Thursday, April 28, 2011

How about Windowmanager hopping instead of distro hopping? Try Pekwm

Sometimes it is all so nice and quiet on using your AB install that you might get restless and want to discover new ways of doing things.
Instead of distro hopping, exploring different window managers might be a good option.
There is a lot of options and choices to discover and it broadens your view what is possible in the look and feel of your OS. We forget about the obvious KDE an GNOME, Compiz, XFCE or LDXE and even E17 (see Bodhi linux if you want to explore Enlightenment); go and explore the more lightweight and configurable options.
Basically the choice is between floating or stacking window managers and tiling window managers although a combination of the two is also possible. See ]https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/List_of_window_managers

Tiling window managers provide a dashboard of applications and are good for overview; have a great geek factor but personally I like to have as less visual clutter as possible.
I works nearly always with one window full screen. So floating window managers are my thing. I am especially interested in small solutions like Pekwm

Preparation

When you want to experiment with new window managers you might want to use a separate install of AB, so you won't risk or lose your production pc when you have an off day. A simpler way is to create a new user and login as that user.

# adduser

adduser asks common questions about the user with sane defaults and constructs a useradd command to run. It also sets the password and changes finger information.


Install a login with session choice

To use different window managers is is handy to be able to change the session; I install gdm: #pacman -S gdm.
To make the graphical login the default method of logging into the system, edit your /etc/inittab file

Choose x:5:respawn:/usr/sbin/gdm -nodaemon to login and edit out with # the present login method.

Installing a new window manager

Lets take the example of Pekwm: pacman -S pekwm
After that you reboot choose the pekwm session in the gdm login and the configuration file will be made in /home/user/.pekwm
Now we can go and have a look at the specific possibilities of pekwm
If you have a new window manager installed, you will also need to add a line to the file /home/user/.xinitrc: exec pekwm

Now can we go and learn about the specifics of pekwm.
And check out what others have done with it: http://crunchbanglinux.org/forums/post/47394/#p47394
Two aspects are important to me: keyboard control:
A speciality of pekwm is the chainbindings:

PeKwm support keybindings & 'chain bindings' which means that you can execute a script/apps with a keybinding (like in openbox) but you can also use 'keychain': ie you press [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[M](for Menu), then release , then when you press [R] and you've got the RootMenu, if you press [W], you've got WindowMenu...


Another special and very useful feature is the window grouping which can be compared to tabbed and bound windows.
Arch wiki on Pekwm: ]https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Pekwm

I installed menumaker to get a accurate menu but that didn't work out too well. But editing by hand is not too difficult:
the menu file is ~/.pekwm/menu. The syntax for the menu file is fairly straightforward. A simple entry has the following structure:

Entry = "NAME" { Actions = "Exec COMMAND &" }

A submenu has the following syntax:

Submenu = "NAME" {
Entry = "NAME" { Actions = "Exec COMMAND &" }
Entry = "NAME" { Actions = "Exec COMMAND &" }
}

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