Tools To Use With Standalone Window Managers

I like Xfce, but I do switch to other environments, or standalone window managers whenever required. Like, I use scrotwm for long programming sessions. Or I use Openbox when I am building a heavily customized desktop for someone. However, there is a cost to switching to a standalone window manager from a desktop environment – you lose certain taken-for-granted utilities. A friend asked me about the independent tools I use with standalone window managers on Arch. So here they are:

  • Panel: tint2, or the default status bars that come with window managers like scrotwm or xmonad.
  • Launcher: I love dmenu, but you can also get kupfer or launchy.
  • Power manager: Nothing beats the set of Laptop Mode Tools, pm-utils and cpufrequtils here, unless you are on lookout for something vendor specific.
  • Display Power manager: Believe it or not, you can use DPMS to do everything that the sophisticated display manager does.
  • File manager: There is always the excellent pcmanfm, or there is emelFM2, ROX Filer or the console based Midnight Commander. And I can guarantee that you will spend a whole day if you sit to try out all the file managers in your distribution.
  • Display Management: Console based xrandr or the GUI of arandr will let you do everything.
  • Wallpaper manager: There are many options, but nitrogen and feh do it the best way.
  • Image manager: Mirage and GPicView are efficient for image viewing and simple operations.
  • GTK Theme Changer: gtk-chtheme or lxappearance are enough, or you can always manually configure the .gtkrc* files.
  • Terminal Emulators/Consoles: There are many. You can go for sakura as a complete replacement of the popular terminals or the light-weight xterm and rxvt families. You will also find advanced terminals in applications like Terminator.
  • Text Editor: My vote goes to Leafpad, or the switch-everything-else-off PyRoom.
  • Media player: It will be difficult to list all the media players here, but applications like VLC, mplayer2, deadbeef do a great job of playing media.
  • Compositing Window Manager: In case you need one, there is cairo-compmgr or xcompmgr if cairo-compmgr is an overkill for your needs.

You will find most of these applications easily in your Linux distribution’s packaging system.

Other than this you can use utilities like htop, conky to keep a tab on your system. Other popular applications like browsers and media players are anyway independent of desktop environments. Along with a well setup dbus, udev and sound systems like ALSA or Pulse Audio you will be able to create your own desktop environment.

At the cost of repetition, you do this not because your machine is under-powered but because you can create a highly customized environment for yourself.

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Abhijit Nadgouda
iface Consulting
+91 9819820312
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