo editing: ufraw and GIMP.
    WWW: Iceweasel(Firefox) and Chromium.

    And no need to take part in DM fights :)

  • Arch + Various (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PhattyMatty (916963) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:24PM (#38461022)

    I just started building my own a few months ago and I'm pretty happy with the following:

    Arch linux - has my favourite package manager (pacman + yaourt)
    Xmonad window manager - tiling wm that doesn't get in the way, with some minor configurations
    Stalonetray - has a clock (trayclock), sound (pnmixer), battery indicator (qbat), dropbox, etc.
    ranger - vi-like file browser which is simple to use, runs in a terminal (urxvt), and I keep a regular filebrowser (nautilus) around just in case something needs me to drag-and-drop something.

    non-visual things:
    udiskie - automount usb drives and things

    It's a very simple setup, though there are more things than what is mentioned here, and I love it. :)

    A list of programs which I am currently using and why is here: https://github.com/MattWoelk/configuration-files/blob/master/home/matt/programs.txt [github.com] Enjoy!

  • by fwarren (579763) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:28PM (#38461066) Homepage

    Fluxbox, just like Openbox, Blackbox and Afterstep has a dock/wharf/slit. Back in the day. Taking 68 pixles away from the right hand side of the screen was expensive on a 640x480 or 1024x768. However with the modern 16:9 aspect ratio 1366x768 can easily afford to give up 68 pixels for the slit region. My ideal setup is image [imgur.com]

    • Panel moved to the top
    • Panel resized to about 90% width of screen. Even with windows maximized there is always a clear spot in the top left and right hand corer to get a menu or scroll to a different desktop
    • Slit on the right top side of the screen. With wmbutton (launching apps) wmmsg (to know when text messages come in), wmix (to adjust volume), wmclockmon, wmkeyboard, (clock), pywmradio.py (Internet Streaming Radio App), wmwesther+, wmbiff (to track incoming email) and wmauda (multimedia control app).
    • Below that wmbar running vertically.
    • Conky in the top right corner for system status

      Lightweight and fast.

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:29PM (#38461076)

    There seems to be a lot of confusion about desktop environments. Adding a panel to a a window manager is not a true desktop environment. Desktop environments provide other services besides the ability to launch an application. Xfce, Gnome, KDE are desktop environments. Openbox, Fluxbox, etc. are window managers. While one can make a window manager look visually like a desktop environment, without the other services, it is not.

    As an example, you can take Xfce, a desktop, and replace the window manager (xfwm) with openbox and you still have a desktop environment, because the window manager is only one piece of it.

    While all desktop environments include a window manager, no window manager is a desktop environment. You can add all of the components on services to make your own desktop environment, however, that still doesn't make the window manager (or panel) the desktop environment.

    Think of it like an automobile is a desktop environment. It is a complete package. You can swap parts out (tires, engine, transmission), but none of these parts is the automobile. You can even start with a plain chasis and add everything else custom the way you want. That is what happens when you take a window manager and start adding your own panels and services. Just as at some point your project car becomes a complete automobile, so to will your efforts lead to a complete desktop environment. But until that occurs, all you have is a bunch of parts.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gajop (1285284)

      And what are these services? All you've done is say multiple times how they're different, you even included a car analogy, but you failed to name a single service. Sorry, that doesn't work for me.

      *DEs are just highly bloated WMs where all the choices have been made for you, but there's no reason your WM can't be as powerful as any *DE (it often is more).

  • I'm not alone. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:30PM (#38461098)

    Alright, well definitely felt the same sentiment.
    I'm running debian wheezy (which used to be debian stable)
    built from a net install. The only gnome stuff I've left is the
    gnome games package, gdm3, and gvfs.

    I have to admit I'm glad gnome 3 came around because I got to try something different,
    as for my issues with the gui changes, I've switched to using a lot of cli apps (which ironically
    I've had less trouble customizing things like color, I don't have to worry about #000 text on a #000 background
    because I get to change the palette...)

    Graphical Stuff
    For the Window manager, awesome wm, frankly I don't care for LUA that much, but I've customized my rc.lua a bit,
    because awesome is frankly just too awesome.

    Browser: uzbl (with squid3 for cache, and privoxy for ad filtering and other goodies.)

    Office stuff: duh LibreOffice

    File Manager: Thunar

    Music Player: Audacious or Deadbeef

    Cli Stuff (yes I know some of these apps provide a graphical version too, take your pick)
    Now for the fun stuff

    Terminal Emulator
    urxvt

    Terminal Multiplexor
    Gnu Screen
    I love gnu screen, if you don't like it, I've heard tmux is great.
    I cannot imagine using cli apps with out it now...

    Elinks
    Fantastic Web browser with a great text user interface, menus, and everything.
    Writing this post within it (well actually pressing ctrl + t brings the editor I chose which is...)

    Vim
    Yes, I did switch to it (no more nano, gedit, or well there is another editor, but shhh shhh... Be quiet!)
    Vim is fantastic, love the spell checker, great for working with multiple languages,
    I use it more for writing than coding (usually simple bash stuff or messing with a stylesheet or something.)

    Midnight Commander
    Great file manager for cli

    Mail
    Alpine, yes I know... So damn easy to set up though.

    IRC/Chat
    Weechat and sometimes finch

    News feeds
    Newsbeuter

    File downloads
    wget, it has always worked well for me, and continues to do so.

    CD ripping
    abcde

    Video
    Mplayer and vlc

    Music
    mocp and weird stuff like adplay (for adlib stuff...)

    Somethings I run at start up in my xsession are autocutsel (to make clipboard handling sane),
    xinput for configuring my touchpad scroll,
    and setxkbmap so I can toggle language layouts with a hotkey

    I guess that's about it, running on a nearly 6 year old laptop, and it flies since this stuff is so light weight.
    The advantage is I can have nearly the same setup on any sort of PC and it should run just fine. And no worries
    for the license types, all these goodies are FOSS. Have fun, and use your system how you want to use it.

    • by chrb (1083577)
      Good choices. Terminator is a nice terminal multiplexor as well. I use it fullscreened for layout with screen inside one window. Also dvdrip and k3b are useful, if you still use cd media. Still on xfce but awesome sounds interesting.
  • by lahvak (69490) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @01:30PM (#38461102) Homepage Journal

    I have been using fvwm for I guess almost 20 years now. During the time I tried a number of other window managers, and even several of those so called desktop environments, and I always end up returning to fvwm. You can configure it to do pretty much anything you want. I have my own vi based set of keybinding, minimal eye-candy (plain flat title bar on windows, simple frame,no 3d, no gradients). It may not be shiny and pretty, but it works.

    In addition to that,I use stalonetray for tray icons, gkrellm for hardware monitoring, volume control etc, and dmenu for launching programs.

    I do not use a taskbar, I tried several of them, but eventually I came to a conclusion that they just take space on the screen, and don't serve any useful need. I have fvwm show window list menu on rightclick in the root window, and also have a keybinding for that, but I very rarely use it.

  • E17 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The enlightenment, dr17, is one of the finest, nicest and fastest DEs around. It's built using its own sets of libraries (the EFL libs) and it's currently in BETA state. Even when it's being heavily developed, I've been using it for the last 4 years as a main desktop and it has always been very stable (even more than the first KDE 4.x releases!)

    I salt it with some QT apps (dolphin, konsole, gwenview, kate, etc) for MY perfect Desktop =)

  • by isama (1537121)
    I use i3-wm on everything now, the tiling is great on the desktop and the tabbing is awesome on my cute little netbook. Combine that with dmenu to start stuff and keybindings for firefox and thunderbird and I'm happy.

    Combine i3 with dmenu and a nice light terminal emulator like urxvt or xterm and you've made me feel at home :)
  • Another really nice low-impact WM from the old days. I do wish the root menu supported XDG system menus natively, but add some good dockapps and you get a really nice setup.

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @02:11PM (#38461588)

    1) WindowMaker - Very fast, very clean, very neat. Like the WM Dockapps a lot, look very neat. Let's not forget, its anchestor 'NextStep' was designed under the ruling 'Iron Fist of Design and Usability' (TM) Steve Jobs. Even in the well-aged FOSS rippoff it shows.

    2) Fluxbox - The hip and hype Linux Pro WM of the last decade. Had it's hype-highpoint around about 2005 and has since joined the grand hall of eternal Linux WMs. Very nice. The fist simple-style WM I saw with anti-aliased Fonts. Think 'modern WindowMaker' with some neat toolbar stuff, tabbed windows that can be stacked by easy drag and drop, nice shortcut defaults, easy to configure and very fast.

    3) Enlightenment. If you're going to take your time configging and setup up your homebuilt Desktop setup, you should definitely take a good look at E. Tons of very neat stuff, very powerfull and very fast. E17 has been in development for a decade, the codebase is rock solid and is the avantgarde of desktop stuff to this very day. Fun fact: Quite a few things in Mac OS X are inspired by E - E is the darling child of any professional desktop developer.

    4) 'Big' desktop environments: Since you want to build your setup 'from scratch' I see no point in getting a comparatively bloated preconfectioned package like KDE or Gnome. Since you'll be spending time checking out config files and such and will build the system to your specific needs, might aswell stick to systems that were built to be configured with textfiles, like the above mentioned. However, if you want the full package, I strongly suggest KDE. Gnome, in my opinion, only makes sense/is bearable when it comes with the work done for you, such as in the default Ubuntu distribution. ... Ubuntu is the only system where I bother using Gnome, simply because it's good enough, preconfigured and the nautilus file manager finally stopped sucking like a vacuum around about Ubuntu 8 or so.

    But since that's not what you asked for, I suggest you look into the first three WM, Fluxbox and E and chose the one you like the best.
    And good luck going back into manual xorg.configging. One of the things I really don't miss about Linux desktops - especially since I'm using Ubuntu and Mac OS X. :-)

    My 2 cents.

  • Thread is useless without pictures! ;)

  • I written wmjump some time ago, for switching between workspaces and applications. Here it is: http://code.google.com/p/wmjump/ [google.com] This uses ``hints'' similar to Vimperator's. If I had more time, I would maintain it more often. But it works, more or less, on all window managers which support EWMH. I use it myself (with xmonad), and I still think that this is the best format for switching windows.
  • I'm using WindowMaker with some GNOME components.

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