Desktop Gnome

What is better than GNOME, in what ways

Gnome is a fantastic way to run your desktop but it is not right for everyone. Maybe, you may like to switch to another for specific tasks. For performance reasons, user and computer, you may want another desktop. This is particularly interesting for people who work with specific activities. A programmer becomes accustomed to using the keyboard and a graphic designer may need more power. In this post you will hear about some other desktop environments and their benefits and drawbacks.

Why change to another window manager or desktop environment?

As hinted earlier, each window manager has their own philosophy. GNOME is trying to help and add helpful features, including notifications, extensions and other fun stuff. For many users this is bloat, it just loads the computer and the senses. When you decide that your current window manager is not the best choice for you, you must start by identifying what is wrong with your current situation. Are you running out of resources starting your main application or are you just tired of unwanted notifications? Perhaps, you just want to be the cool hacker who made your own. Just decide, here are some pointers about where to go once you have decided.

Tiling and floating windows.

One interesting aspect of window managers is that, it is not hard coded that your windows “float” around your desktop. Floating means that your windows can have any place, almost any size and shape on the desktop. If you run all your applications in full screen mode, then you might as well tile them. A tiling window manager takes the application and gives it all the space available. The first window covers the whole screen, the next application takes one half and shoves the first one to the side. There are many other ways to share the screen. With this system, you also have work spaces or tags to make it possible to have any application in full screen.

Initially full of features or bake your own?

When you get a regular distribution, GNOME comes with a bunch of features that you may or may not want. As in GNOME and other common systems, you can also add extensions. When you start digging for other solutions, you will see that there are choices that range from having it all from the start till almost useless without tinkering. All of these suggestions point to systems where this choice have been made deliberately.

DWM

In this comparison, the dwm manager, form suckless tools, is the “bake yourself” variety. The initial code is just 2000 lines long and has a very sparse set of features available in that code. In fact, the designers state that it is not recommended to install the vanilla version from your distribution. Instead, you should look through the available patches and choose the features you need and compile them yourself. It may sound hardcore but if you choose just a few patches and use the right method, you should be able to so it even with limited C coding experience. Yes, that is correct; the whole thing is written in C. If you want anything interesting on your taskbar, you need to use and external tool. For picking a file to run, the suckless tool dmenu, unless you find rofi more appealing. This manager is great for keeping resource management to a minimum and give you a clean desktop. You need to do some hacking before it looks good for you though.

Awesome WM

This window manager is focused on being a tiling manager that is fast and efficient. It has sane defaults with its own logo as the desktop background. It also shows a decent taskbar with a few indicators, if you hover over the desktop and right-click, you have an application drop-down list available. You can also bring up a sheet cheat with a single keyboard shortcut. Yes, you use a keyboard shortcut to find all other shortcuts.

The main idea is to tweak this yourself, though. The configuration file is written in the Lua language. Fortunately, you can pick up other peoples configurations from GitHub. There you can also find widgets and new functions. When you want to make your own, you can start by just changing an existing theme. It will be an advantage to learn the Lua language but hardly necessary since the sample files are easy to understand.

Resource usage is minimal and it supports floating windows, which is good to have for some applications. The developers focus on implementing standards from the Freedesktop website as efficiently as they can muster. They also aim to retain the control about if it will be active with the user.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon was started because they did not agree with the idea that the application launcher menu in GNOME would disappear. At first it was just an extension but has now expanded to an entire desktop. This desktop has a more traditional desktop and feels light and nimble despite having many features. You can extend it with “spices” to make it look nice and add desktop decorations. This is for people who like to decorate and wants things to work out of the box.

Enlightenment

Enlightenment has many features, focused on being a floating window manager, though supports tiling in case you are so inclined. You will end up with a neat taskbar, lots of opportunity and a fast desktop.

Conclusion

Thanks to the Free and Open Source philosophy of Linux, you have the power to change your computing environment as you wish. With this freedom comes the responsibility to take action and put in the effort when you feel the need to improve your life. You must make this a transition that helps you, not stops you from working. Instead set a schedule with all the tasks you need to perform to improve your computing experience. The learning curve will feel like a lot of resistance, this is a sign that it may be worth it!

About the author

Mats Tage Axelsson

Mats Tage Axelsson

I am a freelance writer for Linux magazines. I enjoy finding out what is possible under Linux and how we can all chip in to improve it. I also cover renewable energy and the new way the grid operates. You can find more of my writing on my blog.