FVWM vs Gnome

Holy cow, Utz Pub Mix is an amazing snack.  It’s got to be about 95% MSG but I don’t even care.  Whether I love it or I just THINK I love it, I can’t stop eating it.  Mmmm.

Anyway... I don’t suppose anyone here has used FVWM for a long time as their Window Manager, and then switched to Gnome/Metacity?  I love FVWM, it’s so configurable and can be made to look and feel pretty much just like Gnome/Metacity or any other WM.  And it’s so small memory-wise and so fast.  But it has a few nagging problems that I just got fed up with.

1. Alt-Tab doesn’t work right.  "Right" means when you’re working in one window, and you switch to another (whether via the mouse or keyboard), then holding Alt and tapping Tab switches back to the previous window.  Doing it again switches back to the first window again.  On FVWM, this doesn’t work right, and to the extent which it does somewhat work it’s really slow.  First of all, when you first tap Tab, it brings up a window-list (painfully slowly if you have more than about 10 windows open) with the current window selected.  And if you have enough windows open / tapped Tab fast enough, the window-list stays open even after you release the Tab key, requiring you to press Enter or Tab again.  There’s a config option that lets you put the current window at the end of the list, so Alt-Tab does select the previous window... but then doing it again doesn’t take you back to the first window.

This may seem nit-picky but for many people, especially people who avoid the mouse as much as possible and are very fast with keyboard navigation, Alt-Tab is a fundamental part of the interface between user and computer.  When that fails to work properly, it takes a serious toll on your efficiency.

2. Window focusing doesn’t work right when switching between desktops (or "pages" as FVWM calls them).  When I switch to another desktop, the focus should move with me.  But it doesn’t.  If I’m talking in an IM window open on the first desktop, then switch to the second to type into a text-editor window, the text instead goes into the IM window on the first desktop, unless I click on (or Alt-Tab to) the text-editor window first.

3. I know there were a few other things but none of them are coming to me right now; it’s been two weeks since I stopped using FVWM.  But the whole lack-of-functional-focusing-policy including Alt-Tab is really a deal-breaker for me.

But after using Gnome for about 20 seconds, I remembered why I switched to FVWM in the first place about a year ago.  It was because Gnome is SUCH a memory hog.  I have a gig of RAM and 200MB of swap on this (850MHz) system.  I tend to keep lots of programs running at once: Apache and SSH servers, Thunderbird email with a few open message windows, Mozilla browser with tons of open tabs, Gaim instant messenger, VNC-through-SSH connections to various remote systems, a couple gFTPs for web development, Gimp for image editing every now and then, XMMS for music, and then just bunches of xterms and file-managers and text-editors.

Under FVWM, my RAM was about half full and my swap was almost never used at all.  Under Gnome, RAM is at 95% (with ~5-10% being cache) and swap is at 30%.  That’s with the exact same set of programs running.  Now Gnome is definitely keeping some more info about running processes in RAM than FVWM is, because as I said, the Alt-Tab window list on FVWM takes forever to generate... but still, over a half a gig more memory needed by Gnome?  That’s absurd.  It wouldn’t be a problem, except the constant swapping really slows the system down.

Posted by Anthony on 8 replies


01. Dec 10, 2004 at 08:31am by Kev:

Have you ever tried the Ice WM? It has a small memory footprint and it is fast.

02. Dec 11, 2004 at 03:49pm by mom:

Can I get this installed?  (Translation:  when can you install it on my pc? :))

03. Dec 13, 2004 at 11:42pm by Mike:

Hooray for MSG!!  OK, I’m done.  You can go about your business.

04. Dec 13, 2004 at 11:51pm by Anthony:

Heh.  MSG.  So evil and yet... so good.

I haven’t tried IceWM.  Or at least not recently.  How’s the alt-tab situation?

Mom, you already have it.  (Gnome, that is.)

05. Dec 15, 2004 at 01:32pm by asd:


06. Dec 22, 2004 at 04:36am by just another fvwm guy:

just thought i’d share my solution to the tab thing in fvwm, since I had a similar problem with the window list...

Key Tab A  M  Next (AcceptsFocus CurrentPage !Iconic !Shaded) FocusAndRaise
Key Tab A  SM  Prev (AcceptsFocus CurrentPage !Iconic !Shaded) FocusAndRaise

basically... tab forward with no menu and shift-tab back. This works reasonably well for me and is pretty fast, imho... but I don’t tend to keep more than a few windows on any given page. I also keep the windowlist mapped to middle click on root in case I do want to see the whole thing, but I have it set to show all windows from all desktops -- so it’s more of a general navigation element for me.

As for focusing a window on a page you move into... I haven’t really had any problem with this, but ... just thinking out loud here, you could probably force fvwm to focus a window by switching pages with a func... something like

DestroyFunc GotoPage0
AddToFunc GotoPage0
+ I GotoPage 0 0
+ I Next ( CurrentPage )

if you use the JefklakScroll functions you could just add the "Next ( CurrentPage )" statement at the end

anyhow, just thought i’d post this stuff on the chance it might be useful.

oh and re: utz
that is a tasty snack. though my insides don’t always thank me

07. Jan 11, 2011 at 01:12am by frenchn00b:

Try mine, it is different than all others, aimed to comfort, power tools, and reliability.


08. Jan 29, 2011 at 08:54pm by Thomas Adam:


Focus in terms of switching pages depends entirely on your focus policy.

With regards to:

DestroyFunc GotoPage0
AddToFunc GotoPage0
+ I GotoPage 0 0
+ I Next ( CurrentPage )

This is not right, "Next ( ... )" as written is syntactically invalid.  Furthermore, see first sentence, it depends on the *focus policy*.

Reply to this message here:

Your name
Website (optional)

HomeBackCreate PostArchivesLoginCMS by Encodable